How to use experts — and when not to

Recently, I watched a great talk, which, again reshashes some of my older ideas, but this time, it has the endorsement of experts! (That is with an ‘E’–hi, John). 😉

How to use experts and when not to.

This was helpful for me because it answered a question that I have had for a long time. How come, unlike many places in Europe, people’s mere opinions were taken for fact on the relative safety of infrastructure? Why were studies not done to improve road design.

Here it seems, there’s a cult of an expert. As we see, going forward, there continues to be a cult of experts who take their own opinions and create paper certifications for them. This goes for all bike safety programs as well as the gray bearded bike xperts who, routinely, squash infrastructure with vague promises of death and lawsuits.

Why are their obviously stupid and untested opinions seen as fact?

MRI studies show that when listening to self-proclaimed experts, the part of the human mind that discriminates turns off.

This is very bad.

The talk goes on to say how we need to question the cult of experts with calls for objective proof. Archane language should be translated into normal English speech.

What are the assumptions behind the research? What is your investigation focused on?

Managed dissent is the active engagement with people who disagree. It’s like seeking out and cultivating discussions and professional relationships with those in the other camp. This is brilliant! And hard to do.

I recall how scared I feel to post an opinion on a transportation blog even when I know that they are open to my ideas. Why? Because of the crushing uniformity of thought and the verbally violent attacks on any heretic who thinks that the government is more than an agent out to hurt cycling, and anyone who thinks that the built environment can easily and practically be made safer.

I can hear it now, “Mr. Unbound, don’t you fancy yourself an expert?”

I think well of myself, of course, however, I do think that there is always more to know. I think that the best infrastructure has NOT even been built yet! I am open to a magic way of riding one’s bicycle that defies physics and human psychology to actually make one safer. I will continue to read crash stats, to read studies, and to propose my own experiments.

That I have no education in cycling does not make me any smarter than those who do–education by the way means from an ACCREDITED univeristy, not some fly by night “safety expert” with made up certifications. I know transportation engineers and they talk of bicycle safety much differently than those who think you can get everyone to magically ride safer.

Also, we must be fearless to bring in heretical ideas. New knowledge not only comes from new ideas but from the destruction of old ideas. The more dissent we open ourselves to, the smarter we get.

So go out there and read _Effective Cycling_ and _Cycle Craft_.

Overall, the most important part of her talk was the notion of MANAGED dissent. Too often VCers speak more often and more loudly to drown out the rest.

Thus, I am open to all ideas on increasing cycling popularity, but what good are the views who don’t share this goal?

As for safety, I feel that VCers can play an excellent role in criticizing and improving road design, but they fail to help us due to their fixed and superstitious belief that road design can NEVER make cycling safer unless we can mix it up with fast cars.

This is why, initially, I have begun to clam up and to keep them out of my mind and my life. Because most of it is the same stuff over and over again.

The Unbound household had obsessed over and psychoanalyzed the VC luminaries, and it all turns out to be a rear guard attempt by them to protect their bad decisions and thus their egos.

There are a new generation of Vehicular Cyclists–or whatever name they are re-branding themselves this week–and they do have some great, fresh ideas that I am open to.

I have watched one talk, and I’ll keep my eye on them.

Thus, in this spirit, I’d like to see new, radical ideas on transportation safety wit the emphasis on NEW.

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