Recognizing Expertise

Since we are all overwhelmed by information about everything, it is quite rational to seek efficient methods to discover what is going on.  Television, discussion boards, blogs, and MSM all claim to provide THE ANSWER.

How does one recognize an expert, when those engaged in pontificating do not draw careful lines about their own expertise.  Is it too much to ask that a true expert might say, "This is beyond what I have studied"?

When we recently posted about a typical CNBC debate, James Altucher, the prize-winning author and fund manager who also writes for’s Real Money site, graciously mentioned our discussion in his blogwatch column, while commenting that we spent a lot of time analyzing a short segment.

James was absolutely correct.  This was such an interesting discussion that we chose it as a focal point for what we do at "A Dash."  We were trying to illustrate what a trained observer would see from the debate, and allow the reader to compare this to what he or she might have seen.  It took hours to explain in writing what we saw instantly.  Interpreting discussions of systems requires knowledge about how systems are developed — and the pitfalls.

At "A Dash" we are good at recognizing true expertise — finding those who really know what they are talking about and who use sound methods.  This comes from a lifetime of working with people in inter-disciplinary programs, including plenty of true geniuses.  It comes from many years of testing market systems, and learning the pitfalls of system development.  It also comes from sound fundamental training in research methods, something that seems sadly lacking in much of the current Wall Street Research.

Here is an example that readers might enjoy.  After finishing Dr. Steenbarger’s excellent book on a recent flight, I turned to a novel.  At a key point, an art expert instantly notes a Van Gogh forgery.  The work was Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.   The fake showed the  bandage on the left ear, which was, in fact, the missing ear.  The problem is that Van Gogh painted it looking in a mirror.  A real expert saw this instantly.  The villain did not recognize this when accepting the forgery as the real painting.

Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book, Blink, discusses art forgeries and other instances of immediate recognition of problems by experts.  It is not difficult to extend this to those straying outside their expertise in commenting on Wall Street Research.  We have observed this, particularly in the discussion of Statistical Significance, inflation measurement, and various reports on the economy.

There are so many examples of this that we cannot keep up with them, but the next post in this series will offer readers a chance to test their own skill.

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