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The Everything Expert
The problem with these damn "experts..."
Hey Fintech Fam, something’s been grinding my gears over the last couple weeks so I wrote about it…
The Everything Expert
The weekend after the SVB failure was the craziest and scariest of my professional adult life. It felt like a tsunami might hit, but the warning sirens hadn’t gone off yet.
The fear weighed on me throughout that weekend as I watched the world turn seemingly unaware. In retrospect, I was carrying around a sense of superiority with that fear I didn’t even realize.
I know banking better than most, but I don’t consider myself an expert.
I’m writing this because I’m an expert in not knowing. I’ve made a career of asking questions because, well, I rarely know.
My uncertainty about the severity of what could have been led me to join the rest of the fearful masses in our favorite echo chamber. You know the little birdie I’m talking about.
We turned our fear into a competition and the loudest fear mongers seemed to think they were winning the game.
Sudden ‘banking experts’ put on airs of omniscience heretofore reserved to Deities and Fed Chairs.
The words, “I don’t know,” were nowhere to be found.
Us overly interested and engaged nerds must be careful who we consider an expert and who we trust in times like these.
One good heuristic of an honest expert; they’re clear on where the facts end and prognostication begins. To put it simply, they know what they don’t know.
The idea that one single person can unpack the complexities of the potential fallout of SVB, Credit Suisse, and name your other issues over the last week or two is laughable.
Lest we forget, the real experts have been calling other real experts to find the facts and take action to solve problems this week. They HAVE NOT been fighting on twitter or threading their hot takes.
The status quo of our discourse is missing humility to a cringeworthy degree.
Traditional schooling is often looked down on in the tech world, but the value of formal schooling in the banking system isn’t something we can undervalue.
Incalculable damage was done by the doomsayers and dingbats on twitter that have never reviewed a Regional Bank’s Balance Sheet or gone in-depth on the history of bank runs. See Ron Shevlin’s piece on the worst takes so far.
That’s brings us to the root of the problem with all this in my humble opinion:
The Everything Expert; A savant in all subjects with a medium-to-large social media following. The Everything Expert has the ability to download a dictionary level knowledge of any hot topic as if they have been unplugged from Matrix.
Everything Experts are everywhere and they tend to multiply as hot button nerd topics pop-up.
I have two recommendations for avoiding falling into the trap of the Everything Expert outside of the aforementioned maintenance of humility.
My first recommendation to you, the smart, engaged individual trying to understand what’s unfolding around you simply to be skeptical.
Double check ‘facts’ and form your own point of view when possible. Ask yourself about the Everything Expert’s incentive structure. Ask why they’d say what they’re saying other than for the betterment of the world.
“Show me the incentive and I’ll show you the outcome,” as Charlie Munger said.
It’s a natural human desire to be in the know. Who doesn’t want to be an expert?! Who doesn’t want to be the smartest one in the room? Be honest.
I want to be the smartest one in the room, I’ll admit it. Sadly, 99.9% of the time I am not. I’m well aware of how often I’m wrong.
I bought into FTX and SBF hook, line and sinker. I was caught off guard when the SVB news hit. I didn’t even finish the second half of Everything Everywhere All At Once because I fell asleep and then they won all the Oscar’s. And on and on.
My second recommendation is that we stop trying to impress these so-called experts with smart questions.
The human temptation is always to ask the smart question. More accurately, to ask a question that will make one seem smart for asking it.
These questions seem sharp if you don’t drone on and on, but they always skip over those first principles. Sometimes you feel a little dumb asking the supposedly basic question.
Imagine asking SBF about his cash balance a year ago. You would’ve seemed nuts or stupid.
Sometimes feeling stupid asking a question isn’t a bad thing. Some of the best questions in the world are the most obvious and seemingly least interesting.
Not knowing something is okay.
The Everything Expert Syndrome is out of hand. Together, we can fight this phenomenon.
We must remain vigilant regarding the general bull shit swirling around in the world. And don’t forget, let’s stay humble, maintain skepticism, and have no fear about asking the first principles questions.
sub-text: a tad of sarcasm, hyperbole, and hopefully humor