A patent’s viability can be assessed by four objective criteria: its novelty, non-obviousness to a practitioner in the art, ability to be taught from prior art, and finally its isolate case of use. By these same four factors a purported expert may also be evaluated for their genuineness in delivering their craft.
In specific roles during my career I have had the good fortune to both conduct patent strategies and manage successful patenting processes on behalf of my smaller clients. In one instance my team’s patent strategy successfully defended a small company’s novel technology from both politically powerful investors, as well as a very familiar and notoriously predatory intellectual property tech-development company. If you have ever filed an electronic or mechanical device/apparatus patent, you probably already bear a suspicion as to what company this might be. You would probably also be correct.
Moreover, I have a handful of patents in development right now regarding a novel energy technology (which will remain confidential). During these opportunities it was my good fortune to be instructed/mentored by some of the top patent attorneys in the United States. My task was to teach them how each technology could be brought to bear and impact a market or vertical, as well as what features/applications must be protected to the greatest degree through what is called by the practitioner, ‘layering’. Their task was to teach my team how to craft patent structure and negotiate a successful prosecution process with the US Patent and Trademark Office. Despite all this, I am merely a journeyman with regard to patenting – what might be deemed a Type II Expert below. However, this does not prevent me from adeptly applying those lessons learned in developing patents as a Type III Expert in skepticism, nor from spotting the pretenders therein.
The Three Types of Expert
At a basic level, the strength of proficiency on the part of an expert can be discerned through how they deal with randomness and obviousness within their chosen topic of prowess.
Expert – one who can negotiate randomness and spot obviousness, more reliably than the average person.
Therefore, beware of the circumstance where subject professionals who understand this, bear only enough expertise to frame their works or analyses as successes, and essentially nothing more.
The four objective criteria used in crafting a viable patent, are also useful philosophically under ethical skepticism. They bear utility in discerning the pseudo-expert from the real thing; in particular regarding how the erstwhile expert handles randomness and obviousness within their subject. For example, a faking expert skeptic will appeal to a corrupt buzzword called ‘Occam’s Razor’, which conflates the cache of obviousness with simplicity – in hopes that if their target fails to detect this sleight-of-hand, they can then offload to them a number of religious conclusions they favor, as also being ‘simple’ (and therefore scientific).1
In general, with some overlap, there are three types of expert and expertise. The Type I or what I call, Bowel Movement Expertise, the Type II or Semantics Expertise, and finally Type III or Hard Expertise. Their framing along the lines of each of the four objective criteria for successful patents, is outlined in the graphic below.
Type I: Bowel Movement Expertise
The bowel movement expert (derived from an activity in which everyone is an expert, but some regard that their own expertise therein is superior – a perfect storm of ‘their shit don’t stink’ and ‘don’t know jack shit’) is an advisor inside a subject which is part of everyday life or is commonly experienced by many or most people. Many times this species of expert is someone who found a new way to skin the cat, or is spinning a new take on an old subject. Often this can involve a bit of huckster play as well.
An example of this species of expert might be the case of a skeptic, astrophysicist, astronomer, or even instrumental sky-survey specialist who thinks along the lines: ‘If Unidentified Aerial Phenomena were real, I would know about it’. When in actuality, they don’t know jack shit more than the average person about the topic, and a lot less than do subject specialists.
This is also known as ‘Nelsonian Inference’. Type I Experts hold proficiency in how to avoid knowledge.
The Type I Expert misses details, except when they plan to do so.
Politics or advertising are realms of endeavor which involve bowel movement expertise promoted through an appeal to authority. Ultimately the most effective means of persuasion brought to bear by this type of expert comes in the form of Aristotle’s pathos. In other words, this type of expert is there to sell you something by appealing to your emotions or desire for quick and simple finality, as opposed to actual knowledge.
- Expertise is held to varying degrees by almost everyone – and is rarely novel.
- Few actual experts exist, and those who pose as such are mostly specialists or hucksters exploiting false novelty, randomness, and obviousness.
- There exist few or very narrowly applied standards or procedures – while method is usually not teachable.
- Relies heavily upon abductive inference from an appeal to authority or at best, established prior art.
Examples: Politician, TV gadget-sales personality, weight-loss celebrity, nutritional supplement expert, football or basketball fan.
Type II: Semantic Expertise
The semantics expert is an advisor regarding the terminology or history surrounding a subject – features of academic knowledge which are not generally known on the part of the average individual. Often this involves intimidation of others by means of specialized language concealing a shallow grasp of true subject dynamics, overly-complex formulas and heuristics used to represent otherwise simple principles, while name-dropping a list of prior art practitioners. Though less common, huckster play can be introduced as well – usually in the form of agency, corrupt data-only science, or fake forms of skepticism.
As we cautioned earlier in this article, the Type II Expert bears only that knowledge sufficient to frame their analyses as successes. In abetment, neither do their Type II Expert peers bear a quality of knowledge sufficient to refute what was contended. As a result, sciences led by such experts spend decades adrift in fecklessness.
Such was the state of epidemiology and its impotent ‘SEIR/SEIRS+ model‘ prior to Covid-19. Despite decades of publication-celebration inside self-congratulation circles, those models and their experts failed mankind miserably.2 These experts were firemen who sat around the fire station for decades, wearing the boots and red helmets, boasting academic credential and supposed prowess – but when the fire actually came, they could not so much as don an oxygen breathing apparatus nor start a fire pump. Their exculpatory cover story? Blaming and intimidating outsiders, implying that such incompetence was everyone else’s fault.
Of course this did not stop these same Type II Experts from drowning out the voices of true modeling, simulation, and economic value chain professionals who were sounding the alarm over their actions. As a result of such semantic play-acting, hundreds of thousands of people died – all because the discipline did not possess a competent understanding of coronavirus dynamics nor true expertise on the societal impact of lockdowns and mRNA vaccines.
Psychology or philosophy are realms of endeavor which feature quite a few semantics experts. This is one reason why I refuse to habitually appeal to ancient Greek philosophers – as novel philosophy is developed in the heart, through life-trial first. Only thereafter is it apperceived, crafted, and posed, and not vice versa (I do however make an exception in the case of Aristotle’s three means of persuasion). Ultimately the most effective means of persuasion brought to bear by this type of expert comes in the form of Aristotle’s ethos. In other words, this type of expert is there to promote an agency or line of reasoning through exploiting semantic ignorance, rhetorical argument, and appeal to credential.
- Expertise is established primarily by means of exclusive terminology or subject antiquity and its long list of noteworthy semantics experts – its expertise is rarely novel.
- Persuasion hinges upon skill in managing perceptions of success by adeptly surfing randomness and exploiting obviousness.
- Standards and procedures are situational (take or leave them depending upon the goal at hand) – and are sometimes teachable from prior art.
- Relies heavily upon relative privation and linear induction from prior art.
Examples: Economist, professional skeptic, epidemiologist, dermatologist, academic philosopher, art critic, sports commentator.
Type III: Hard Expertise
The hard expert is an advisor regarding the functional disciplines regarding a specific subject – features of experience-based and field knowledge which are not generally known on the part of the average individual, nor even sometimes academicians specializing in the subject. This expertise involves well-established standards of performance or development. Not only do they grasp true subject dynamics, but odds are that they have incrementally developed some of the industry standard practices therein. I’ve had prospective new clients in the past namedrop my own practice methodologies and industry success case studies to me in a first meeting, as a means of exemplifying subject prowess. Fully unaware that their case examples were the result of my teams’ work.
For example, microeconomics addresses issues around static scarcity, demand, revenue, and the price-leveraging attainable therein. Such knowledge constitutes Type II Expertise (and does bear some utility).
Value chains in contrast, address incremental flows of value, stakeholder impacts, the loading/efficiency of nodes inside the value chain, and resulting margin-leveraging attainable therein (not just price). The latter equates to Type III Expertise. With this type of expertise, it helps to actually have ‘been there and done that’.
How many instances today have we borne witness to industry failure-consolidation and human suffering induced through price and elite stockholder driven decision-making? This is our real pandemic. The net uptake from this: Never allow an economist to develop your business or national strategy. Never allow an epidemiologist to forecast nor estimate social or economic impacts. They don’t actually know how.
Mathematics, genetics, engineering, or medical interventions technology are realms of endeavor which feature quite a few hard experts. Ultimately the most effective means of persuasion brought to bear by this type of expert comes in the form of Aristotle’s logos. In other words, logic can be applied once all the Wittgenstein features of sound foundational knowledge are well established, and firmly affixed inside recognized standards of deliberation.
- Expertise is towards the engineering end of the discovery spectrum – and is almost always novel when in development.
- Filters out randomness and distinguishes the obvious from the non-obvious.
- Involves established procedures, measures, and technical standards – almost always teachable.
- Inference is deductive at best, but also often consists of small-increment induction from subject prior art.
Examples: Applied physicist, genetic engineer, cardiologist, mathematician, medical technologist, football defensive line coach.
The adept ethical skeptic should be aware of the type of expert who is approaching them, and regard their strength of advisement accordingly.
The Ethical Skeptic, “The Three Types of Expert”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 28 Nov 2021; Web, https://theethicalskeptic.com/?p=57222
- The Ethical Skeptic, “Ethical Skepticism – Part 5 – The Real Ockham’s Razor”; The Ethical Skeptic, WordPress, 30 Jun 2013; Web, https://wp.me/p17q0e-1GU
- Ioannidis, Cripss, et al; Forecasting for Covid-19 has failed; 25 Aug 2020; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7447267/