Thursday, August 7, 2008

Well-Informed, Yet Wrong

When you're sleeping
Originally uploaded by Vassy Popova

"Well-informed people know it is impossible to transmit the voice over wires. Even if it were, it would be of no practical value." ~ Boston Post, 1865

Sometimes the well-informed get it wrong. There are experts for nearly every facet of life and even though they may never admit it, they are sometimes wrong. Imagine a world where Alexander Graham Bell (or the many others who were working on devices similar to the telephone) had read the Boston Post's proclamation and given in to the popular opinion of the day. After all, it was well-informed people who believed the telephone impossible.

"Radio has no future." ~ Lord Kelvin, 1897. I like Lord Kelvin. He actually got it wrong twice when he stated, "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

"There is no need for any individual to have a computer in their home." ~ Ken Olson, 1977, President, Digital Equipment Corp. I wonder if Ken eventually had a computer in his home. Should he have known better? One would have to believe he was in a position to know best.

My point isn't to go through a smattering of quotes from well-informed experts who got it wrong. Although that could be somewhat amusing. The idea I'd like for you to walk away with is that sometimes the experts are wrong. Sometimes those in the position to know the most, know the least. It can be for many reasons, but I suspect much of it is because it is easy for us to blind ourselves.

It's easy to know what we know and never have the desire to know more. Did that make sense? In the simplest of terms, it's easy to stop learning.

The next time you have an idea, a new proposal, or some new opportunities it might be wise to remember that sometimes the experts are wrong. Only you can find out for sure. Allowing a well-informed majority to convince you to abandon something worthwhile could be a sad loss for all of us.

"Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes


Chris said...

"Experts" are some of my favorite folks, right along with "They", "Some people", and "The majority". They get cited so often, yet we never know who "they" are.

Never hesitate to question the status quo and never, NEVER pass up an opportunity to learn.

Andrew Weaver said...

Good point, Chris.

It always bothers me when people hide behind "they", "some people", etc. At least that's how I view it when people site others without giving a name(s). They're just hiding.

Anonymous said...

Humility is the most important prerequisite to learning.