People often call me an "expert," and sometimes I have to welcome that. But Maria Bustillos's Daily Beast article, "Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert," captures my uneasiness with the word.
So long as we believe that there is such a thing as an expert rather than a fellow-investigator, then that person's views just by magic will be worth more than our own, no matter how much or how often actual events have shown this not to be the case. For us to have this magic thinking about "individualism" then is pernicious politically, intellectually, in every way. That is not to say that we don't value those who can lead the conversation. We'll need them more and more, those "who are able to marshal the wisdom of the network," to use Bob Stein's words. But they might be more like DJs, assembling new ways of looking at things from a huge variety of elements, than like than judges whose processes are secret, and whose opinions are sacred.
I would love to live in a world of fellow-investigators rather than experts.
To put it another way, I would love to live in a world where experts are responsible for how, but not for why. There's nothing wrong with expertise that devotes itself to the question: "What are the best ways to deliver the outcomes that you (your country, your city, your neighborhood) want?" Expertise becomes scary only when it starts telling people what they should want. I try, not always successfully, to police that boundary in my own work.
Experts do have a role in telling people what things cost, including costs that are now invisible to the individual such as the environmental and foreign policy costs of oil dependence. That can sound like telling people what they should want, but it's not. It's helping adults accept the consequences of their choices — which is pretty much what adulthood means.