Roger Koppl: Expert Failure

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If you want to fix [the media] by having ‘The Bureau of Truth’...oops...that’s going to make things worse.
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Roger Koppl discusses his book Expert Failure with Chris Richardson. Koppl is Professor of Finance in the Whitman School of Management of Syracuse University and a faculty fellow in the University’s Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute. Koppl’s work on forensic science reform has been featured in Forbes magazine, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Reason magazine, Slate, The Huffington Post, and other outlets.  Koppl's Erdös number is 3.


It turns out that “the dismal science” got its name because economists were not racists!  "Liberal" economist in the tradition of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill viewed black people as the perfect equals of white people. But in 1849 when Thomas Carlyle coined the term in his essay, “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question," he was railing against J. S. Mill's anti-racism. Carlyle published a revised version of his essay in 1853 under an offensive title that cannot be repeated. Levy uses this history as a springboard for a (favorable) reexamination of the liberal tradition of Adam Smith and J. S. Mill. 


We tend to think of “rationality” as something about individuals.  But we need many interacting individuals to select among the various ideas individuals might propose, and there is a kind of “ecological rationality” to such social processes.  In the economy, for example, we need entrepreneurs to propose new goods, but we need competitive profits and losses to sort out the better entrepreneurial ideas.  Human foresight has a smaller role in human betterment than we might have expected.


Arthur gives us a detailed look at how technology evolves by “combinatorial evolution.” At each step we are just recombining existing elements. Glider plus internal combustion engine equal airplane. But if that’s how technology evolves, human foresight has little to do with technological progress!


It is easy to repudiate racism in America. It is not easy to understand just how – and how much – black people are oppressed in America right now today. It can be hard to understand the precise nature of the problem even for those on whose necks the boots are stomping. If you want a better understanding, Michelle Alexander’s takedown of mass incarceration is a good place to start.


Greenwald exposes the depths and dangers of the American surveillance state while telling Snowden’s story. It’s scary stuff, and Greenwald shows that both major parties are complicit in the crimes and transgressions of the surveillance state.