Breakout Five: Expertise in the Pre-Forum Age
In early human history, a person proved their competence by performing great feats of ability in front of their tribe. A hunter slew a large mammoth, a fisherman caught many fish, a gatherer learned to find roots and berries with greater accuracy. In this way, the tribe could be assured of their competence for they had witnessed the end product of it with their own eyes. There was no need for any credentialing as the only credential that mattered was a directly witnessed event.
The core purpose of all of these feats was to ultimately signal reproductive fitness. In order to appear attractive and find a mate, it was necessary to demonstrate value. Because the signal was an actual witnessed deed tied to a core survival activity this allowed the societies to function and expand over time.
As populations grew the needs of organizations for expertise quickly exceeded the personal social networks of its employees. Trusted third-party credentials became paramount. Universities grew beyond organizations primarily focused on pioneers inventing new knowledge, and became businesses with the primary function of transmitting and credentialing the successful transmission of knowledge. This allowed organizations to hire candidates with high probability of finding value. However, it also introduced a new type of hazard.
The credential itself could be seen as a signal of reproductive fitness without any accompanying real-world accomplishment. Merely achieving a high score on a test could be seen as an accomplishment in and of itself so that someone who in grade school was shown to have a genius level IQ and then crawled back into their mother’s basement and never left would often be seen as in some way superior to a high school dropout who built and operated a multi-million dollar landscaping company. The same held true for universities, and grew worse as the university grew more prestigious. Men and women who led disastrous initiatives whose many failings were known, remarked upon, and keenly troubleshot by common members of the working class discovered they could not help but fail upward. Certain credentials provided such a strong fitness signal they overrode actual real-world success.
Even more bizarrely, as the sheer size of tasks grew, as they did at international conglomerates, it allowed managers to creatively redefine success. If you were performing one of several thousand processes in a large company you could create your own procedures in such a way that you met your own internal goals and metrics, even if these were totally divorced from the well-being of the company. You could be seen as successful even if the overall initiative failed. Conversely, if you provided immense value but failed to check the right box you could be fired for cause. All because the size of these organizations grew larger than the ability for their ultimate stakeholders to meaningfully understand and manage them. Management by proxy became necessary because the top-down structure demanded it, paperwork needs exploded in order to track the bureaucracy, and yet as the chains grew longer the signal could not help but degrade.
This society bred experts who could repeatedly fail to forecast the future, within the same domain, and yet so long as they had the right credential or had followed the approved methods, they could not be replaced even when obvious alternatives were available. With the credential as the only accepted token of expertise it did not matter if common people could demonstrate repeatedly that they had been right when the expert had been wrong, there existed no path other than elections to replace the experts. Even then, as experts came bundled together, people had to choose their battles.
They did not understand that even though people have some small advantages over one another in certain domains, that overall people are very stupid with respect to being able to actually accomplish objectives in reality. So instead of comparing themselves to objectively difficult tasks and becoming humble, they compared themselves to one another and became envious and egotistical.
The Forum disrupted this perfectly with the production of the Index. The Index became the new credential and it followed you wherever you went in public. Indeed, it finally forced apart public and private spheres which had previously been merging. All of your public predictions, all of your reasoning, would stick with you as surely if the word “Prophet” or “Liar” was tattooed on your forehead. If you avoided predictions, this also would stick with you as the Index revealed you did not attempt to provide value. The game theoretics of the Index were also incentivized toward viral transmission. The Index was not opt-in. Anyone, anywhere, could add your work to the Index.
The Index Record was open, public, and meritocratic. The appeals process was also open, the juries broad and fair, and the only chance you had to redeem your reputation was to admit when you had been wrong, own your failures, and staunch the damage to your Index Record via Digital Forgiveness, i.e. explaining precisely how you had been wrong and why you now thought differently. If you were repeatedly wrong, and refused to acquiesce, your opinion would lose amplification. People just wouldn’t find you, and if they did they’d have to admit you had been wrong consistently. More than that if you were right when everyone else had been wrong, you could find your reputation vastly increased. If you were right, and maintained you were correct even as temporary events made you appear to be wrong, cycling through multiple juries, you could gain the status of a Cassandra, a person whose opinion must always be considered. If you were a malicious liar, neither proving to be right in the end and avoiding all responsibility for your failures, the penalty was perhaps more severe than at any point in human history.
Some people appeared whose only journalistic contribution was to prove the falseness of other journalists. We know these now as Subtractive Journalists, those who exist to debunk a particular charlatan. Chastity Anderson’s Index Record was cited accurately and repeatedly by only five individuals whose careers she had attempted to ruin, covering everything she had written from college to the present day. She joined the Forum in an effort to save her reputation as the team of five documented numerous distortions and untruths in her writing, which she disputed, and yet when juries again and again determined those citing her record were correct she saw her public status disappear almost overnight. It was simply a matter of fact that she had repeatedly made false claims about how events would transpire and her word could not be trusted. It was not only that she had been incorrect, she had almost never been right about anything. Even looking at her name would immediately direct you to other sources who had been much more correct about all the topics on which she had opined.
The Index created the first true means by which to identify experts within a given domain. It even cleaved expertise within the bulk of a person’s stated opinions as it was not uncommon for someone to be vocal in a number of areas and yet really only truly have understanding in one or two. The Index also rescued journalism and provided a value creation mechanism for providing truth. When the Forum began to receive all tax money -although the idea of what taxes even were changed drastically by that time- bounties were put out to gather information on numerous subjects and accurate information was well rewarded.
With the Index, you could answer the question “Why should I trust this person?” with the click of a button. It replaced the directly witnessed events of our ancestors with a broad decentralized record. It gave incentive for people to foster expertise and speak wisely when in public forums. It rewarded correctness. Over populations of billions, it sifted out unique individuals who could find a path forward.
The only person smart enough to navigate the future accurately was scattered across all of humanity, splintered into billions of puzzle pieces. The Index allowed humanity to identify those puzzle pieces and assemble them back together.
The Forum asked: What do you want? And the Index identified those who could best determine how these desires could be realized.