The Expert

    • This was published in the Providence Journal on Sunday, January 24, 2016.
    • expert2
      By Michael Morse

      Posted Jan. 24, 2016 at 2:01 AM

      There was a time when I was the answer man. Now, Google has the job.

      “Who sings this song?” somebody would ask.

      “Why, Lynyrd Skynyrd of course!” I would answer without missing a beat.

      “Lynyrd Skynyrd? What kind of crazy name is that for a band?”

      “Not crazy at all, it’s the way the band members said the name of their high school gym teacher, Leonard Skinner.”

      How and why I remember such insignificant things is one of those unanswerable questions that even Google wouldn’t know.

      “How do airplanes fly?” my neighbor’s 5-year-old asked.

      “The Wright Brothers invented them,” I answered, quicker than a search engine.

      “But how do they fly?”

      “Propellers.”

      “But how do they fly?”

      “The wind created by the propellers creates a back draft that opens a secret compartment in the plane’s fuselage.”

      “But how do they fly?”

      “The air pressure in the fuselage is replaced by helium that allows the plane to rise into the air where the wind currents move it forward.”

      “Wow, you’re really smart, how do you know everything?”

      “I just do.”

      The years flew by and the kids caught on to me, and they have forgotten most of the true things that I tried to teach them, but they never forgot the absurd. Knowledge is power, and the more the kids know, the more power they have. The more they thought I knew the more power I had. Now, with the tap of a finger all of the secrets of the universe, once known only by me and those like me (old people) are readily available for anybody to see. The scale of power has tipped, and not for the better.

      But they cannot possibly know it all. They’ll type the life right out of living by knowing everything. There is far too little left to the imagination. There is no need for an expert; the days of the expert are over.

      Or are they?

      The world needs people with answers, and who better to give the answers to the questions than somebody with an answer quick at hand, even when they have absolutely no idea what that answer is. The trick is to be more interesting than Google. For instance, Google does not know that South Pole Eskimos’ skin is red because they live upside down. It cannot tell a five-year-old that the moon is made of cheese, or that there really is a Santa Clause.

      But we can. We possess something that even the mighty Google does not; a sense of wonder, and absurdity, and the absolute certainty that everything we say is true, as long as we believe it to be, even if only for a little while.

      So don’t let technology get in the way of passing on your wisdom. There needs to be some truth in what you say, or nobody will ask you anything. Most of the time the kids knew that I was full of baloney, and asked me questions just to get a kick out of the answers I came up with. Telling the truth may be the best policy, but stretching the truth honestly is nearly impossible. The art of having a better answer than Google needs to be a mix of honestly crafted malarkey.

      One of our most important jobs as adults and teachers is to instill a sense of fun, wonder and creativity in our children. Pulling their leg now and then creates a bond, and makes us more human, and a person that they like to be around. Especially important is the ultimate answer: no. It’s difficult to compete with technology that does not comprehend the meaning of the word “no.” There’s nothing fun or colorful about “no,” there is no story, no wonder, and no wiggle room, just one word, no.

      With all of the technology at our disposal, you would think that somebody would invent a search engine that every now and then dared answer a question with a resounding NO. Until somebody does, I still have a job.

      Michael Morse (mmorsepfd@aol.com), a monthly contributor, is a former Providence firefighter and the author of “Rescuing Providence” and “Rescue 1 Responding.”

 

http://www.providencejournal.com/opinion/20160124/michael-morse-days-of-expert-are-over

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