Monday, December 16, 2019

The Smartest People in the Room Have a Thing for Those Who Aren't

Credentialism is a cancer.

People assume that certain schools and certain backgrounds will result in certain - and superior - results.

Those who are given that credentialist benefit know it, they often believe it, they bask in it, they act on it - and they began to look at lesser beings with contempt.

As they are the superior being, their ideas are best. Opposition isn't just a manifestation of stupidity - it is almost blasphemous. 

When we look at the record of the last few decades of what the "Smartest People in the Room™" did when they decided to play Risk writ large - we should take pause to think about the real value of where you went to school and what credentials actually mean. 

How dangerous is the assumption that papers and titles produce the best idea? Are we just looking for a shortcut to minimize intellect-risk so we value that technical ability, vice actual works and ideas regardless of source?

Credentialed technicians, brilliant in one specific area or another, often make decisions that only make sense on a spreadsheet or as a one-dimensional solution to a specific problem without considering what should be seen as obvious 2nd and 3rd order effects on a multi-dimensional challenge.

I was thinking of this while reading a recent post over at Claire Berlinski's place, McNamara's Morons, where she recounts a discussion with a friend of hers, Alan Potkin, about The Late Unpleasantness in SE Asia and a tie-in to today. He stated,
… It sure as hell doesn’t feel like that was fifty years ago. I think we could have pulled another South Korea out of that mess if the lefty bien pensants hadn’t cut the ARVNs off at the knees (my daughter-in-law is Vietnamese and her father was a political prisoner for nearly decade). The constituency for Pax Americana is gone, baby, gone.
Recounting the tragic loss of a C-123 and the lives 36 people in a fuel fire on the deck, he brought us back to a lesson no one should forget.

The self-appointed elite - in an effort to extend protections to their class - decided to throw the other end of the IQ Bell Curve at the most important national security problem of their day.

When you care enough to send your very least;
However, in just the last several years it has become more widely known that as result of decisions secretly taken by then-Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and US President Lyndon Johnson, more than 300,000 prospective draftees whose dismal scores on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test were far below the previous acceptable threshold for serving in the US military were enlisted or conscripted.
“This decision was entirely politically motivated, as the alternatives were to eliminate the 2-S student deferment or to mobilize, for overseas service, troops in National Guard and reserve units who were exempted, thereby from risking getting their heads blown off in what was an extremely unpopular war.
Defining adequacy down has real consequences. Standards exist for a reason and the professional resists efforts to dilute standards for reasons based simply on convenience to non-effectiveness related variables.

Some day there will be pressure again to take in lower IQ candidates. It was bad enough in the relatively low-tech Vietnam Era military - in our high tech military where each person is even more critical - the push-back needs to be fast, swift, and sure.

Hopefully enough people will remember what happened before, so when the good idea fairy brings it up again - and it will - it never sees the light of day.

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