Sunday, 17 April 2016

How Reliable Are Our Experts?

With the explosion of knowledge the average person has been exposed to during the last fifty years, it has become almost impossible to cope successfully with the “Information Overload” we need to sift through, almost on a daily basis, to shape and color an objective decision about solutions we need to obtain in our quest to neutralize a vast array of routine difficulties encountered in our rich tapestry of social interaction.

The internet, instead of becoming part of the solution aggravated the existing problem by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating an unending stream of information, where often meaningless chatter is coupled to senseless noise, and pseudo scientific theories are paraded as authoritative solutions to every problem existing under the sun.

In the daunting task of making sense of the senseless amount of information, an army of entrepreneurs discerned a golden opportunity to make a substantial fortune by claiming that a unique caste of “Gurus” can teach, the men and women of the 21st century, the principles of isolating the valuable information from the clutter and the cacophony that permeates the big picture of the “Information Overload”, and thus lead the perplexed and the desperate to the promised land of the most expedient solution (not necessarily the most appropriate and efficient), where the anxiety of the decision maker will be dissipated, where logic will triumph, and where the “Common Good” will reign supreme.

All over the world, a new cottage industry composed of self-styled experts/consultants/gurus embarked on the mission of peddling fear, fueling anxiety, and with an air of overwhelming self-confidence managed to convince decision makers in the financial sphere, in the political arena, in the medical community, etc…to adopt their services as the most guaranteed path to the best solution the human mind can offer.

These “Gurus” caught the attention of Josh Freed, an award-winning filmmaker, writer, and journalist who produced a documentary movie titled “The Trouble With Experts”, ( and with a strong dose of humor, managed to depict our over reliance on self-styled “Experts”, who try to organize every aspects of our lives, on the understanding that they know so much more than we do, and the best sensible move should be to silence our logical faculties and surrender our destiny to the “High Priests” of “The Experts Industry” who were monitored over a period of 20years, and the results have clearly indicated that they are consistently wrong half the time.

Mr. Freed’s documentary, while highlighting the disastrous impact self-styled experts had in bringing the US economy to the brink of a catastrophe in 2008 by promoting to greedy investors “Toxic Hedge Funds”, features “… Dutch artist John Myatt who used house paint and KY jelly to forge the works of Great Masters.  He managed to fool top art critics and museums for 8 years before he was finally caught.  Then there are the wine experts who can't even distinguish white wine from red and political experts whose predictions were only a tiny bit better than random guesses - the equivalent of a chimpanzee throwing darts at a board.”  (Source: 

Last but not least, Mr. Freed introduces the audience to a new generation of “Experts On Experts”,
who regularly conduct a meta analysis of predictions made by academics/scientists/pundits/etc…,  deconstruct the wrong predictions/theories/flawed research they have made in their respective field of knowledge, and highlight the negative impact they had on the lives of thousands of individuals who had relied on the wrong advice of self-styled high priests of knowledge to solve problems.

I strongly recommend to every condominium owner to read a book titled “Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us — And How to Know When Not to Trust Them  written by David H. Freedman, a prominent journalist who has devoted a significant portion of his career to debunking “Peddlers of Knowledge”.  

Why do condo owners need the views and opinions dispensed by Mr. Freedman? I can write volumes of reasons to justify my recommendation, but I will use selectively a few points to explain the relevance of Mr. Freedman’s views to “The Condominium Industry” in general, and the decisions made by a Board of Directors in particular.

It all starts with the following section of The Condominium Act of Ontario:

Validity of acts

37. (2) The acts of a director or officer are valid despite any defect that may afterwards be discovered in the person’s election, appointment or qualifications. 1998, c. 19, s. 37 (2).

Liability of directors

37. (3) A director shall not be found liable for a breach of a duty mentioned in subsection (1) if the breach arises as a result of the director’s relying in good faith upon,
(a)  … or
(b)  a report or opinion of a lawyer, public accountant, engineer, appraiser or other person whose profession lends credibility to the report or opinion. 1998, c. 19, s. 37 (3); 2004, c. 8, s. 47 (1).
Condominium Act, 1998, S.O. 1998, c. 19

To avoid any form of liability, Board of Directors and Management Companies have always relied on a breed of Experts/Consultants (their numbers is endless in the Condo industry) who are willing to play the role of “Sounding Boards”, echoing to condominium owners the critical argument that every measure adopted by Directors and implemented by management companies, rests on the solid ground of sound knowledge and a sincere attachment to serve the “Common Good” of owners. Needless to say, 50% of the time the advice is nothing but a waste of valuable financial resources for minimal or non-existent returns to unit owners.
In the near future, I will provide a detailed analysis of several projects that took place in our building based on advice solicited by The Board from experts, with the end result of being nothing short of wasteful use of financial resources, and significant contributors to a ballooning in monthly “Maintenance Fees” at the rate of 100% increase every 10 years.

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