Experts Anno 1974

I’ve been recommended the book Computer Lib, by Theodor H. Nelson1 a while ago. Well, it wasn’t exactly recommended, but I interpreted it as a recommendation. So I went and got it, a first edition, 6th reprint from 19782.

I’d barely managed to read the introduction, when I came across a quote that struck a chord, because I had written about something along the same lines a few weeks ago.

Knowledge is power and so it tends to be hoarded. Experts in any field rarely want people to understand what they do, and generally enjoy putting them down.

Thus if we say that the use of computers is dominated by a priesthood, people who spatter you with unintelligable (sic) answers and seem unwilling to give you straight ones, it is not that they are different in this respect from any other profession. Doctors, lawyers and construction engineers are the same way.

Here I go and try to explain this “expert” behaviour in reasonable terms, and other people, long before me, blame it on pure bloodymindedness. Just goes to show how much I believe in the good in people.

  1. Nelson incidentally co-developed Xanadu, a Hypertext system that predates the WWW. But it was Tim who got a knighthood. []
  2. It was first printed in 1974. []
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  • dat nörmsche

    “Ich kenne euch Menschen nicht: diese Finsternis und Tröstung ist oft um mich gebreitet.
    Ich sitze am Torwege für jeden Schelm und frage: wer will mich betrügen?
    Das ist meine erste Menschen-Klugheit, daß ich mich betrügen lasse, um nicht auf der Hut zu sein vor Betrügern.
    Ach, wenn ich auf der Hut wäre vor dem Menschen: wie könnte meinem Balle der Mensch ein Anker sein! zu leicht risse es mich hinauf und hinweg!
    Diese Vorsehung ist über meinem Schicksal, daß ich ohne Vorsicht sein muß.” (Nietzsche, Friedrich: Also sprach Zarathustra. In: ders., Werke in drei Bänden. Hrsg. von Karl Schlechta, München 1954. Bd. 2, S. 397)