Noah Smith wrote a piece about "epistemic trespassers," folks who have takes on matters outside their areas of expertise, and "epistemic squatters," those who falsely claim expertise in an area. I think the concepts and arguments discussed in this piece would be interesting to EAs.
I've cross-posted the introduction below (for copyright reasons, I did not paste in the full text):
Who gets to define the boundaries of expertise?
The other day I saw someone use the phrase “epistemic trespassers” in a Twitter rant. I traced it back to this tweet, which links to an essay (paper?) by the Fordham University philosopher Nathan Ballantyne:
Tweet by @deliprao: We finally have a word for people who are experts in AI, immunology, and Afghanistan all at once.
Ballantyne’s essay is basically a 24-page argument that people should stay in their intellectual lane. He starts out with some well-known examples of people who are respected experts in one field becoming quacks in another field — Linus Pauling hawking vitamin C, and so on. Ballantyne then cites other people who have complained about the same phenomenon (Plato!). Following anecdote and argument-from-authority, he then goes on to make a number of conjectures about the harms from epistemic trespassing. Finally, having argued to his own satisfaction that epistemic trespassing is a problem, he throws out some proposals for solutions — basically, more interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual modesty.
Now, I’m all for interdisciplinary collaboration and intellectual modesty, as a general rule. But although Ballantyne raises interesting points and creates food for thought, he fails to make a conclusive case that what he calls “epistemic trespassing” is, on balance, bad for society. And his arguments raise uncomfortable questions that he doesn’t really wrestle with — most importantly, the question of who gets to decide who’s a trespasser.