Go back to Archive

Positive Vision - Day 98

Our weekly excerpt from the book "Positive Vision"

DAY 6 - 4. Challenge to Authority

Speaking at the Ariel Conference for Ethics, Prof. Avinoam Reches, chairman of the Israel Medical Association’s ethics bureau, stated that 25 percent of respondents in a Medical Association poll reported changing their medical treatment on the basis of information found online — without consulting their doctor. Doctors are so challenged
by this practice that it has become accepted to require prospective patients to sign a form stating that they will not research their illness online.

The dethroning of experts is not just a tolerated side effect of Internet culture; it has been formalized and actually celebrated. The largest single repository of human knowledge today may be the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, and it was all written by … whoever. No credentials are necessary to post or edit an entry. Everyone can write about
everything. Web enthusiasts are so excited about Wikipedia that they are proposing it as a model for many other areas. Bestselling author and noted media theorist Steven Johnson writes: “Wikipedia is just the beginning … we can learn from its success to build new systems that solve problems in education, governance, health, local communities and countless other regions of human experience. That is why we are optimistic — because we know it can be done.”

Recognizing the limits of one’s own knowledge and respecting the superiority of the opinions of more qualified people is one of the keys to success in life. This anybody-can-be-an-expert attitude breeds cynicism and rebellion, whereas Yiddishkeit is founded on mesorah, a tradition going back to Har Sinai, built on respect and honor for the wiser, holier, and better informed.