People get paid a lot of money to be experts on things, so one would assume they're much more knowledgeable than the average Joe or, at the very least, a blindfolded monkey throwing darts.
Sadly, in many cases this just isn't true, and the so called "expertise" in question amounts to little more than a shot in the goddamn dark. Here are a few cases of experts that probably shouldn't inspire as much confidence as they do.
Many of us find the stock market too intimidating to put money into, or at least we would if we had the money to invest in the first place. How do you decide what stocks to pick? We can't even pick where to go for lunch half the time and we understand lunch.
That's when you call in a professional, or if you're not rich, you buy a pre-set package of stocks and bonds that a professional has pre-picked for you, and then sit back and, uh...
Yes, as it turns out, the majority of professionally managed funds picked by stock market experts (70 to 85 percent) actually underperform the Dow or S&P indexes, which are technically supposed to represent the average performance of the market to begin with.
Results not typical.
If you do have to peddle your nest egg off to someone else, try to hand it to Warren Buffet, whose Berkshire Hathaway stocks have outperformed the index by 11.14 percent on average for over 30 years. So it's not like financial advisors can't know what to pick. They usually just don't.
But hey, there is some good news: When going up against a bunch of dudes throwing darts at a chart to randomly pick their stocks, the stock professionals performed better.
One thing we all can be sure about is that people that make their living writing about wine must be able to sniff out differences between wines much better than us plain ordinary folk.
Sure, Joe Consumer actually likes cheaper wines better, but that's because Joe Consumer is a stupid Philistine. The experts can tell the difference between a 2006 and 2007 Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignon in their sleep because everyone knows 2006 was a pedestrian year for Napa Valley reds.
Only civilians couldn't.
Hell, they are so good they can tell the difference between two bottles of the same wine. In one experiment, wine experts were given two bottles of the same wine, only one was labeled a "vin de table" (France's version of "Night Train") and one was labeled a "grand cru" (top-rated vineyard since 1855). Want to guess what happened?
According to the article: "Whereas the tasters found the wine from the first bottle 'simple,' 'unbalanced,' and 'weak,' they found the wine from the second 'complex,' 'balanced,' and 'full.'" Not only were their tasting skills put to shame, it didn't even occur to them that nobody buys a $40-plus bottle of wine for a university experiment.
"...this tastes like vodka and grape soda."
Not only can professional wine tasters be convinced that the same bottle of wine was both award-winning and hobo juice, but they could even be convinced that the same bottle was both red and white with the cunning use of food coloring.
That's not to say the whole idea of wine tasting is a crock- it just seems like a field where judging with one's eyes is a temptation too easy to fall into. For example, in the 1976 Judgment of Paris, French experts picked American wines as superior to their own, recoiling in horror when they found out.
Despite being the battle cry of the bad artist, it's really true that art is subjective. So we don't expect art critics to be able to tell us which art is the "best." We do expect them to at least be able to tell the difference between a Van Gogh and a Picasso, or a Vermeer and a Gary Larson.
The good news is that one of those expectations is correct.
Hans van Meegeren was an ordinary mild-mannered artist in the 1930s, who painted unimpressive portraits until one day an art critic called him "unoriginal." Determined to deliver the most ferocious professional scrotum kick in history, Meegeren hatched a daring plan to paint a completely new painting in the style of the artist Vermeer, let all the critics fawn over the newly discovered Vermeer, and then show them all for fools when he revealed he had painted it.
Sure enough, his knock-off was hailed by critics as a Vermeer masterpiece, bought for the modern equivalent of $6-million and featured as the centerpiece of a prestigious gallery exhibition. Van Meegeren, realizing he liked money, ditched the plan to reveal himself and began painting more Vermeers. After the war, he was arrested for selling "stolen" Vermeers to the Nazis.
Because even Nazis have standards.
Then in 1964, Swedish art critics were fooled into praising the works of Pierre Brassau with descriptions like "Brassau paints with powerful strokes, but also with clear determination. His brush strokes twist with furious fastidiousness. Pierre is an artist who performs with the delicacy of a ballet dancer."
Brassau's methods? He "preferred eating the paint to placing it on a canvas." Because Brassau was a fucking chimpanzee.