Illustrations by Michael Heath

    A guide to ‘the experts’ for the under-tens

    3 November 2016

    Who are the experts?

    Experts are the clever people. They know about things that most people don’t understand.
    Experts become clever by doing ‘research’.
    When we aren’t sure about something, experts are there to guide us.
    We must listen to experts and not make mistakes.

    Experts are here to help us

    During our lives we have to make decisions.
    Decisions are complicated.
    Experts can show us how to make a complicated decision.
    Experts show us what food to eat; how to bring up children; how we should vote and how to be good.
    Experts show us what is right and what is wrong.

    Political leaders

    Politicians worry that the people they rule don’t listen to them properly.
    They ask experts to educate the people. To help us know when to listen properly, politicians say:
    ‘The research tells us that…’
    ‘The evidence shows us that…’
    ‘The data says…’
    Or, ‘The majority of experts believe that…’
    When you hear these phrases, you must follow what they say. These are the words of experts.

    TV Experts

    Experts are often on television. Many actors, TV celebrities and musicians are experts.
    If you want to understand world poverty and Africa, you should turn to singing expert Sir Bob Geldof.
    If you want to understand biology or public health policy, it is cheeky chef Jamie Oliver.
    Leonardo DiCaprio is there to help us wrestle with the complicated problem of global warming.

    Experts on the economy

    Experts who can guide us about economic matters are called ‘economists’. But how do they work?
    Economists talk to each other about ‘assumptions’ and agree a ‘consensus’. This is called ‘groupthink’. This helps Economists to do their important work.
    Economists turn their ‘groupthink’ into numbers. They use computer spreadsheets to produce ‘forecasts’ and ‘predictions’. They are a bit like horoscopes.
    Some people think that economists should make the economy actually work better, but that is unfair because they are thinkers, not doers.

    International experts

    Christine Lagarde is an international economist. She is the head of the International Monetary Fund.
    Christine explained to the British people that it would be wrong to vote to leave the European Union.
    Christine used a spreadsheet to ‘forecast’ that a vote to leave the EU would have ‘pretty bad to very, very bad consequences’ and would ‘lead to a stock market crash and a steep fall in house prices’.
    Christine has now changed her mind and says that in spite of Brexit the British economy is the fastest-growing of all the world’s biggest economies.
    Some people think Christine had a computer problem and that she should try turning it off and on again.

    European experts

    Despite its name, the Confederation for British Industry has a lot of expertise about Europe.
    The CBI’s careful research has shown that the EU is better at managing the British economy than British business leaders. The CBI experts said it was better to join the European Monetary System in 1987 and the euro in 1999, and to remain in the EU in 2016.
    Caroline Fairburn is the director-general of the CBI. She has worked carefully to turn the groupthink into numbers, but it doesn’t always get the right answer.
    Some people think that Caroline has a computer problem similar to Christine’s.

    George Osborne

    George was the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He asked experts in the Treasury to turn his assumption into one very big number. That number was £4,300.
    George explained to people that if they voted to leave the EU, they would be £4,300 a year worse off. He would be forced to impose an ‘emergency budget’ to save the country from a financial ‘black hole’.
    People were worried that the Treasury had a computer problem too. They made a mistake and voted to leave the EU.
    George Osborne looked everywhere for his emergency budget, but couldn’t find it and was sacked.
    Sometimes it’s hard being an expert.

    Experts use special words

    Because of all the computer problems, experts have started using special phrases to make people listen.
    Using special phrases means that the expert can save time. They can provide guidance without the cumbersome need for concrete evidence. These phrases include ‘linked to’, ‘increased risk of’, and ‘it’s possible that’.
    For example, Sally Davies, the government’s chief medical officer, says that ‘when you look at a glass of wine, think about the increased risk of cancer’. This means that you must not enjoy wine when you drink it.
    Listen carefully if you hear the phrase ‘independent research shows’, ‘the data tells us’ or ‘research indicates’.
    For example, climate-change experts say ‘the data tells us’ that flying somewhere in an aeroplane will hurt the planet. This means you must not enjoy your holiday.

    Health experts

    Health experts tell us to eat less fat, meat, eggs, carbohydrates and sweets. On other days they say we should eat more fat, meat, eggs, carbohydrates and fruit.
    Sometimes it’s difficult to follow the experts’ advice, although we should always try.
    The good news is, there is always some expert somewhere who has produced some research that will support your decision about what to eat.

    Alcohol experts

    Sometimes grown-ups like to have a drink with friends or when watching box-sets. This is dangerous and you should ask Mum and Dad to consult the Department of Health guidelines before drinking alcohol.
    These special rules are drawn up by experts at ‘the Institute of Alcohol Studies’ and ‘the Alcohol Health Alliance’ or ‘the Modern Temperance Movement’ for short.
    Now that vicars are not very popular, the Department of Health provides moral guidance about the problems of alcohol. These experts have replaced the word ‘evil’ with the phrase ‘negative health outcomes’. This is not catchy and explains why most people still ignore them.

    Smoking experts

    Everybody knows that smoking is bad for your health. So why do some grown-ups still smoke?
    Experts have concluded that people who smoke have different brains. They are unable to think for themselves and easily tricked by shiny packets and glossy advertising.
    Anti-smoking experts know that smokers need to be lectured, scared and made poorer to stop them smoking.
    Although lots of smokers have started vaping instead, experts are committed to their campaign. Next, they plan to stop the packets being shiny.
    Experts understand people’s brains and shiny things.

    Mummy and Daddy experts

    In the olden days parents brought up children on their own. They used to know what was best for their own children. When they needed advice, they asked their friends and family.
    Nowadays, parents need help from experts. Experts have helpfully written many books. These include: Your Baby: Strict Routines, Your Baby: Always Be There, Bringing up Teenagers: Be Strict! and Bringing up Teenagers: You Are Their Best Friend.
    Parenting experts understand children better than parents. They can focus on studying parenting because they don’t spend time actually bringing up children.
    This is good news for children because parents who’ve read books by parenting experts are less likely to tell you off or smack you.


    In the olden days, there was a lesson at school called ‘sex education’. Boys and girls found it embarrassing and worked out sex when the teachers weren’t around.
    Now sex education is run by experts in ‘feminism’. Their research shows that boys are dangerous and girls are vulnerable. Experts run ‘consent’ classes to teach boys to ask girls politely if they would like to have sex.
    Boys must listen to these experts because they need to learn how to stop being so scary.

    Experts and the future

    When things actually happen, they are called ‘facts’. When experts think that something may happen in the future, they are called ‘predictions’.
    So what should we do when the ‘facts’ are different from ‘predictions’ made by an expert? We need to understand that a ‘higher truth’ is even more real than facts.
    For example, an expert at the University at Cambridge, Professor Peter Wadhams, has predicted that the ice in the Arctic Sea may ‘completely disappear’ in the summer of 2016. In fact, the Arctic Sea is 4.1 million-kilometers square and has started re-freezing at the fastest rate since records began.
    This does not prove Professor Wadham’s ‘prediction’ wrong, because the facts are trumped by a ‘higher truth’.
    The expert must be believed because the ‘higher truth’ is that global warming is caused by people and this is melting all the Arctic ice and this is killing polar bears and the polar bears will then come to England and eat us.

    Magic words

    Experts know that some people don’t like numbers and long phrases. So to help people understand experts now use magic words.
    One of these words is ‘sustainable’.
    When experts use this word it means that the project they are proposing is the right thing to do.
    In the olden days, experts presented the costs and benefits of a project and left us to make up our own minds.
    Now, they use the word ‘sustainable’ to let us know they’ve made the decision for us. No need to worry about the cost and it doesn’t matter if there isn’t any benefit.

    Listen to the experts

    Nowadays there is lots of data. Data shows us what is right and wrong. Experts know how to read data using special techniques and show us how to do things properly.
    In the olden days, people used to work things out for themselves. But the modern world is more complicated.
    Luckily, experts have special powers to ‘read the data’.
    We must listen to experts when they speak to us.
    We must do what they say and not make mistakes.

    Post-factual politics

    In the modern world, there are lots of ‘big issues’. We debate the ‘big issues’ and vote on them to determine our future. This is called ‘politics’.
    But there is a problem. Nowadays, most people can only think about little things, like writing an email or making sandwiches and coffee.
    They are simple people with simple ways and cannot make sense of the big modern world. They do not understand what is in their interests or what they believe in.
    They get confused by hearing different points of view. They become emotional and irrational. So, nowadays, ‘politics’ is a bad way to decide the ‘big issues’.
    In the future, the simple people won’t be troubled by big decisions. These will be taken by experts.
    We must watch the experts because they know what they are doing.