Helsinki STS seminar Fri 15th November: Stephen Turner

Welcome to the STS Helsinki Seminar Series session on 15 November, 14.15-15.45!

Venue: 3rd floor seminar room, Helsinki Collegium of Advanced Studies (HCAS), Fabianinkatu 24

Stephen Turner, Distinguished University Professor, University of South Florida

Expertise and Complex Organizations

Abstract

Expertise always has a place in social organization. One of the fundamental problems of the employment of expertise derives from the conflict between the fact that experts must be supported and therefore have interests and the need for at least the appearance of disinterestedness that is necessary for their expertise to be persuasive. This requires that experts have a protected status, and that expert systems, which involve the aggregation of expert knowledge for the purposes of decision-making, also be organized in such a way that they are protected from conflicts of interest. This, however, is a problem of organizational design with no standard solution, though there is one common one: redundant structures with different evidence sources. In this chapter examples of the problem are discussed, and the sources of failure are considered. It is shown that the sources of failure are intrinsic to the devices used to protect experts. The example of the failures of the International Monetary Fund in the 2008 and the Greek crises is examined in detail, from an organizational perspective, to show that the flaws that led to expert failure in this case were features that were effective in normal circumstances rather than bugs. This is an important lesson that generalizes to all expert systems. The concluding discussion deals with the implications for reliance on these systems

Stephen Turner is Distinguished University Professor at University of South Florida. He has written extensively in science studies, especially on patronage and the politics and economics of science, and on the concept of practices. His Liberal Democracy 3.0: Civil Society in an Age of Experts, reflects his interest in the problem the political significance of science and more broadly in the problem of knowledge in society. A collection of his essays on this topic, The Politics of Expertise, has recently appeared. Among his other current interests are problems of explaining normativity, especially the conflict between philosophical and social scientific accounts, and issues relating to the implications of cognitive neuroscience for social theory, especially related to the problem of tacit knowledge and mirror neurons. (See full bio and more information at University of South Florida homepage.)

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