More experts, please!

by Ralf Stutzki, June 22, 2022

According to my 600 Euro smart watch I passed away three days ago somewhere between 1:51 AM and 3:20 AM. During that time span - I was sound asleep and do not recall any exciting dreams - my heartbeat rate (bpm) apparently exceeded 220 permanently and reached an all-time high of 300 beats per minute, prompting my online health data collection app to celebrate my passing by sending me an Email with a bouquet of flowers emoji: "Congratulations, Ralf! You have reached a milestone! 💐" At this juncture, it is not yet clear to me whether as a next step I should see my doctor or rather visit my watchmaker - but at least I do have a choice of experts here.

I love having experts. They are a status symbol to me. It all started with the pandemic, when overnight experts mushroomed out of the blue and taught me how truly clumsy I was. For the first time in my life, I learnt how to wash my hands: with water, at least 30 seconds long. I was also taught that I should cough and sneeze into my elbow to save others. While the majority of experts here encouraged to take off the mask during the sneezing process (anything else, one scientist explained on television, would be "disgusting") others strongly disagreed, quoting p-values and even their mothers. Being the fast and heavy sneezer that I am, I chose to follow the order of the second group and rightly so: planet earth is still turning. I must admit though, that heavy sneezing into my elbow through the duration of two hay fever seasons has led to serious pain in my right shoulder (which is attached to the elbow that I have learnt to cough into). Naturally, I went to see a shoulder expert who I was unable to convince that I was suffering from a Long Covid symptom. "It is called 'age', Ralf", the specialist said, but since he only holds a medical degree and has never appeared on national television, I strongly doubt that he is an expert one should have faith in.

During the pandemic most of the experts that I learnt to adore were professors holding at least two doctoral degrees (some even h.c.!). I mean - if you want to be on the right side of history, you must follow the right people. Some of them even started weekly podcasts giving their expertise free of charge to those who, like me, were craving for the truth. Others appeared in comedy shows or were at least made fun of by the fake media. When the pandemic was (more or less) under control, a lot of experts fell into a deep dark hole of meaninglessness. Being an ethicist at a natural science consortium, I know what that feels like. I believe every one of us should be an expert at least for 15 minutes of his lifetime. This is what Andy Warhol actually meant in his well-known quote about being famous. I had my share of expert-fame many years ago, when I wrote a very silly book about French fries and currywurst. Just a few weeks after publication, news media from around Europe contacted me and asked for my expertise and advice on how to deal with the continental potato crisis which - so I was told - had been caused by the current rainy summer. I gave advice, put into perspective, developed rules of conduct and everyone was happy. Soon farmers from all over would send me examples of their very own variety of Solanum tuberosum, asking for my comment, appraisal and occasionally even blessings. I had the time of my life; I mean who would not like to be called a 'leading potato expert'. But that's another story...

While I am writing this corner a summer Corona wave is gradually spreading, warranting the rise of a new generation of experts since a considerable number of the old ones had taught us that no such thing really exists. Again, I will be ready to receive, to follow and obey. Will the new highly specialized group of young researchers declare face masks to be required again? Will I have to train my left elbow to become my leading sneeze-in elbow? What kind of dog should I buy this time to legally get around the stay-at-home order? Exciting questions during an exciting time. Experts will have the answers. Just like the one I am about to visit now: I still need to find out whether I passed away three days ago between 1:51 AM and 3:20 AM or if I should buy a new smart watch.

Ralf Stutzki

Would Pontius Pilate have participated?

University of Basel study about handwashing.

Ralf Stutzki, Head Ethics