two pilots sitting inside plane
Photo by Rafael Cosquiere on

For several years, I’ve written repeatedly about the difference between real experts and fake experts

What is real expertise?

The underlying strategic issue here is one of #skininthegame – Fake experts are the people who keep getting it wrong and who aren’t paying for the costs of their errors.

This is the difference between genuine expertise (eg, flying a plane: when you stuff up the landing as a pilot, you pay the cost of the error by dying in a fiery crash) and b.s. artists (eg, politicians and managers who say things but aren’t held accountable when they err)

Real expertise comes from doing things repeatedly, getting good feedback, and having skin in the game. That’s why carpenters and pilots become real experts – while our legacy public health bureaucracy are just b.s. artists. Commercial pilots are amongst the greatest example of true expertise: even before they step into a plane to fly for the first time, they repeat the process of flying many, many, times in flight simulators. Then, once in a real plane, they have skin in the game: crashing the plane puts the pilot at very real risk of harm.

Fake experts (people you see on TV opining all the time, politicians, etc.) have no repeatable skills, and no skin in the game. Real experts do things over and over, and are held accountable for what they do.

Fake experts and the coronavirus

While I claim no particular expertise on the issue of coronavirus, I do have the odd track record of repeatedly being right, while the fake experts in our public health bureaucracy kept getting it wrong. Their mistakes kept causing people to die. In January 2020, I advocated for taking proactive steps to protect our island, while the fake experts kept playing down the risk. Despite their bad decisions, no one was ever held accountable.

It got worse in March 2020 when even the WHO (who repeatedly tried to downplay the risk of the virus in the very early days) admitted that the global level threat assessment was “very high” with over 90,000 confirmed cases across the world (and an unknown numbers of unconfirmed cases), the local IOM Government ‘experts’ wrongly claimed that the risk to the Isle of Man was “moderate to low“. These people are discredited fake experts – because they had no skin in the game, and because they did not get to repeatedly practice their decisions. Despite their bad decisions, no one was ever held accountable.

Over the course of the pandemic, the fake experts repeatedly got it wrong. In later March 2020, the fake Manx experts encouraged people to go out to bars and restaurants, while safer countries took more proactive steps. In May 2020, the fake Manx experts claimed that it wasn’t possible to eradicate the virus from the Isle of Man, and eight days later, the virus was eradicated from the Isle of Man. Despite their bad decisions, no one was ever held accountable.

Then, come the vaccine roll-out at the end of 2020, the complacency of the Quayle administration led to the Manx roll-out of the vaccine being delayed almost a month compared to the UK. This was just long enough for a fresh outbreak of coronavirus to get a foothold in our community, leading to the January 2021 lockdown. Through this period, the fake experts insisted on keeping thousands of vaccines stuck in freezers, and opposed the scientific-based decision to prioritise first-doses. During these delays, the coronavirus got out on the Isle of Man again, leading to several local deaths. Despite their bad decisions, no one was ever held accountable.

Michael Josem is a long-term consumer advocate, most prominently as a global leader in combating fraud in the online gambling industry. He was in part the inspiration for the 20th Century Fox Movie, Runner Runner, starring Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake.

Josem has over a decade of experience as a senior business leader working across various high-tech and online industries, and takes action to build a better community. His primary volunteer roles include service for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Graih, the homelessness charity.