Deep Hobby and The Redefinition of Experts

My latest fascination is a book titled The Martian by Andy Weir. The book tells a survival story of Mark Watney, an astronaut accidentally left alone in planet Mars. With limited equipments, Watney need to find a way back home to Earth while constantly surviving in a hostile environment of the red planet. From ion thruster to the spaceship gravity assist, The author referenced a lot space real world exploration technology complete with several brief explanation. Albeit the heavy use of space lingo, The Martian managed to tell very gripping story of struggle and survival.You can still enjoy it even if you dont know anything about space at all.

I personally rate this book as the best fiction ive read so far this year, close to Max Brooks World War Z.


After finishing the book, i was interested to find more information about Andy Weir. In this episode of Youtube talk show hosted by Mythbuster’s Adam Savage, Weir talked about how he got deep understanding about the related science regarding space travels. Surprisingly, Andy Weir is a computer programmer. Space exploration is merely his obsession, something he enjoy reading and digesting at his own spare time. Its amazing because in the video he explained sophisticated concept such as Delta-v in a very casual manner. The trait expected coming from an expert with years of work experience in NASA, not from computer programmer with a space hobby.

This reminds me of another story of Brown Moses.

Pic was taken from here

Elliot Higgins is a highly respected weapons expert and news contributor specializing in Syrian conflict. His report has been cited by no other than Amnesty International and New York Times. Similar to Andy Weir, Higgins had never worked in the area related to weapons or military. In fact,  he has never set foot in Syria. Elliot Higgins is a blogger. He did his weapon research by sitting in his living room, going through thousands of Youtube videos. What started as a hobby has now become his expertise.

Looking at both story of Andy Weir and Elliot Higgins, we see the redefinition of the so-called experts.  As the internet continue to democratize information, more and more knowledge are no longer confined in the walls of academia professional body. Given enough hours and dedication, an obsessive hobbyist can have the same (or even better) credentials with scholars and professionals.

These two may be exceptions and cant be considered as a phenomenon yet but im curious of what happens if we see more and more example like these. To some extent, work experience and academic degree might be replaced by blog posts or other creative proof of expertise. Parents will probably put their children’s hobby as important as their formal education.

Moreover, people will be deemed expert by the quality of their work rather than their academic or professional background.

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