Sullivan first quotes from the founder of Wikipedia:
There’s a whole worldview that’s shared by many programmers – although not all of them, of course – and by many young intellectuals that I characterize as “epistemic egalitarianism.” They’re greatly offended by the idea that anyone might be regarded as more reliable on a given topic than everyone else. They feel that for everything to be as fair as possible and equal as possible, the only thing that ought to matter is the content [of a claim] itself, not its source.
Right after that, he (Sullivan) comments: “This is a flaw? Give me epistemic egalitarianism over a propensity for authoritah.”
Is Sullivan serious? I mean sure, _if_ the claim here is that “if I had to choose one over the other exclusively, which would I want?” You’d want the claim out there for people to judge for themselves (which most times will require taking the claim and checking with sources independently), as opposed to some source simply telling you “I know what’s right.”
But we’re not being presented with an either/or. Instead, we have the claim that anyone is just as qualified as anyone else to assess the truth value of a claim as anyone else. That’s nuts. What you want is a level – at some point — of quality control that consists of actual experts. You can have it such that no one expert’s judgment is conclusive. As a corporate body they can make changes to additions made by non-experts, disagree, and so on.
But to leave the content and the content quality control completely up to people who have no expertise – because there really isn’t such a thing as expertise – is crazy. That’s not knowledge, it’s the collective opinions of the masses. We should be looking for a middle ground between the non-expert and the expert. That’s what should make Wikipedia different. It shouldn’t be different because it embraces in practice epistemic nihilism.