Cryptography and global warming
In a recent discussion with another information security industry veteran the follow industry veteran noted that there's an obvious parallel between cryptography and global warming. In both cases, people who really don't know much about the subject don't seem to let this lack of understanding keep them from talking about the field as if they're experts.
In the case of global warming, even though I studied various physical sciences as both an undergraduate (chemistry and physics) and in graduate school (physics, acoustics and meteorology), I don't feel qualified to interpret the scientific evidence either for or against global warming. I don't know much about the field, but I do know that I don't know much about it. That doesn't stop me from having opinions about global warming, of course, but I wouldn't really call these informed opinions, and I certainly wouldn't try to pass myself off as an expert on the topic.
The industry veteran that I was talking to noted that many people, particularly when they're talking about cryptography, seem to have a similar limitation – they really don't know much about the field, but this doesn't seem to constrain them in the same way that my lack of understanding of the scientific evidence for global warming constrains me.
This discussion also reminded of an airline flight a few years ago on which I sat next to an engineer who designed lighter-than-air vehicles, sort of like high-tech blimps. He complained about how people who know absolutely nothing at all about lighter-than-air vehicles feel qualified to give advice to experts in the field, apparently feeling that the technology is so simple that anyone can understand it.
Maybe this phenomenon isn't limited to just global warming and cryptography.