The Death of Expertise

The Death of Expertise

The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters

Book - 2017
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From the anti-vaccination movement to citizen blogging to uninformed attacks on GMOs, the nation has witnessed a surge in intellectual egalitarianism. While increased access to information undoubtedly brings some societal benefits, the leap to enlightenment that millions of lightly educated people believe they make after scouring WebMD or Wikipedia undermines established sources of knowledge.
Publisher: New York, NY : Oxford University Press, [2017]
ISBN: 9780190469412
Branch Call Number: 303.4833 N518
Characteristics: xv, 252 pages ; 22 cm


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Dec 24, 2017

In The Death of Expertise, Nichols, focussing on the US, explores the tension between the elitism of educated experts and the belief that anyone's opinion on any subject is as good as everyone else's. He emphasizes that democracy isn't about every person knowing as much as every other person, and how those who've devoted their lives to a particular topic, whether international relations or auto mechanics, usually have more valuable opinions than those who have dabbled in the subject or only read a book or two, let alone an internet headline. (If you don't believe this, next time you have trouble with your car, open the hood and see what your neighbours have to say, then compare their diagnoses with those of the "expert" mechanic who actually fixes your car.) Nichols doesn't spare the experts and illustrates how and why they get things wrong, even criticizing himself, saying that because he's an expert on one subject, it doesn't mean that he's worth consulting on other topics, though he's had to discipline himself not to comment on things he knows little about.

The Death of Expertise has its flaws, for instance, Nichols more or less tells us that the old establishment universities in the US produce people with most academic expertise, a highly questionable notion. Furthermore, he doesn't ignore but downplays the role of experts in getting his country into such murderous fiascoes as the Vietnam War. Still, the ignorant and uninformed, who believe in Satanic conspiracies for instance, have a worse record. I fear that Nichols will be mainly "preaching to the choir", those who agree with him to start with. Still, I think most readers, whether their area of expertise is academic, manual, or something else, should be able to see themselves in The Death of Expertise and learn something about why and when they should listen to others.

Aug 30, 2017

Self serving and boring. An academic gets to whine.


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