- Hardcover: 272 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0190469412
- ISBN-13: 978-0190469412
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 0.6 x 5.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 308 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters 1st Edition
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"Nichols expands his 2014 article published by The Federalist with a highly researched and impassioned book that's well timed for this post-election period... strongly researched textbook for laymen will have many political and news junkies nodding their heads in agreement." -- Publishers Weekly
host of reasons. Here is a book that not only acknowledges this reality, but takes it head on. Persuasive and well-written, The Death of Expertise is exactly the book needed for our times." -- Ian Bremmer, President and Founder, Eurasia Group
"Americans are indifferent to real journalism in forming their opinions, hoaxes prove harder to kill than a slasher-flick monster, and the word 'academic' is often hurled like a nasty epithet. Tom Nichols has put his finger on what binds these trends together: positive hostility to established knowledge. The Death of Expertise is trying to turn back this tide." -- Dan Murphy, former Middle East and Southeast Asia Bureau Chief, The Christian Science Monitor
"Tom Nichols has written a brilliant, timely, and very original book. He shows how the digital revolution, social media, and the internet have helped to foster a cult of ignorance. Nichols makes a compelling case for reason and rationality in our public and political discourse." -- Robert J. Lieber, Georgetown University, and author of Retreat and Its Consequences
"Tom Nichols does a breathtakingly detailed job in scrutinizing the American consumer's refutation of traditional expertize. In the era of escapism and denial, he offers a refreshing and timely book on how we balance our skepticism with trust going forward." -- Salena Zito, national political reporter for The Washington Examiner, CNN, The New York Post, and RealClearPolitics
"Timely...useful...in providing an overview of just how we arrived at this distressing state of affairs." -- New York Times
"This may sound like a rant you have heard before, but Nichols has a sense of humour and chooses his examples well. His anger is a lot more attractive than the standard condescension." -- Financial Times
"A genial guide through the wilderness of ignorance." -- Kirkus Reviews
"Nichols is a forceful and sometimes mordant commentator, with an eye for the apt analogy." -- Inside Higher Education
"Excellent...makes important points and offers valuable insight, particularly when it comes to the role of the internet and social media in our political environment...essential reading for anyone interested in this pressing subject." -- The Washington Post
"This may sound like a rant you have heard before, but Nichols has a sense of humour and chooses his examples well. His anger is a lot more attractive than the standard condescension. The tricky bit, of course, is what to do about this mess. Here, Nichols can say little more than what sensible people always have. Citizens - now so proudly ill-informed that they cannot even make use of expert opinion in fulfilling their civic role - must rediscover a sense of responsibility. " -- Financial Times
"Nichols' perspective is an essential one if we are to begin digging ourselves out of the hole we find ourselves in." -- NPR
"Makes a powerful and compelling argument." -- PennLive
"If you're looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas, Nichols's The Death of Expertise is one of my favorite books of 2017." -- John Gruber, Daring Fireball
"Extremely timely...for those wary of being at the mercy of the ignorant and ill-informed and their "enablers," these are troubleing times. But Nichols concludes his book on a surprisingly optimistic note. Let's hope he's right." -- Toronto Star
"Highly readable and entertaining." -- Weekly Standard
"Tom Nichols is fighting a rear-guard action on behalf of those dangerous people who actually know what they are talking about. In a compelling, and often witty, polemic, he explores why experts are routinely disregarded and what might be done to get authoritative knowledge taken more seriously." -- Sir Lawrence Freedman, Emeritus Professor of War Studies, King's College London, and author of Strategy
About the Author
Tom Nichols is Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School, and a former aide in the U.S. Senate. He is also the author of several works on foreign policy and international security affairs, including The Sacred Cause, No Use: Nuclear Weapons and U.S. National Security, Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War, and The Russian Presidency.
He is also a five-time undefeated Jeopardy! champion, and as one of the all-time top players of the game, he was invited back to play in the 2005 Ultimate Tournament of Champions. Nichols' website is tomnichols.net and he can be found on Twitter at @RadioFreeTom.
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A few years ago, I read Daniel Kahneman's remarkable book, "Thinking, Fast and Slow." While many of the studies in the book have now been called into question (an excellent illustration of one of Tom Nichols' sections about when experts are wrong), I still found it fascinating how I, a person with a graduate-level degree and extensive self-education through extensive reading, knew so very little about so much. I became aware of how easy it is to think that I know more than I do. It was quite humbling, which I need to remember more frequently in discussions on many topics.
At least I am aware of how little I know, though. Sometimes. And I know that, even as an expert in my own field, I can make mistakes. How much do we see today, though, of people without any education or training or experience, claiming that their opinion is as valid as any expert, or dismissing experts as nothing more than "elites," as if that allows them to be ignored?
In a time when our entire world is built around technology and knowledge and the experts who understand them, Americans are forgetting how that all happened. They are so ignorant of the knowledge and experience and understanding that exists, that they don't have a clue that they don't have a clue. Dunning-Kruger writ large. And it is slowly destroying democracy and our republic.
Tom Nichols can only recommend what is key, and what even our Founding Fathers understood: the electorate must be an INFORMED electorate. The populace must understand enough to make the decisions to choose both smart experts (Knowers) and policymakers (Deciders) and understand the limits of each.
The conclusion of Tom's book, if anything, offers little hope. Sadly, I agree. We both do hold out some hope, of course, but it will take a massive effort on the part of all sides. If it will happen, no one can predict, not even the experts. But without experts and policy makers who listen, and an educated, informed populace that helps choose and respect them.....I worry for the world of my children.
The book’s central thesis is that the cause of society’s rejection of experts is multifactorial, and the willful ignorance of some portends adverse consequences for society as a whole. The book begins by clarifying what an expert is and then details (“How the Conversation Became Exhausting”) the psychological forces at play that animate and maintain misinformation. Here, the author makes his most unsettling revelation, based on former research: that those who are the least informed are actually the most confident that they are not ill-informed. In essence, this upgrades ‘being incompetent' to a ‘being incompetent with a zealous passion and a lack of self-scrutiny to curb your own fervor.’ Next, each chapter tackles a different factor that has contributed to the demise of expertise: higher education, instant access to information on the Internet and the explosion of niche-focused journalism. The book devotes one chapter to detail what to do and what happens when the experts are wrong. In its final pages, The Death of Expertise guides readers to answer the question, “Where do we go from here?”
As an expert (M.D.) I frequently found myself nodding in agreement as the author makes a clear case for why people trust themselves, however misinformed they may be. I would go as far to say that any expert would derive the most benefit from The Death of Expertise because it so neatly clarifies why your expertise is often minimized or overlooked. Sadly, the book ends without a clear resolve and instead predicts an exacerbation of the current dilemma.
I gave this book 3.75 stars for two reasons. (And yes, after reading this book I must first admit that I am a not a book review expert and am critiquing a published author). (1) At times, the book sneaks into a style of writing that reads like a frustrated man going on a rant. This is particularly evident in chapter titled, “Higher Education” that describes the many institutional variables that encourage over-protected and entitled college students to treat their professors more like a McDonalds drive-thru teller than a distinguished professor. In such digressions, the book reads like one man’s subjective commentary on society-at-large and thus carries less objective weight. (2) The book has solid points which are surrounded by lots of “fluff.” Indeed, this book began as an essay and a lot of material within the chapters is repetitive and draws out the point.
Ultimately this is a book worth reading because it encourages everyone to take responsibility for themselves, what they think, and why they think that way. After all, an engaged, well-informed population is integral to the functioning of a democracy. The Death of Expertise also compels people to gain an education on what matters most to them. Certainly, this is something experts and laypeople alike can agree on.