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The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

Written by Tom Nichols

Narrated by Sean Pratt


The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

Written by Tom Nichols

Narrated by Sean Pratt

ratings:
4.5/5 (54 ratings)
Length:
8 hours
Publisher:
Released:
May 23, 2017
ISBN:
9781541474956
Format:
Audiobook

Description

People are now exposed to more information than ever before, provided both by technology and by increasing access to every level of education. These societal gains, however, have also helped fuel a surge in narcissistic and misguided intellectual egalitarianism that has crippled informed debates on any number of issues. Today, everyone knows everything and all voices demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

Tom Nichols shows this rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the internet, the emergence of a customer satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into a 24-hour entertainment machine. Paradoxically, the increasingly democratic dissemination of information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.

Nichols notes that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions themselves are in danger of falling either to populism or to technocracy-or in the worst case, a combination of both.
Publisher:
Released:
May 23, 2017
ISBN:
9781541474956
Format:
Audiobook

About the author

Tom Nichols is a senior lecturer in history of art at the University of Aberdeen. Recent publications include The Art of Poverty, Tintoretto, Tradition and Identity, and Others and Outcasts in Early Modern Europe.


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What people think about The Death of Expertise

4.3
54 ratings / 12 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (5/5)
    Very actual also for Italy
  • (5/5)
    Well written and easy to read. Definitely a must read. One of the best break downs of current political and social struggles.
  • (4/5)
    Extremely accurate and thought provoking book they raises some questions that need to be answered.
  • (5/5)
    Fantastic work. A clarion call to a good use of our knowledge as citizens in the USA.
  • (5/5)
    I found this book to be exceptionally thought-provoking and quite an indictment of our current university education system in particular. The book will have you shaking your head yes, yes many times!!
  • (5/5)
    Let me start by saying "I'm never going to search online seeking health advice; I'll take a doctor's advice instead." We have to limit our internet usage and devote more time reading books written by experts because, by and large, it takes lot more authority to write a book than a blog.The book talks about the repercussions of layman's rejection of an expert's comment. This ignorance seems to have cost us quite a lot. The last couple of chapters help us turn things around, to some degree at least. I agree with some points the author talks about our education system - how it has become business and as such a student is a customer - always right. This has invariably led to students thinking that they're right just about everything - a scary thought obviously.
  • (5/5)
    I believe that we live in a "dumbed down" country. So Nichols's book just reinforces my current thinking. Politicians, business executives and just about every facet of our culture are steeped in ignorance, exaggerations, spins and lies. There was a period of time were most people would be shocked by lies or exaggerations spouted publicly. Not anymore! If one reads the comments sections from news blogs or social media sites, one questions the rationality of many of the writers. It seems that many Americans have lost the ability to filter truth from bull shit. There are some good insights in this book – – not sure people will find them surprising--- definitely worth a read.

    Listed below are some insights from the book that attracted my attention:

    "Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue. To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: no longer do we hold these truths to be self evident, we hold all truths to be self evident, even the ones that aren’t true. All things are knowable and every
    opinion on any subject is as good as any other."

    "Not only do increasing numbers of laypeople lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument. In doing so, they risk throwing away centuries of accumulated knowledge and undermining the practices and habits that allow us to develop new knowledge."

    "The most important of these intellectual capabilities, and the one most under attack in American universities, is critical thinking: the ability to examine new information and competing ideas dispassionately, logically, and without emotional or personal preconceptions."
  • (3/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    The author observes that "The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of "uninformed," passed "misinformed" on the way down, and is now plummeting to "aggressively wrong." Interestingly, the American penchant to disregard expertise is baked into our national psychology. Alexis de Tocqueville noted the same tendency in 1835, and with the rise of the Internet, with which everyone can give the air of authority to ignorant viewpoints, has only made it worse. Ignorance, Nichols notes, has become "hip."This is the inevitable result of a stew of influences: the belief that democracy means that one opinion, based on nothing but preconceived and unreflective assumptions, is as good as the conclusion from someone who has spent years studying the question; the tendency of education today to cater to adolescent narcissism that takes "correction as an insult", paired with a reliance on student evaluations to reward teachers.I didn't agree with every part of his argument: He is too dismissive of students who "explode over imagined slights." Since he is never likely to have been the target of such rhetoric, his tolerance of "pranks" is probably higher than the minorities having their right to exist questioned and challenged. But he does write for the Federalist (a low quality internet tabloid), so perhaps this is to have been expected. In a sense, he is at times his own best evidence for the hard-headed insistence on adhering to bad ideas merely because, as he says, they agree with his values, and everyone will ignore evidence if it allows them to retain their presumptions.For that reason, while the individual pieces of his argument are worth considering, they do not necessarily result in the world the author personally advocates. As we've seen in the Trump world, facts are irrelevant in pursuing the political ends advocated by the Federalist. It's just odd to see someone committed to the very kind of anti-intellectualism advanced by his publisher also writing a book to criticize it in other people.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    Wow, what pretentious drivel. Eight hours of Rodney Dangerfield impersonations: "I get no respect!"
  • (3/5)

    3 people found this helpful

    I'd heard about this book on tv and, of course, the idea is pertinent to politics today especially in the US and the UK. It has some great quotes, but was quite a disappointment in that Nichols seems to denigrate everyone. He emphasizes that this is a republic meaning that we elect people who then make governmental decisions for us. And of course, he emphasizes the need to have expert information before making those decisions. Then it seems to me he says, while it is imperative that citizens stay informed from a variety of truthful resources, lay people shouldn't be expressing their opinions. Opinions should be expressed by experts who have advanced degrees in those specific topics, and their degrees should have come from "good," i.e. Ivy League universities. He decries the term "elitist" then he proceeds to be just that. Oh, and another thing he denigrates are the 24 hour news sites. He gives an example of news as entertainment citing the Clarence Thomas hearing that garnered an audience only because of its salacious content. He seems to have no faith that people, in general, can or will seek accurate information when it is available.

    3 people found this helpful

  • (2/5)

    3 people found this helpful

    This expert gets no respect. This is why.Tom Nichols is very upset with the level of discourse. Everyone knows his field better than he does, and everyone seems to be more expert in everything than the actual experts are. The internet is wealth of wrong. Schools don’t teach learning – they have become customer service centers for their clients - the students. There is nowhere to hide from brute ignorance. And it continues to worsen. In his The Death Of Expertise, experts like Nichols can’t have a decent conversation with anyone any more.He begins rationally enough pointing that Americans are unparalleled in their own universal expertise. “Each American appeals only to the individual effort of his own understanding, ” Alexis de Tocqueville found. In 1835. More recently, the OECD has been testing students in nearly two dozen of the wealthiest countries. American students fare quite poorly, though they do come in first in one category: self-esteem. Nichols also cites the Dunning-Kruger Effect – the dumber you are the more confident you are to show you are not dumb.By chapter three – Education – the gloves really come off, as higher education has become a customer service function by teachers. Students choose universities for their facilities, not their specialties, and far too many kids who never should have entered at all, are there for 4-7 years. The administration will back the students over the faculty every time. It is also that degrees have suffered from inflation. A Masters is now the equivalent of a prewar high school graduation – the barest minimum to get ahead. Everyone in university is above average; most grades have an A in them. This is by far the best chapter, if only because it’s where Nichols works and he knows it all so well. The next chapters get increasingly bizarre until they become annoying. Nichols goes too far, way too far. He slams Noam Chomsky because he is an expert in linguistics – his day job. He has no business writing (dozens of important) books on politics and history. His 70 years analyzing society apparently have amounted to his remaining a rank amateur, not worth reading, let alone debating. That is too much. It seems one is entitled to only one expertise, one that is certified and paid for by some third party employer. The elitism and the snobbishness of Tom Nichols are all too much. He refers to everyone else as the laypeople, and repeats endlessly his mantra that the laypeople need to listen to the experts and the elite – and not argue with them. And this despite a late chapter where he catalogues how experts are so often wrong. His 30 page conclusion is jampacked with laypeople forget and laypeople don’t know and laypeople complain and laypeople have no idea. He bashes Donald Trump, of course, in terms that reveal the whole reason Trump was elected was because of Tom Nichols. I read another book like this 23 years ago, called In Defense of Elitism. Perhaps if Nichols had read it he might not have written this. But according to the Dunning-Kruger Effect, there was no hope of that.David Wineberg

    3 people found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    As Nichols would be quick to point out, I was likely to enjoy this book about “the death of expertise” (more accurately, “the death of the acknowledgment of and respect for expertise”) due to the fact that it fits with my existing beliefs. Tom Nichols' book, based on his astonishingly prescient 2014 article in “The Federalist,” is a jeremiad on the loss of respect for the opinions of experts and for facts themselves. He discusses at length the issues of confirmation bias, anti-intellectualism, prioritization of feelings over facts at universities, the internet's creation of “instant experts,” the explosion of talk radio and cable news and growth of splinter “news” sources such as Alex Jones's “Infowars” to satisfy Americans' appetite for fantasy masquerading as fact, etc. He decries the tendency for the poorly informed to insist that their opinions, on everything from American foreign policy to childhood vaccinations, are as equally deserving of respect as those of experts in the various fields, and harkens back to a simpler time when “ordinary” citizens knew their place and listened respectfully to the wisdom of the well-credentialed. As you might expect, this aspect is where his book can become rather grating. He is quick to admit that “experts” do sometimes err, and points out that citizens have a duty to inform themselves (as best their often feeble abilities will allow), but reminds readers that experts' opinions are far more likely to be correct than those of the less well-trained. And he's right, but that doesn't save his repeated complaints about the failure of ordinary folks to respect experts from becoming irritating. To a large extent I think this is a function of a short magazine article being stretched into a full-length book when what it would have been better served by expansion into a long magazine piece. Despite its repetitiveness, his criticisms of a culture in which the belligerently ignorant insist that their views be treated as just as valid as those of the well-informed who base their ideas on actual facts are indisputable and timely. Three and a half stars.

    1 person found this helpful