The Death Of Expertise Book Summary By Tom Nichols

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The Death of Expertise (2017) is a book that examines the increasingly hostile attack on knowledge and science that's been growing in our contemporary technological and political climate.

It looks at why some people refuse to believe facts or accept objective truths, why science has become so politicized, and dives deep into this relevant and pressing issue of our time.

In The Death of Expertise, author Tom Nichols takes an in-depth look at why many Americans have lost faith in expert opinion, or worse—willfully ignore it.

He explains how we arrived at this moment and identifies hidden forces —from populism to postmodernism--that outwardly reject expertise as arrogant elitism and instead champion feelings over facts.

Ultimately, he offers a fascinating investigation into the anti-science movement sweeping not just through western democracies but across the entire world.

The Death Of Expertise Book

Book Name: The Death of Expertise (The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters)

Author(s): Tom Nichols

Rating: 4.3/5

Reading Time: 15 Minutes

Categories: Education

Author Bio

Tom Nichols is a renowned professor and authority on foreign policy and international security.

He currently holds the position of Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, as well as being an adjunct professor at the Harvard Extension School.

With his expertise, Tom has authored multiple books on these topics, like Eve of Destruction: The Coming Age of Preventive War and The Russian Presidency.

His most recent work is his book The Death of Expertise, which famously examines how anyone can easily access information online but lacks the knowledge to use this data responsibly.

So it's no surprise that he was considered the perfect author to break down this concept.

A Guide To Navigating The Growing Attack On Truth: How Fake News Impacted American Society

Fake News

The world today looks very different than it used to when it comes to the way we view knowledge and expertise.

Thanks largely to the advances of technology, as well as a society-wide mistrust of established narratives, many are now more likely to trust in their own opinion rather than that of an expert.

As evidenced by the rise of fake news and the decreasing value of a college degree, American society has been moving in this direction for quite some time.

The internet has also changed how we get news, with sensationalized headlines often replacing reliable sources of information – opening the door to many forms of fake news and conspiracies.

Furthermore, individuals can quickly become swayed by confirmation bias that reinforces their current beliefs.

So it’s no surprise that increasing numbers don’t believe trusted institutions or even people with vast amounts of education any longer.

The Death Of Expertise pulls together these trends into one narrative tapping into every aspect that has led us to where we are today.

The Dangers Of Rejecting Expert Advice In The Age Of Misinformation

Since the dawn of civilization, disagreements between experts and laypeople have been an ongoing source of tension.

We can trace these tensions as far back as fifth century BC ancient Athens, where people became passionately involved in discussions about social and political developments.

The same two sides still remain: those who trust experts, and those who don’t.

However, the internet has changed this dynamic dramatically in recent years.

Now it’s easier than ever for people to access information and express their opinions on a global stage—which has led to far more virulent forms of disagreement between experts and laypeople than ever before.

In particular, there are an increasing number of movements based on fake science that promote harmful theories contrary to expert conclusions, such as the anti-vaccine movement that purports vaccines can cause autism despite overwhelming evidence that this is not true.

And unfortunately, these dangerous bogus theories gain further credibility when they are promoted by high-profile celebrity figures like Jim Carrey, which can lead to real-world consequences for children whose parents opt out of vaccinating them due to these misguided beliefs.

At the end of the day though a healthy democracy involves being able to challenge official messages from governments or other powerful entities.

But it’s also important to remember that experienced experts are often far less likely to be wrong than ordinary citizens or movie stars when it comes to the subjects they specialize in—especially when lives may be at risk.

The Dunning-Kruger Effect And Confirmation Bias Explain Why Even The Most Educated People Can Make Uninformed Judgements

At times, it can be difficult to get through a debate without someone believing they know what they’re talking about when they really don’t.

They may have read a handful of articles and developed the confidence that they are an expert on the matter, despite having no formal education on the subject.

This is often due to two very common human traits: lack of metacognition and confirmation bias.

The Dunning-Kruger effect essentially states that those with less skill on a task are also less likely to recognize their own incompetence – which is attributed to lack of metacognition, or awareness of our own thought processes.

This tends to lead us astray as we become adamant that our thinking is correct in spite of evidence proving otherwise.

Confirmation bias is another main culprit, in which people seek out and pay attention only to information that agrees with their existing beliefs — for example, if one believes left-handed people are evil, then all instances where a southpaw committed a crime will be seen as evidence backing this claim, while any accounts of friendly lefties must surely be part of some conspiracy against them.

Even among experts who should know better, these two human traits can easily overpower sound judgement.

Doctors can so easily get so focused on a diagnosis that they dismiss symptoms pointing towards the actual condition – thats why its important to always consider both sides before coming to an opinion.

How Pauperizing Grades Have Led To A Culture Of Entitlement In Higher Education

Higher Education

The way we view higher education has changed significantly in the last century, and these changes have made it difficult for graduates to be seen as experts.

Before World War II, having an advanced degree meant being an expert in a certain field.

Nowadays, just having a college degree gives many people the false belief that they know as much or more than a professor who has decades of experience.

Furthermore, colleges are now competing for money and trying to appear better than their competitors by boosting their graduation rates and inflating tuition costs.

This coddling of students doesn’t challenge them enough, instead it gives students inflated grades — close to 80% of all grades given at US universities are higher than a B minus, with some institutions giving out up to 60% A-grades.

Higher education is no longer seen as an investment in knowledge; it’s viewed like any other product—students are now customers looking for the “best deal” and often losing sight of educational excellence in favor of other luxuries such as cafeteria food or room décor.

It’s gotten to the point where some students feel empowered enough to treat professors like mere staff members expected to serve them.

It’s clear that higher education has become a consumer product rather than a meaningful form of expertise, leaving many graduates with an inferior quality of education and unrealistic expectations about their own abilities

The internet is full of information, but not all of it is accurate.

It’s important to be careful and conscious about what you choose to believe – don’t just take everything at face value.

For example, a fake story was posted by Allen West in 2015 which claimed US troops were being forced to pray like Muslims during Ramadan.

But this story was completely untrue.

Unfortunately, many people assumed it was true and the story spread quickly through social media platforms and other news websites.

It’s crucial to understand that there are very few safeguards on the internet to prevent false and incorrect information from spreading and being accepted as truth.

That’s why those who have been trained in research or knowledge verification can typically spot fake stories more easily than those who are not.

Additionally, confirmation bias often leads people to seek out articles that only serve to reinforce their existing beliefs instead of providing them with factual information.

Regrettably, these false news stories now act as sources for even more misleading pieces of “news” which further complicates matters for the reader.

For example, antivaccine stories remain rampant throughout the web despite scientific studies that counter those claims so if you read something that doesn’t line up with facts from reliable sources then it’s probably untrue — don’t believe everything you read on the internet!

Journalism Standards Have Declined As News Outlets Flood Internet For Profits

These days, a lot of people have the false impression that being well informed is as simple as reading an article from a news website.

Unfortunately, this isn’t necessarily the case due to the influx of inexperienced journalists and a demand for more and more content in order to make websites profitable.

This has resulted in fake news stories, factual errors in real news stories, and even incorrect descriptions of famous authors (like Time magazine’s 2016 list of 100 greatest female writers which included English writer Evelyn Waugh who was actually a man).

News websites are now having to prioritize entertainment news and clickable content over facts and accuracy.

Furthermore, readers are encouraged to share their opinions and insights on social media – many times without any expertise or qualifications.

It’s not uncommon for complex issues to be dissected by untrained viewers with no real insight.

This leads many modern news outlets to be publishers of distraction rather than providers of meaningful insight.

The end result is giving readers a false impression of being informed when in reality they may not have got the full story or some vital pieces of information which could’ve given them an actual understanding or perspective on what’s going on around them.

Experts Are Human Too: Mistakes They Make Could Impact Our Future

Our Future

When it comes to expertise, it’s important to remember that experts don’t always get it right.

History has shown us time and time again that even the most experienced and educated professionals can make mistakes.

Take for example Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel laureate in Chemistry who became convinced that Vitamin C could be an effective treatment for cancer.

Despite scientists pointing out their tests didn’t support his theories, Pauling turned a deaf ear to facts; a decision that today we know was wrong as overdosing on vitamins can increase the risk of stroke and cancer instead of helping with it.

Experts can also struggle when making predictions.

Many political analysts thought Hillary Clinton would win the 2016 US presidential election but were left stunned when Donald Trump emerged victorious – leading to the same result during UK’s “Brexit” referendum later on.

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember experts are human too, and even though they make mistakes these should not overshadow their expertise where necessary.

We need to learn from mistakes in order to move forward into an uncertain future, so having trusted experts by our side is paramount.

Wrap Up

In the book ‘The Death of Expertise’, Tom Nichols unpacks why there’s so much misinformation, lies, confusion and distrust in today’s experts.

He argues that it’s largely due to the fact that anyone can now access information instantly on the internet which creates an environment of cognitive bias where mistakes are made on both sides – not just by laypeople, but also by experts themselves.

At the end of it all, Nichols calls for us to recognize these biases and encourages us to work together in order to create better solutions.

He believes that with actual real effort and collaboration among people from different fields of expertise, we can come up with positive change.

As a final summary, be aware that we all make mistakes at times; deciphering this before taking action is how trust is built between experts and laypeople alike.

Arturo Miller

Hi, I am Arturo Miller, the Chief Editor of this blog. I'm a passionate reader, learner and blogger. Motivated by the desire to help others reach their fullest potential, I draw from my own experiences and insights to curate blogs.

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