June 09, 2017

If you want a medical opinion, you turn to a doctor. If you need to know something about the climate, you ask a climate scientist. If you have a question about Romanian politics, you find an expert on Eastern Europe. At least, that’s how it used to be. According to Tom Nichols, author of The Death of Expertise, and Susan Jacoby, author of The Age of American Unreason, America has stopped listening to experts… and that has a whole bunch of ramifications. 

Three Takeaways 

  • Nichols says that the issue isn’t that people doubt experts, it’s that people are now trying to replace experts. They believe they’re just as qualified to talk about subjects that experts have spent their entire lives studying.
  • Jacoby thinks that the internet is a big cause of this lack of trust. “One of the things that the internet has done for stupid people is that it makes them think that everyone’s opinion is as good as anyone else’s.”  
  • Experts do get stuff wrong, but Nichols believes it’s important to put that in context. Ask yourself, “Are they more likely to get it right than you are?” 

More reading 

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Susan Jacoby, Culture, Expertise, Tom Nichols

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