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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2017 Oxford University Press (P)2017 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A sharp analysis of an increasingly pressing problem." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about The Death of Expertise

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There couldn't be a better book at this time.

I learned of Tom Nichols when I first started using Twitter last year. He was funny, sharply critical of foolishness, and to my surprise, an avowed conservative. What struck me most about his tweets, and profoundly moved me in his book, is his well-reasoned insistence that we the people, who have so much to lose by living a life of indifference or studied ignorance, have access to resources that can address and often solve our greatest problems. We need only listen, carefully but critically, to those with expertise. He does not espouse blind allegiance to a greater education or heap disdain on those whose expertise is born of painful errors or years of tedious, mindane work. It is well-balanced book that simply requests that we be responsible for our own lives, and respect the skills and experience of those whose specialized knowledge can help us as individuals and as a society.

7 people found this helpful

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Disappointing

Any additional comments?

Seeing the other reviews, I realize I am in a very small minority in stating that overall, I was disappointed in this audio book. I had read some good (though brief) reviews, but the book seemed to meander and deviate from what its title indicated the subject would be. I thought too much time was spent discussing the failings of colleges and universities. The Introduction and Conclusion parts of the book were good, as was the chapter on “The ‘New’ New Journalism.” I did like the author’s writing, and his use of words and conveying his thoughts were well done. However, the substance of what he said was often unimpressive, and I was somewhat put off by the author’s occasional flashes of a fondness for elitism (though he was referring to “good elitism” rather than the “bad elitism” as is typically viewed for an egalitarian society).

If the audio book had been condensed to 90 minutes from its over 8-hour length, hitting the high points, it would have been a worthwhile listen for me, since the author did have some good observations. What helped me finish the audio book was the superb reading by Sean Pratt. He was one of the best narrators to whom I have listened.

18 people found this helpful

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An extremely important book for our time

This book is more important than ever! It covers how expertise is dying at the hands of too much information and the laziness of the average American to get the real facts. The author covers the domains of higher education, journalism, politics, and our democracy as a whole and discusses how people's need for quick snippets rather than delving deeper is costing us a great deal. A scary tome for our future, but understanding the problem is the first step to fixing it. READ THIS BOOK!!

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Meh - not terribly insightful

Pretty much boilerplate material on expertise and the USA’s reception to it. Also does not challenge the experts as much as I think is appropriate (but does do so a bit). Nasim Taleb has a much more interesting and opposing take on expertise. This book does offer a bit of interesting material when it gets into critiquing academia. Overall doesn’t provide much more beyond saying “these people need to recognize we’re right”.

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Disappointing

I listened to this book on audible. The narrator was excellent. The book was disappointing though. I think the author started off with a conclusion and a question: "Donald Trump becoming president is a horrible disaster. How did this happen?" The majority of the book raises several different issues about people's general lack of respect for experts. The most interesting part being about the transformation of college campuses into essentially 4 year resorts. Throughout the book, there were several subtle hints that he was criticizing Trump supporters and calling out to millennials to not become like them. However, I gave the author the benefit of the doubt and assumed he wrote most of this before the 2016 election. Then I got to the conclusion chapter, and the author indirectly revealed why he wrote the book. He basically says that Trump becoming president is the culmination of a society that no longer listens to smart people. I think he had a conclusion, and then he went backwards, writing all the preceding chapters to justify his conclusion. I guess all that stuff about confirmation bias was a Freudian slip. I hate to give away the ending of the book, but if I knew what his real goal with the book was I wouldn't have read it. Hopefully I just saved some of you the time and money.

2 people found this helpful

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Buy a Copy for your Congressman!!

This is probably one of the most important books to be written in the last decade. And yet, the people that SHOULD read it, NEVER WILL!!!

And such is the conundrum we are in as a society. The idiots that think that science and facts should be spelled "science" and "facts", complete with smug little air quotes and all, will NEVER, EVER read this book. And why would they? It would utterly destroy their precious little fantasy world, where their opinion on particle physics is just as good as the particle physicist, or, much more disturbingly, that their lone opinion on climate change is equally as accurate as a consensus of climate change scientists.

It disgusts me that this book even needed to be written, but thank the Greek Gods that it was!! This is a truly revolutionary read, and in a perfect society it would be mandatory reading for all politicians and children.

6 people found this helpful

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Especially Relevant now

Frankly, I dived into this book wanting a better understanding of why many Americans don't want to listen to experts with regard to COVID-19. This book was published before the pandemic struck but the book ends with a prescient warning concerning America and many who would embrace anti-intellectualism... That it will take a momentous disaster the likes of Coronavirus to get us to change our ways. It remains to be seen whether that warning was fully taken heed.

1 person found this helpful

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Some good points and some dubious claims

Tom Nichols makes some excellent points about the struggles both experts and laypeople face in the current climate of information saturation. He also has some great recommendations for overcoming confirmation bias, such as subscribing to publications with which we regularly disagree, or reading news media from other countries to get their perspective on events happening in the States. Parts of the book read like the complaints of an older person who is upset the world is different than it was when he was young, as opposed to pointing out a genuine problem with society. During these times, right around the time that I was about to give up on the book, he turns it around and gets to the point. Stick with it, the complaining portion is long, but he gets to the point eventually. The beginning half of the book focuses on laypeople and the problems they create when they think reading a blog, or doing a google search is the same as completing a rigorous program at a top level university. The second half of the book focuses on experts and the problems they create when they don't stay in their lane such as a pediatrician claiming to be an authority on nuclear armaments during the Cold War, or actors claiming to be experts about vaccines. Both pediatricians and Hollywood actors are experts in their fields and they should stick to claiming expertise in that field. Nichols sometimes makes the claims that highlight his lack of expertise in certain areas. He claims at several points in the book that, “science explains, it doesn’t predict.” Many seismologists, astrophysisists specializing in near earth objects, and predictive analysts (me) would disagree. Some sciences exist for the purpose of predicting. The narrator for, Sean Pratt, is excellent! Overall, the book isn’t terrible, but it could have been better.

1 person found this helpful

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Thoughtful Discussion of A Critical Challenge

This book is a thoughtful discussion of how social media and media bias become supporters of our own preconceptions and lead us to believe that we are more expert than we are. Equally critical of the right and left, the discussion is well balanced.

1 person found this helpful

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Preaching to the choir but I ate it up.

Well written and well performed. It tells the story that needed to be chronicled. The only question is how to get the people that -really- need to hear this message to bith hear it -and- accept it.

1 person found this helpful