Roadrunner Musings

The Death of Expertise – Book Review

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This was a difficult book for me to read objectively. It’s condescending tone and elitism bugs me to my core, but he does have some good points. With the invention of the internet we suddenly have the world at our fingertips. Not only can we access all the great thinkers and the experts in any field, we can also read all the alternatives as well. We can get a second, third, and fourth opinion about anything we like. We don’t even have to search for answers at all. We can simply go to a social media platform and ask a question. Within minutes we can have the opinion of thousands of people to sift through. The key word here is “opinions.”

There are things we don’t need an expert for, things social media are amazing at. Finding a good place to eat in your area, what stores have the best prices, and where to find a good mechanic, are all excellent uses for the internet. Whether or not you should vaccinate your kids, the legal ways to evict a tenant, or how to pay your taxes, are probably best answered by an expert, not just someone who’s done it before or read an article about it.

The trouble for me has been trust. Who can I trust these days? Just because someone is an expert in something doesn’t necessarily mean I can trust his opinion regarding my personal choices. I’d love to have several professionals I can trust, ones that offer their professional opinions, listen to my own preferences, and respect my choices. But that doesn’t seem to be available. What I generally get is a person who treats me as an ignorant and willful child that they must protect, one that can’t possibly make intelligent decisions for herself with the information they present. It makes it hard for a person to take their expert opinion seriously, which I so desperately need sometimes.

When I was able to put aside the “better than you” tone, which I’m sure was not intended and only my immature interpretation, the book had some wonderful points. He brought up where he believes things have gone wrong through higher education, the overwhelm of conflicting information, the loss of the art of conversation, problems with journalism, etc. There seems to be a balance missing these days and it’s starting to have serious negative effects.

The truth is that we do need experts. It’s so much more efficient if we all take care of our own immediate needs, take responsibility for own lives and choices, AND rely on experts when we come up against unfamiliar territory. There should be someone I can trust with my medical needs, my legal needs, and yes, my political needs. I should be able to trust that someone that has spent their lives studying and working in politics would know more about what do in the middle east. I should be able to trust that the person that studied medicine would know what’s best for my condition. But I should also be well versed enough in critical thinking to know when the so-called “expert” is bullshitting.

The book is worth your time. I’m not sure I agree with a lot of what he presents, but I do believe something has gone terribly wrong and I think he has some good points about where we may have taken a wrong turn. I don’t necessarily agree with the solutions he implies. The answer is never going to be “control things with government regulation” in my “non-expert” opinion. The answer lies in a much more complicated direction, allowing people to make their own mistakes, not tread on other people’s rights, and encourage people to think critically and solve their own problems.

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