Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters by Tom Nichols - Review

I haven't read the complete book yet but it is on my list. I read a Blinkist summary of it over the last two days and have found it fascinating especially in these crazy COVID-19 days. I think you might find the following interesting.

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

Here are some quotes from the summary:

"Although disagreements about expertise are nothing new, they have been increasing in the internet age. The internet makes it possible to find a source to support any opinion under the sun, no matter how outrageously unscientific it might be, and it also has people feeling more empowered than ever to voice their opinions. Once people start ganging up and attacking established knowledge, years of scientific progress are endangered and people’s lives can be put at risk."

"We have human traits that can make us believe a false argument. With an infinite amount of information just waiting to be scrolled through, countless people are joining debates on everything from Batman movies to theoretical science. Having no formal education on a subject does nothing to weaken people’s confidence in their ability to read a few articles and believe they have a full grasp of a subject."

"This makes a great deal of online conversations painful to read, but it’s important to note that both experts and laypeople are prone to many of the same biases inherent to human nature. Take the Dunning-Kruger effect. In 1999, Cornell University psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger revealed that having less skill at a specific task can make someone less likely to recognize their own incompetence. This is due to a lack of metacognition, which is the awareness of our own thought processes and the trait that allows someone to recognize their limitations. Lack of metacognition could be the root cause of why people are so adamant that they know what they’re talking about, even when it’s clear to others that their thinking is radically off course."

"Another human trait that can steer us in the wrong direction is our tendency to only seek out and pay attention to information that agrees with what we already believe. This is known as confirmation bias. If you grew up being told that left-handed people are all agents of evil, you could then find police reports of every southpaw that committed a crime and point to these documents as proof. Meanwhile, you can dismiss every account of empathetic or philanthropic lefties as an exception or part of a conspiracy to throw off the unsuspecting public."

"The internet is a tremendous tool for researchers and journalists, but it can easily lead you astray if you don’t know how to double-check your facts. This problem is compounded by the fact that so many people are influenced by their confirmation bias and use the internet to reinforce their preconceived notions. For many, the internet is not a tool for finding facts and seeking out the truth, it’s a web of lies that readers are happy to remain stuck in."

"Being a reporter used to imply a certain amount of experience and a specific set of journalistic standards, but the internet has given anyone with a computer the ability to launch a news site and build readership. Since the turn of the century, the number of news sources on the internet has steadily increased. On the web, revenue is determined by interactivity. So, to make a profit, websites publish stories that are designed to be clickable and shareable. And internet users have shown a clear preference for entertainment news and articles that confirm their beliefs."

"Another common mistake on the part of experts is to make predictions. A scientist's job essentially involves explaining things that have already taken place or are currently happening. But reporters and curious minds love to ask scientists to make predictions, often with the intent of enabling people to prepare for what’s to come. But even the most educated expert can fail miserably when it comes to predicting the future."

If this made you want to read more, get your copy here:
The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters

Here is where you can get the Blinkist summary: 
The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters