My path to this book was far more interesting than usual. It started last year when I worried that my twitter feed might be turning into an echo chamber of my own beliefs. I’d like to claim that I sought out, with dedicated research and effort, a wide smattering of people with different opinions than my own. What I really did, was stumble upon a thread wherein someone who was looking to do what I wanted, asked who were principled conservatives to follow. That’s how I discovered Tom Nichols. He was an easy follow for me. He is a professor at the Naval War College, so he gets a check for understanding the military. He worked for a U.S. Senator as an advisor for defense. His area of expertise is the former Soviet Union and nuclear weapons. He is also a Jeopardy! champion.
I saw this book, The Death of Expertise, in Nichols’ bio and it sounded right up my alley. I am concerned about the anti-intellectual movement in America. Frankly, I find it terrifying that we continually eschew expertise for what makes us feel good. That is the very crux of this book, except it is written by someone who is legitimately an expert in his field and sees it firsthand.
The Death of Expertise covers a litany of examples of why expertise matters. It also looks at examples of when expertise was wrong and why that’s ok. I really liked the way Nichols’ went about his discussion of the topic.
There are some drawbacks to the book. Namely, a book about expertise, written by an expert sounds a little patronizing right? It is, or I should say could be. I think that read with the expressed intent of learning and getting outside one’s comfort zone, this book is very good. In fact, this is one of the chapters of the book. Don’t get me wrong, Nichols is smug, but I think he’s also right.