Tom Nichols: The Death of Expertise

December 14, 2017 @ 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm
Salem Athenaeum
337 Essex St
Salem, MA 01970
$10 members, $15 non-members, Free for students with ID.
Salem Athenaeum

We are now exposed to more information than ever. These gains, however, have also fueled a surge in misguided intellectual egalitarianism. Today, everyone knows everything: with only a quick trip through WebMD or Wikipedia, average citizens believe themselves to be on an equal intellectual footing with doctors and diplomats. All voices, even the most ridiculous, demand to be taken with equal seriousness, and any claim to the contrary is dismissed as undemocratic elitism.

This rejection of experts has occurred for many reasons, including the openness of the internet, the customer-satisfaction model in higher education, and the transformation of the news industry into 24-hour entertainment. Paradoxically, the increased access to information, rather than producing an educated public, has instead created an army of ill-informed and angry citizens who denounce intellectual achievement.

Nichols has deeper concerns than the current rejection of expertise and learning, noting that when ordinary citizens believe that no one knows more than anyone else, democratic institutions are in danger of falling. The exploration of this dangerous phenomenon of the Information Age is not to be missed.