Today people think that, with a few Google searches, they know
more than their doctors who have 4 years of Med School.
But as Tom Nichols writes in his new book “The Death of
Expertise” (Oxford University Press, 2017):
“Experts are more often right than wrong on essential matters of
fact. And yet the public constantly searches for the loopholes in
expert knowledge that will allow them to disregard all expert
advice they don’t like.
“I have started hearing from professionals not about clients
asking sensible questions, but about those same clients actively
telling professionals why their advice was wrong — dismissing the
idea that the expert knew what he was doing almost out of hand.”
“No one is arguing that experts can’t be wrong. Rather, the point
is they are less likely to be wrong than non-experts.
“The Internet is the enabler of a spreading epidemic of
misinformation, making many of us dumber.
“It’s also making us meaner: along behind their keyboards, people
argue rather than discuss, and insult rather than listen.”
Along these lines, and frustrated by the increasing lack of
reliance and trust on the advice of experts, I asked a fellow
consultant: “I don’t get it. After all, you wouldn’t hire a
surgeon to perform surgery on you, and then tell her what
scalpel, suture, and surgical technique to use — right?”
She said, “These days, many patients would.”
Once, my wife and I hired a gray-haired, grizzled home repair
veteran to tile our bathroom.
When he started working, she questioned his tiling method, saying
she had seen it done differently — on HGTV.
He smiled and said, “Miss — a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing.” And then turned back to his work, tiling the way he had
been for the last 40 years. And the bathroom came out great.
Today, thanks to Google, everyone has that “little knowledge,”
which often harms more often than it helps.
Now, to be fair, I want to make one distinction Nichols does not
make: practitioners vs. teachers.
In the “age of expertise skepticism” (my term, not his), people
increasingly question and even ignore the advice of experienced
practitioners and service providers, including doctors,
attorneys, real estate agents, electricians, masons, and many
However, when it comes to experts who teach, rather than do — a
category that includes professors, authors, speakers, seminar
leaders, trainers, and information marketers — consumers still
look for an advisor they perceive as a recognized expert in his
or her field.
And in my next essay, I’ll show you the 4 keys to becoming that
expert — and how to attain each.