tv Tom Nichols Discusses The Death of Expertise CSPAN April 15, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm EDT
this did meg thank you so much for coming in this negative honored to welcome you today and for brave being the of whether off today we have a a book he then to the death and expertise with off third toss nichols here fear professor from the department of national security affairs at the u.s. naval war college where he worked with u.s. air force will not be talking about nuclear deterrence today he is a former secretary of the navy fellow the chair of public diplomacy. previously chairman of the strategy policy at the naval war college in before coming to newport with georgetown university.
a distinguished career in washington d.c. and with uh carnegie council in new york city. with the international security program he has published numerous books and really is the experts of experts. and bill book forward to the presentation. [applause] >> thanks for coming on this rainy day and also for having the time-honored to be here. a couple of things first ... washington from the united states navy and harvard so
we will not talk about nuclear weapons. but i have been asked many times why would i even this? why would i write this book with such an obnoxious title and pretentious subtitle that is very in-your-face? because immediately runs people the wrong way. the real subtitle could have bad everybody be quiet team and listen to be. but people get that and their brothers them the wrong way immediately. so the genesis of the book is how new york i wrote
it, right thing comes from nothing to do with the election even with the role of fake news and a problem of the load information voter it had not much to do with that but the genesis of the book probably began around the time i began my career in washington. better immediately i found people were willing to give it vice of arms control. they ought to do the following things.
but i understood that at the time but i get that. is the cold war to have some kind of avenue that they thought could kill them and destroy their lives. i sort of expected that as an academic or specialist that people would say i word kier on capitol hill. that is a normal thing. but what i found was different overtime wasn't just the skepticism but the hostility toward the experts and that surprised me it
shows the way i think in along dirt timeline. but the skepticism of intellectual culture is a healthy part of american culture. we do not observe the class niceties were to credentials or titles but we do respect achievement and that is something that seems to be wrong with that hostility the first time that it occurred to me to give you some idea i grew up in a factory town in massachusetts with my mom
and dad depression era kids. one of my older brothers ran a bar. it was more like a joint. with that was next to a factory and i would go down there but for started to teach and hang out with my brother with the mayor brother told the story later one of the people in the bar after a love said your brother is a professor? he seems like a good guy anyway. like that was the assumption by definition you probably were not a good guy anyway but no mattis since the
epidemic throughout our society. mrs. and from major policy failures or to any particular cause dealing with academic credentials. so with modern american society and to be extremely thin skinned with the sense of themselves their own knowledge to be skeptical of the informed skeptics to replace those intellectuals. i am not just questioning my lawyer for i am just as
smart as my doctor or lawyer or professor. and with a few years back that now all it seems like a pedestrian observation to say that wikileaks was fronting for the russians but to me as a person with the russian background that was obvious three years ago but to no one's social media to say let me explain russia to you. know. i will not let you explain russia to me. we may be friends or colleagues but we are not pierce. a friend of mine working at
the national security agency for tenures says this is hell the nsa does things people say really don't thank you understand our works as the six months ago there not aware of the existence of the nsa. but no figure really understood this. so i sat down one evening and i kept a log mostly as there be the ablaze i could talk to myself the title could have bent get off my lawn. but was strange because it started to get some traction
was noticed by the federalist magazine and sean and then asked if i could have it because blocks are not particularly academic but those sources the my students would say what about my block if? up with city editor is an idiot he publishes anything and has no standards. but we turned into something else then at that point our expert suggested this could be of book but even then of a still skeptical. i said dryly? does anybody want to argue? but it turns out to buy the time it had been read by
over a million people all over the world. oh was getting mail from intellectuals like with self where the egos but i got a letter from molecular biologist in france and put it on the door of the lab to which i said my best french think you've started to turn up in german and italian finally the experts said you have no chance. so we're going to recycle
this populist bent it is not relatable to the election but the least for a decade or maybe more that they screwed up the world that all of the major institutions have failed them that is called civil war and chaos -- chaos. i don't think we are there yet to put the danger the reason i have identified as a problem but the plan starting to act on it on ways that are not healthy. people living they are smarter than doctors in danger themselves. people with think they're smarter than lawyers or parliamentarians or the constitution i have had arguments with people who
insist the house alone can in peach the president because they believe this that makes them poor voters that make for traces and pour decision that the ballot box. identify 38 major culprits by a single vowel higher education and do want to say i don't think this originated with the internet so i think all of them are enablers that has been growing since the '50s and there is our lager argument to be made said that feeling
with this disgusting moment at yale with the infamous halloween costume explosion around a housemaster this is not the intellectual space. to which the professor said i don't agree with that. college is not home. or place to go out to be uncomfortable. this supposed to be uncomfortable. i had a great time but intellectual it is very uncomfortable you let go of a childhood and think about things growing up in society
i think colleges no longer in that model. there are great books and programs of there and to be marketed as an experience to have a college experience we have pizza and cool dorms and the professors will never be mean to you i have no axe to grind of a very successful career with students don't think that i m mean deadlock into the classroom i assume there is the reason they're sitting on that side. i did not think of them as my peers. i teach the class
so now lamb more collegial. it took me down a peg would you say father would use say peace on earth? without missing a beat laugh up by said o.k. i enjoy your class. he said repented. [laughter] in to this day it was important moment. that we were not piers and i had a lot yet to learn the with the modern university a faint that they know plenty navy thinking don't need to learn much more.
there's a lot of information between. this is not an attack on the american university is like being able of the junk food there is a quotation in the book buses college those magical seven years between high-school interfirst warehouse job that is an expensive proposition when the bubble burst me have to think what we go to college we talk about the media.
because i have had a lot of good experiences as a journalist. we want to do a good job in tell the truth but the american consumer with all this bandwidth has decided what we really want is to move segment those other tailored to your own taste to be an echo chamber. we don't real -- really want real debates. for the next 10 minutes they
will hear something complex. but they want entertainment the first three times is set up prosecutorial question do think they were better informed with the nightly newscast for half an hour? yes they were curated, edited on the other hand carrying that news stream that nuclear arms trading was far more important than the kurdish
sheehan. and i do think it is important not just run middle age white males but a more diverse representation to bring a different viewpoint but coming back to the free-for-all buffet of junk food treat the media away you retrieve your diet with portion control and help each raises. read the things that you disagree with. talk radio is a great institution but not $3 a day. like video ball paper watch the news in detention one the best takes me about the
modern era is my dad was a dictator about the news tenth grade education but very well informed when the news would come on he would point at the screen for you cannot talk the news is on because for those 30 minutes he concentrated and absorbed everything that came through there. we watched nbc and abc. people think walking past a monitor in an airport is i watched the news. no. my dad used to watch the news. so finally e.d. internet. i have turned on the
internet. a joyful practitioner of social media. i was an early adopter of facebook the first website appeared in relate 20s and early '30's. watching a website line by line and this little modem next to my desk and i went say this is the coolest of for. mrs. the beginning of the new age of amendment. unfortunately what it has done is create a polluted swap. simply by virtue of being there.
notice? by cannot tell the difference and that is really scary. it also raises the question of how much you can manipulate people. people believe the first page of results are more true than the next page. think about that for a minute. think about that with public policy. with the wave that it pops up in the right to order. and important foreign policy issues. that is why the russians have prospered at this.
a really don't like the way in the president use the term fake news. lambo russian guide that is a very specific terms allied deliberately concocted put out into the media spier for those other willing minions to pollute the public debate intentionally and knowingly a lie. it is not erroneous or why or what can be attracted none of that is fake news that is the intentional why some of you may be familiar with the term astroturf but
where do rego from here? it is a disaster probably. they will rely on experts when i have no choice. that is a movement almost the effective affluence. a pandemic brings an end to that end a heartbeat. with a real economic problem the movie should talk to somebody who knows about economics. live will stop there and take your questions. [applause]
i don't want to chart an innocent journalist but there are some reporters that are out there that are that good. but journalists are aware but of course, some of them for obvious reasons but yang people who don't know the difference between bloodying and journalism. this is where they thread that problem so now listed of being apprenticed but when i was in my 20s with
small towns in western, jr.. so now i went to college i am smart i have been plugging my thoughts for years now want to work at "the new york times." i have to lower their expectations but on the other to have that click great journalism the what's better? goes to crank out 46 stories per day. because they send this demand signal. so asking me a great question someone's the long form journalism is dead into
journalists are where the problem but that is the nature of the market. >> and to read those arguments to read daylong argument. >> but let me clarify of the gatekeepers is a list of 2,000 scholars from international affairs with the free-for-all we would have these long e-mail exchanges to get through the
but partly because what made this though interesting putting summit energy into writing the post people will read it with the same attentiveness. soto said iowa tried to make this point you were just a global list okay. i am. sorry spent an hour of my life trying to explain something complicated. but i am on an twitter i do think it is fun there is a lot of funny people play do think of it as part of my responsibility to be held there and available they said you didn't answer my question but i will answer the ones that are post sincerely with the real
answer i do my best. that is what is being a public intellectual is about a "the death of expertise" chapter when experts are wrong and we are open to the charge and redo lack in empathy because we've worked in the world of data and abstraction we need to take our lumps and speak the truth. >> sounds very similar to what science has called uh demarcation problem. when the bridge falls with the broad kind of principle
of the makes a difference when you know, it doesn't science but there has been many pages and many books and of the whole they have breadcrumbs like fec a capital letter ways to see things and look more serious science but less clarity. and what makes your problem more difficult is you have values. >> science alone solve this problem no matter what neil tyson tells you. that is the problems of how we live together is not
amenable to a scientific answer we can know when it is working with a renewed deterrence isn't operating? when it fails theater problem for science is experts make a mistake scientific experts and therefore the of policy choices equally clear. and climate change. it gives me have my grain. maidu want to establish the point that is their choice.
worry that the left will say my answers are obvious put the right tools say science doesn't matter a damn behalf to stop violating but what we could take to argue with each other with those agreed upon rules and standards i talk a lot about confirmation bias which nobody seems to understand they say i knew a guy once. [laughter] >> good to see you again. can you talk you mention
neil degrasse tyson or others who operate in the same sphere talking bill gates to play the role with the public expert with an intellectual and social conscience can you talk about the expertise you are experts on deterrence of russia and the soviet union or what about astrophysics but there are people once you get the expert license and one area their experts in everything. >> and the public plays into this you experts and your credentials if he says i am neil degrasse tyson i will
talk about child care. who cares? for those old enough to remember in the nuclear arms committee a talk about her at length in the book talking about the ability of the silos with a first-rate she was a pediatrician. but she had dr. in front of turning. american swing wildly but on the other hand somebody says i am dr. and then you believe them usually anything about medicine. forget vaccine now want to talk about social justice. it is insane.
someone the people i have spent time with is the maddening problem of cross expertise violation. i am smart has some deep thoughts about health care the heather day privately a was expanding on deep thoughts and alert -- a learned lesson after listening to be patient said you are wrong. and what you believe you are wrong. effort to this for years and
said this is a good opportunity for me to shut up. because there really not inexpert so i learned a lot by listening most people are not comfortable to do that you were just wrong so voodoo think you are? i said i think i am an expert but yes they do this all the time with those public intellectuals tuesday because i am smart you should listen to me on any number of items i would say if that happens because so many other public intellectuals did not grow there anymore for those that responsibly talk about health care or child care or drug abuse but again the
experts have pulled back it is too difficult the timber is too short. i will write my position papers not dealing with those angry moms and dads instead that is not healthy but i understand it most intellectuals with a deep background not naturally extroverted. the armada was not comment me. is difficult but more and more have to do it. >> my question is one thread
that goes through your discussion talking about consumer choice as people approach dealing with the authority to have what dave needs met can you talk about the forces playing into that talking about the consumer lens of the student and in the medical profession they are finding that the outcomes in hospitals with the customer service element is rated higher comes out worse because they get what they want rather than what they need. >> like painkillers.
>> so is the invisible hand of the market that is not necessarily the best outcome how do we address that question. >> i am concerned about that because the trap conservatives fall into to say a lot of the colleagues of the left this is why we need a regulatory state he stepped right into the bear trap we want to be more cooperative when they say give me more painkillers until they are addicted conservative says don't do that now is said after regulate the doctors.
i can tell you in my own classroom even will we talk about that? because i want to. no. should we study we're all interested in? no. what i am interested in because it is my class after people get over that initial response will said don't want to have a million tauruses but that does lead to deference to experts and guarantee the camera is off use a we should just a baby experts? >> of course, not. if my doctor walks into his office by don't say just
pick a spot of course, ask the questions. '01 other people to ask the questions it's not just a market problem but cooperative we cannot be partners and everything so does the doctor says here is what i have to do the teachers says this is what we have to cover for so this issue there are two sayings for the book won is agree to disagree and the heather i have had a problem that the teachers i learn as much rice dishes as they learn
from me if that is true then you stink as a teacher. [laughter] that should be a lot more in this direction. and as they come not of the woodwork. they said i have gotten to the point all the instruments on the table pushed across you figured it out to. go ahead. but if they took that approach a lawyer said to me people are sitting in jail
maybe not in front of the judge with the classic character study. refiners' his lawyer in the same courtroom than the judge says you are in contempt. what do i do know? they say ask the counselor. i don't know. i would handle this. people and the sec, miseducated, in jail, broke if you don't trust me then check my work but we're not doing enough of that. but at all if the market
will tolerate that. if you come from the medical profession? >> i am always worried about the ads vice sea for medical institutions. these are not typical results. is one in a million shot but people do it every way when negative any way. >> and then to realize into with that perhaps you address this already but with at muddy defied the expertise for those who have
a regulatory expertise and that policy that bonds and grinds how do no more anything that i do? a little ways that would never climb into the cockpit i have flown on enough planes. with there is enough with that technical field with vacancy that physical competence i don't know what you would call it but that expertise. >> i do call at that because there is a couple appealable
treating foreign policy like the plumbing your comment about not claiming in the cockpit among the senior military officers there is the joke there with the retired general who says i'd like to be an ambassador he says when i retire want to be a general he says that takes years of training and the diplomat says exactly. people look at things like diplomacy because it says how hard could it be? for a hard kennedy to talk to mexico? tell them to get their act together we will get this ironed out but they do this to take them through the
process, many experts are involved to mail a letter? everybody takes this for granted. the sale will take two or three days no problem. wait. not just airline pilots much as the glue on the stamp that decided the envelope is the right size but the diplomats negotiating the postal union those traveling through their airspace by the time i and done people say i get that for only $0.50 per combat is a bargain it goes around the world you don't even think about it so i think part of
the problem this expertise issue is a problem it is a disease of affluence what you do when things are going right. not from. part of the problem is people convince themselves experts don't know what they're doing because they convince themselves that things are not going wrong my younger students say you don't understand this is the first time ever. my eyes bulging out. okayed is the worst economy ever. and then i talk about 11% in the academy maybe he is lying. we have convinced ourselves