After the Expert

Will mistrust of experts bring democracy or chaos?

“It used to be left to us experts to tell ordinary tasters what to think…,” wrote Jancis Robinson, the Financial Times wine “expert” of 40 years standing. “But now wine has definitely lost its elitist veneer."

Actually it’s not wine; it’s the public that has changed. Everyone now has instant access to an almost infinite amount of information, and anyone who claims expertise on any subject can almost instantly be shown to be fallible. So experts are no longer respected as they once were, and that may be quite healthy since they are, after all, human beings. But the truth is that, whether you get your information from the FT or from the latest app on your smartphone, you are always relying on someone else who has spent more time looking into the subject than you have yourself. And that is all an expert really is.

I remember being told, as a young journalist, that “an expert is a guy who did the story yesterday”. Indeed, that was roughl

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