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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both a damning and an amusing look into expertise, albeit without offering solutions, 15 July 2010
AK (London) - See all my reviews
David Freedman - at least as far as the current volume goes - has to be considered as one of the more conscientious investigative journalists (in this respect the author is a complete opposite to others of his kind, Matt Ridley with The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves for instance being an example of acting convincing but falling pray to very basic errors just to support a story). The main topic - the debunking of blind trust in whatever advice comes from experts (be they scientists, consultants, celebrities, or simply anonymous reviewers) - is pretty well covered in the volume.

Unfortunately I would assume that the topic itself limits the appeal of the extremely important message - not all advice, just because it is labelled expert, should be trusted - most people are unlikely to want to read ~250 pages on the various failings of expertise or the system it is arrived at and communicated.

At the same time, for a hobby sceptic, someone with a research background, or an expert (as long as they are able to recognise their own limitations and shrug them off) this is a fairly amusing book, with plenty of anecdotes, stories and real life examples of failure, as well as a pretty convincingly argued case, why such failure occurs.

It is also a book I would warmly recommend to any business executive, medical professional and most certainly every journalist, so that they at least choose or plug the 'wonder cure du jour' with a guilty conscience (one would hope).

The author is also realistic enough to know that this does not mean that expert judgement is useless and should be replaced with some even more dubious solution, or that an easy, quick fix to the problem is possible. Very much like a good expert, he presents the various arguments, caveats and uncertainties, without a strong message in a particular direction. So if you are looking for a few hard and fast rules how to avoid or circumvent problems thrown up by the expertise 'systems' the book might leave you somewhat disappointed.

The book is likely to appeal to readers of Hubbard's How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business, Garner's Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear or Steward's The Management Myth: Why the Experts Keep Getting it Wrong. On the other hand, if Tom Peters, Jim Collins or Stephen Covey are your cup of tea, you could be very frustrated with some of the debunking going on here.
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