University of Washington profs Carl T. Bergstrom (Biology) and Jevin West (Information School) have proposed a course called "Calling Bullshit in the Age of Big Data" that characterizes "the majority of administrative activity" as "sophisticated exercise(s) in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit" and aims to train students to "navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument."
The syllabus makes for a fascinating read in its own right. It begins with Harry Frankfurt's classic 1986 essay "On Bullshit"; moves through "TED talks and the marketplace for upscale bullshit"; statistical literacy and bullshit; a Tuftean detour through the deceptive use of infographics; big data and publication bias; fake scientific journals and fake news, and the "ethics of calling bullshit."
The course website is basically a piece of design fiction: the course doesn't exist, but the profs are hoping that by making the syllabus and readings available online, they will convince the administration to let them create it.
Our learning objectives are straightforward. After taking the course, you should be able to:
Remain vigilant for bullshit contaminating your information diet.
Recognize said bullshit whenever and wherever you encounter it.
Figure out for yourself precisely why a particular bit of bullshit is bullshit.
Provide a statistician or fellow scientist with a technical explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
Provide your crystals-and-homeopathy aunt or casually racist uncle with an accessible and persuasive explanation of why a claim is bullshit.
We will be astonished if these skills do not turn out to be among the most useful and most broadly applicable of those that you acquire during the course of your college education.
Magic Lantern is a replacement OS for your Canon EOS camera that you load via a SD card; in addition to a suite of video-recording tools, Magic Lantern allows fine-grained gain adjustments, selection of input sources, wind filters, audio monitoring, and better tools for everything from white-balance to exposure presets to overlays to help with […]
Last week's publication of the final draft of the new EU Copyright Directive baffled and infuriated almost everyone, including the massive entertainment companies that lobbied for it in the first place; the artists' groups who endorsed it only to have their interests stripped out of the final document; and the millions and millions of Europeans […]
Lucian's SPUDwriter (Single Purpose User Device) was designed to help him focus on creative writing after a long day of staring at a screen in his engineering job: it uses an e-ink screen and a keyboard, and only outputs via SD card or thermal printer. As a person who does all of their engineering work […]
What do Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google all have in common? Somewhere in their framework, they all use MySQL, that most versatile (and free!) of database management systems. And they’re not alone. If your company or the one you’d like to work for wrangles data (and who doesn’t?), they’re going to need someone with a […]
There’s a reason you’re hearing about the gig economy in every other business story these days. More than ever, people are finding income from more than one source. And if you find the right one, a side hustle can do more than just pad your pockets – it can allow you to finally get paid […]
High-def cameras are available to anyone and for much less than they were just a decade ago. Even the phones in our pockets can be used to shoot and edit short films. It’s never been easier to be a filmmaker, providing you have the technique. Enter the Film & Cinematography Mastery Bundle, an online boot […]