Every generation reaches a point where they claim that discourse has gone to hell. But that doesn't mean we’re going to miss out on our chance to complain about it as well.
Carl Bergstrom is a professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Washington. Though trained in evolutionary biology and mathematical population genetics, Carl is perhaps best known for working across disciplines and integrating ideas across natural and social sciences.
Recently, Carl teamed up with Jevin West to launch the Calling Bullshit project, developing a website and course materials for teaching quantitative reasoning and information literacy. That project then grew into Carl’s latest book, “Calling Bullshit: The Art of Skepticism in a Data-Driven World.”
Carl and Greg sit down and talk about critical thinking, identifying misinformation in a world where it flows so freely, the psychology of debunking and teaching bullshit detection.
What does the future of calling bullshit look like
We do need to catch up to the realities of the environment that we live in and we need to adapt the way that our education system works to the way that our culture is changing. And I think absolutely we need to teach some media literacy that involves thinking about social media. We need to be deliberate in teaching critical thinking. We need to teach concepts like lateral reading so that people know how to look into that.
Data driven bullshit
So much of the bullshit is data-driven today because the world is so intensely quantified both through the prevalence of all kinds of sensing in the world that we live in, ambient sensors and everything else being recorded and monitored, but also because of this intensely online nature of our lives. That generates a tremendous amount of data about what we're interested in, what we want to buy, where we want to go, who we want to date.
Who can we trust for news now?
Even if you know, I pick up my iPhone and hit the news app in the morning and I have a couple of intelligent analyses from various places. But, you know, as we talk about, somebody got a lip job, and then there's nine cats that look like Disney princesses, and they’re all head to head. And as good of a person as I try to be, you got to see those cats. This kind of is a race to the bottom if you will.