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[3.75] Don’t let the eye-grabbing title B.S. you. If you’re expecting a lighthearted, entertaining and humorous roadmap to guide you through the cesspools of fake news, this isn’t your book. But if you’re not easily intimidated by math-driven and science-focused examples of misinformation, “Calling Bullshit” will offer many intriguing insights. I’ve red-flagged nearly 50 informational nuggets for future reference, including a dozen that will be integrated into my college-level media literacy class that pinpoints strategies for ferreting out fake news.

True, many of the book’s premises have been explored before. For example, a 4-minute video I’ve been using in my classes for years hits on some of the exact strategies for guarding against misinformation and disinformation. Still, Bergstrom and West serve up some excellent examples that vividly illustrate how data can be manipulated to fool unsuspecting audiences. The authors refer to a headline that screamed “Airport Security Trays Carry More Germs Than Toilets.” This fact was true, but the study only looked at respiratory viruses, the kind often transmitted through droplets on people’s hands when they cough or sneeze. Most of us don’t sneeze onto toilet seats or caress the seats with our hands.

The book offers timely perspectives on artificial intelligence as it highlights the problem of algorithm bias. “When we train machines to make decisions based on data that arise in a biased society, the machines learn and perpetuate those same biases,” write the authors.

“Calling Bullshit” also explores the dangers of confirmation bias (our tendency to notice, believe, and share information that is consistent with our preexisting beliefs) and illusory truth effect (The more often we see something, the more likely we are to believe it). Some reviewers who have described the book as “dense” aren’t spreading fake news. Had the authors spent a bit less time on statistics-focused examples and broadened their focus to include misinformation that had nothing to do with math or science, “Calling Bullshit” would have been more accessible to the general reader. Then again, the subtitle foreshadows the fact that the authors are focusing on our “data-driven world.”½
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brianinbuffalo | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 28, 2024 |
Fantastic book that walks throight different kinds of bullshit and guides the reader as to how to build some defences against them. The books is both technical, educational and funny at the same time. This material should be essential reading for every student.
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yates9 | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 28, 2024 |
The book focuses mainly on « spotting » bullshit in the context of information shared online. It does a great job at defining what bullshit is and is not and gives concrete examples to help spot it. The book is written in simple and clear language and is easy to navigate when you want to devote more attention to one type of bullshit more than another.

The book talks about rebutting bullshit in the last chapter and provides wise words about when it is appropriate or not to do so.

With the title and the number of pages, I was expecting to find a bit more. In particular, how do you deal with compound bullshit? Corporate bullshit? How do you deal with a deluge of bullshit, where the bullshitter inundates the audience to sow confusion? How do you deal with bullshit « live »? I found the book gave helpful hints for the asynchronous world of online interactions, but I am left with some unanswered questions about real-world interactions.

That being said, there are so many nuggets in the book that maybe I just need to let the ideas simmer, get better at « spotting » and the live applications will follow.
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Bloum | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Feb 23, 2024 |
This book was a mixed bag of sorts. On the one hand, the authors recognise that bullshit is high art, spread through fake news factories and hammering away at our critical facilities through volume and confirmation bias alone.
On the other hand, Calling Bullshit treats itself as high art. It contains gems such as "you must treat others with kindness because the power you've gained is tremendous, and there's no need to be too high and mighty". I could also express the book in pamphlet form for what it's worth - without losing an iota of coherency - in its current state, it simply felt bloated.
I'm afraid I have to disagree with the author's treatment of the topic - to give out one line of a rebuttal, he prefers pages of exposition. Given the book's title, it's ironic that I could make a strong case against the book itself as to how bullshit cloaks itself in a veneer of volume and intellect. Studies showing 'females could run faster than males in 2156' are refuted as bullshit because 'by this logic, 100-meter races could be run in negative time by 2536', and the core argument that females might run faster than males in the future is never addressed by the authors.
I could even argue that the book's climax, in which the authors show how 'well, actually...' person is different from the 'bullshit denier', is simply what the authors do all along. Well-intentioned claims that the wage pay gap exists because recommendations for women mention their communication abilities more than their intelligence are downplayed in the book just because some tweets misquoted the original study. Examples like these make for extremely frustrating reading.
This book feels like an introductory primer for tackling misinformation, which is okay for most, I guess, but not for me.
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SidKhanooja | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 1, 2023 |
Great reminder to question everything. GIGO. Where is bias built in to your data/inputs.
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xfitkitten | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 29, 2022 |
Con la gran cantidad de la mala información que existe es cada vez es más difícil saber qué es verdad. En este ensayo se muestran diferentes herramientas con las que desmontar la desinformación y analizar con claridad noticias falsas y datos erróneos. La política no está limitada por los hechos y nuestro entorno mediático es totalmente partidista. La ciencia se lleva a cabo mediante comunicados de prensa, la cultura de las startups ha disparado el arte de crear bulos, gran parte de la actividad administrativa, pública o privada, muestra continuamente disparates. Es difícil desafiar la avalancha de bulos modernos presentes en el científico o las estadístico. Basándose en una profunda experiencia en estadística y biología computacional, Bergstrom y West desentrañan ejemplos de sesgo de selección y visualización confusa de datos, distinguen entre correlación y causalidad y examinan la susceptibilidad de la ciencia a los bulos modernos.
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Valober | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 1, 2022 |
A beautiful yellow for the cover, but this is merely a fluffing up of Harry Frankfurt’s On Bullshit with some fun factoids about the evaporation rate of bourbon and silly correlations between the age of Miss America and the number of people murdered with hot vapors. The authors tell us to be aware of cruddy graphs and dubious sources. Anyone familiar with critical thinking won’t get much out of this, and those who most need to read it probably won’t.
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MusicalGlass | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 23, 2022 |
The most well-written book on skepticism and critical thinking I have read thus far.
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fionaanne | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Nov 11, 2021 |
This book was adapted from a course that the authors teach at UW, and indeed this book would likely be an informative and entertaining read for high schoolers and undergrads. It is well-written; the examples used are engaging, and the writing is very readable. That said, some readers may find the guidelines the authors offer to be obvious.
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Daisy_Thomas | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Sep 27, 2021 |
Pretty obvious stuff. I would've put it down but it's very well written and not overly long.
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Paul_S | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 23, 2020 |
Bullshit uses linear regression…?

They say that it's absurd to claim that women will be running faster than men at some point in the future, but it's worth pointing out that in a pragmatic, real way women are already running faster than men, in the sense that for a very large percentage of men, there are women out there running faster than them. So to call that claim "bullshit" might be fun, but it's already quite inaccurate on the face of it.

In order to make the debunking mean anything, you have to be very careful about exactly what you are debunking. In this case, it sounds like it's something measurable happening among the very top runners in the world, but it's hard to say. Maybe there is some trend among the general population, but again, it's hard to say from the article, and it would take some careful writing to even say what that would mean. We would have to know exactly what the original claim involved, and what parts of it the debunkers were debunking. But by then the joy of the "bullshit calling" might be lost.

Unfortunately, the love of debunking, as we used to call "bullshit calling", leads to a lot of facile and inaccurate claims: enthusiastic debunking is often a form of bullshit. No stuff like that in the book.

The only way to avoid falling for the bullshit of a particular filter bubble is to conscientiously practice "bullshit diversity" (i.e., read a wide variety of outlets you know have identifiable and different ideologies).

I won't get into the specifics, but if you choose to only read conservative sites or only read liberal sites, you're being bullshitted. ...Some might argue the difference is one of degree/volume of bullshit (i.e., "Fox News is far worse than CNN."), but that perspective is actually just one of the more common and troubling symptoms of full-blown bullshititis.

Put another way, Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post (and affiliated publications). Carlos Slim owns more of the New York Times than the Salzbergers. ATT owns CNN. Laurene Jobs owns The Atlantic. The Murdochs own Fox/NY Post/Etc. The Mercers own Breitbart. Haim Saban owns Univision. Comcast owns NBC/MSNBC. Pierre Omidyar owns The Intercept. And The Guardian--while admirably owned by the Scott Trust--lets The Rockefeller Foundation /Ford Foundation/Gates Foundation/Etc. ghostwrite articles. Which one of these billionaires/multinational corporations do you trust?

Answer: "None. Become scientifically literate."

“Calling Bullshit” is a perfect example of re-creating the wheel. Decades ago two professors wrote a book called “Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric: The Use of Reason in Everyday Life”. The book became a classic and has been used in colleges for many decades. If every college student read and learned the skills taught in this book there would be no need for this hyped bullshit book. Brene Brown in her book “Braving the Wilderness” has a chapter on Speaking Truth to Bullshit - and refers to another book written by Harry G. Frankfurt called “On Bullshit” (2005). Just saying this is not a new phenomenon.
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antao | 10 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 27, 2020 |