Article excerpted from University of Washington's Perspectives Newsletter - September 2023 edition. Photo by Juan Rodriguez. Dr. Jevin West, picture right, is ARCS 45th Anniversary Luncheon's keynote speaker and a UW ARCS Alumnus from 2008.
Carl Bergstrom, UW professor of biology, was frustrated. Everywhere he looked, he saw information presented as fact when it was actually misleading, biased, or based on conjecture. In other words, bullshit. And he saw people believing it.
So when Jevin West, associate professor in the UW Information School, mentioned plans to teach a course on big data, Bergstrom had a strong response. “I told Jevin, ‘That’s too bad. Because if you teach a course on big data, I’ll have to start teaching a course calling bullshit on big data.’”
That got a laugh from West, who said it sounded like a fun course. “I’d teach it with you,” West said.
Those five words led to a wildly popular UW course taught by Bergstrom and West, “Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning in a Digital World,” and a book with a similar name. But suggesting all that happened without a hitch would be, well, bullshit. Bergstrom and West's popular course led to a book published in 2020. Read the full Perspectives article linked here.