I was reminded this morning by an article in our local paper about a course being offered by the University of Washington: “Calling BS in the Age of Big Data”.
It’s not enough.
It’s not enough to call BS, and it’s not enough to consider just “big data”.
If I had a magic wand and could impart one single skill on the entire planet, that skill would be critical thinking.
One of the biggest problems today is that too many people accept what they hear, see, and read at face value. They question nothing, or question it very little.
We don’t need to “call BS”. What we need is simply to ask a question: “is this true?” Or, perhaps given that truth is rarely black or white, ask “how true is this?” And then do even a little bit of legwork to answer the question.
Sometimes the legwork is simply just the thought. If you think about it for even a moment the answer is clear. Sometimes it requires more effort.
We owe it to ourselves to take that effort. More importantly, and has been shown by the last 12 months of political events, we owe it to society.
No one wins when the truth is so easily masked, hidden, or obfuscated. No one wins when lies and half truths so easily manipulate the masses.
No one wins when we don’t take the time, or don’t know how to ask and answer the question “how true is this?”
Next time you come across that salacious headline, reactionary article, or even a snide comment made by a trusted acquaintance, ask the question yourself:
How true is this?
Then take a moment to answer it.
Critical thinking — there’s more to it than just calling bullshit.