Author: Dr. John Gamble
We are living in an age where information is spread to such a degree that it has outstripped our comprehension or control of it. We now face the daunting task in devising new strategies in the interpretation of the information in order to differentiate fact from fiction, recognize neutral sources from interested parties, and intelligently dissect the news. As a result, we need to be better equipped requiring a good dose of disciplined exercise of judgment, curiosity, tough-minded skepticism and even at times playing the devil's advocate.
Dr. John Gamble, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Law at Penn State's Behrend College passionately believes, and with reason, that there are serious problems with the manner in which information is presented and understood. With his well-written book, No Bull Information: A Humorous, Practical Guide to Help Americans Adapt to the Information Age, Dr. Gamble has produced a pragmatic guide providing his readers with a road map as to how to navigate our present Information Age terrain.
This intelligent tome begins in presenting readers with vital acronyms and graphics which form the tool-kit that will aid us in quickly focusing on the important principles which Dr. Gamble entertainingly explores. These are: “NBI,” the abbreviation of “No-Bull Information and the theme of the book: “Arnbi,” a character and guide throughout the book: and “ARNBism,” a wise, profound statement made by “Arnbi.”
From here, Dr, Gamble emphasizes that the book is primarily about facts or basic units of information and how they are the building blocks of information and understanding. Everywhere there are “fact traps” and it is important not only to recognize them but also to understand them and what to do with them. As he states, he wants to inspire hundreds of thousands of Americans to demand more accurate, understandable, consistent information no matter where it comes from. He admits that he is not promising to resolve all the problems we face in interpreting facts and information, but he will provide a range of tools for understanding, dealing with, and adapting to the Information Age.
Organized into ten chapters, the book examines a multitude of subjects that include understanding numbers, statistical sampling, false advertising, getting facts right and understanding their context, blatant lies, exaggerating good things that make it difficult to recognize crap, manipulation of figures, putting facts into context, sorting out the truth from vested interests and opinions, understanding surveys, evaluating rankings, as well as many more. To protect yourself against the bull that is proliferated, Dr. Gamble offers strategies that he likens to “a flu shot that provides the human body with an automatic system of resistance when certain viruses invade it.”
Dr. Gamble's game plan includes useful steps in thinking longer and more analytically, thinking creatively and seeing longer term, over simplifying notions of cause and effect, being extremely careful before assuming cause and effect, cost/benefit analysis particularly when dealing with politicians, paying attention when an action is justified not by its primary goal but by secondary results, challenging assumptions directly as often bringing assumptions to the surface will demonstrate their absurdity, being aware of the political perspective of the sources used in a story, particularly when we know how much of a role the media plays in setting cultural guidelines and in shaping political discourse, being careful of the choice of words that are often used to distract us, and paying attention to who is pitching a product or political position.
In the final chapters of the book Dr. Gamble turns to showing us with practical examples from our everyday experiences how the greatest strength of NBI is the ease in which we can give voice and action to our frustrations in the face of ridiculous information that bombard us from all directions.
This unique well organized book may be brief but its lessons are long enabling every reader to benefit from it sage advice in an age where opportunities and effectiveness of deception are common with the constant feeding of misinformation which in the Internet age has reached a fever pitch. It is up to us to adopt a new type of information literacy which, as Dr. Gamble asserts, is essential to the operation of our democracy and our free market economic system.