Shutterstock Computer Science Distinguished Lecture Series - Brian Kernighan - Millions, Billions, Zillions: Why (In)numeracy Matters


Technology, aided and abetted by computer scientists, has buried us in an avalanche of numbers, graphs and charts, many of which claim to present the truth about important issues. At the same time, as computer-based devices and gadgets take over, our personal facility with numbers has diminished, leaving us at the mercy of quantitative reasoning and presentation that is often wrong and sometimes not disinterested. I'll talk about basic numeric self-defense: how to assess the numbers presented by other people, and how to produce sensible numbers of one's own, with plenty of examples.



Brian Kernighan received a PhD in electrical engineering from Princeton in 1969.  He joined the Computer Science department at Princeton in 2000, after many years at Bell Labs. He is a co-creator of several programming languages, including AWK and AMPL, and of a number of tools for document preparation.  He is the co-author of a dozen books and some technical papers, and holds 5 patents. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  His research areas include programming languages, tools, and interfaces that make computers easier to use, often for non-specialist users.  He has also written two books on technology for non-technical audiences: Understanding the Digital World in 2017 and Millions, Billions, Zillions: Defending Yourself in a World of Too Many Numbers, published in 2018.  His most recent book, Unix: A History and a Memoir, was published in October 2019.