Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on mathematical modeling—a pervasive new force in society that threatens to undermine democracy and widen inequality.
 
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated. But as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this shocking book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can’t get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his race or neighborhood), he’s then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a “toxic cocktail for democracy.” Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.
 
Tracing the arc of a person’s life, from college to retirement, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. Models that score teachers and students, sort resumes, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health—all have pernicious feedback loops. They don’t simply describe reality, as proponents claim, they change reality, by expanding or limiting the opportunities people have. O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for how their algorithms are being used. But in the end, it’s up to us to become more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.

Title:Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9780553418811
Format Type:

    Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy Reviews

  • Arshias

    This was such a Malcolm Gladwell take on data science. I think this book touches on an important subject, and people should be aware of the issues O'Neil discusses. But instead of doing a deep dive in...

  • Trish

    O’Neil deserves some credit right off the bat for not waiting until her retirement from the hedge fund where she worked to tell us the secrets of how corporations use big data (our data). Underlying...

  • Leo Walsh

    Captivating. Insightful. And important. A 50,000 foot view of how automated big-data is a great tool for understanding human nature. How it has great promise to make our lives easy. And yet, a very re...

  • Clif Hostetler

    "Welcome to the dark side of big data." Thus the author concludes the Introduction section of this book. Computers and the internet have enabled us to advance into the new world of algorithms and big ...

  • Mario the lone bookwolf

    Is it legitimate to reduce people to the data that can be extracted from them?Please note that I put the original German text at the end of this review. Just if you might be interested.Especially the ...

  • Suzanne

    This book did a nice job describing large-scale data modeling and its pitfalls in a very accessible manner. It is so easy to think of computer algorithms as unbiased; however, the author demonstrates ...

  • David

    The subtitle of this book, How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy really says it all. Big data has come into our lives in numerous ways, and many of them are a scourge on our lives....

  • Emily

    Big Data is opaque, complicated, managed by profit-seeking corporations, and is more and more dictating certain societal conditions: from getting a job to applying to college to receiving healthcare. ...

  • Trevor

    We like to think of mathematics as basically pure and free from the nastier side-effects of human nature. And this purity rubs off – so that the closer a science is to being able to be described in ...

  • Nilesh

    For the most part, WMD is a rant with only impractical statements as solutions. The author is onto something critically important when one reads the title of the book and goes through the first few pa...