Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil
How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 4 Critic Reviews

But this is a manual for the 21st-century citizen, and it succeeds where other big data accounts have failed — it is accessible, refreshingly critical and feels relevant and urgent.
-Financial Times

Synopsis

A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life — and threaten to rip apart our social fabric

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 urgent and necessary 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 zip code), 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, O’Neil exposes the black box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These “weapons of math destruction” score teachers and students, sort résumés, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set parole, and monitor our health.

O’Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. 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.
 

About Cathy O'Neil

See more books from this Author
Cathy O'Neil earned a Ph.D. in math from Harvard, was postdoc at the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry. She then chucked it and switched over to the private sector. She worked as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She is currently a data scientist on the New York start-up scene, writes a blog at mathbabe.org, and is involved with Occupy Wall Street.Rachel Schutt is a Senior Research Scientist at Johnson Research Labs, and most recently was a Senior Statistician at Google Research in the New York office. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Statistics at Columbia University where she taught Introduction to Data Science. She earned a PhD from Columbia University in statistics, and masters degrees in mathematics and operations research from the Courant Institute and Stanford University, respectively. Her statistical research interests include modeling and analyzing social networks, epidemiology, hierarchical modeling and Bayesian statistics. Her education-related research interests include curriculum design. Rachel enjoys designing and creating complex, thought-provoking situations for other people. She won the Howard Levene Outstanding Teaching Award at Columbia and also taught probability and statistics at Cooper Union, and remedial math as a high school teacher in San Jose, CA. She was a mathematics curriculum expert for the Princeton Review, and won a game design award for best family game at the Come Out and Play Festival in New York.
 
Published September 6, 2016 by Crown. 272 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Computers & Technology, Education & Reference, Science & Math, Business & Economics. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for Weapons of Math Destruction
All: 4 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 0

Kirkus

Excellent
on Jul 19 2016

She convincingly argues for both more responsible modeling and federal regulation. An unusually lucid and readable look at the daunting algorithms that govern so many aspects of our lives.

Read Full Review of Weapons of Math Destruction: ... | See more reviews from Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Oct 27 2016

The final chapter, in which O’Neil discusses Facebook’s increasing electoral influence, feels eerily prescient. She offers no one easy solution, but has several reasonable suggestions as to how the future can be made more equitable and transparent for all.

Read Full Review of Weapons of Math Destruction: ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

National Post arts

Good
Reviewed by Molly Sauter on Oct 19 2016

O’Neil’s book is an excellent primer on the ethical and moral risks of Big Data and an algorithmically dependent world. It compellingly describes algorithms (and those who use them) behaving badly, and advocates for society to do better.

Read Full Review of Weapons of Math Destruction: ... | See more reviews from National Post arts

Financial Times

Good
Reviewed by Federica Cocco on Oct 31 2016

But this is a manual for the 21st-century citizen, and it succeeds where other big data accounts have failed — it is accessible, refreshingly critical and feels relevant and urgent.

Read Full Review of Weapons of Math Destruction: ... | See more reviews from Financial Times

Reader Rating for Weapons of Math Destruction
75%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 41 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×