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review 2017-02-26 16:28
You'll never think about WMD the same way again
Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy - Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction is a fascinating – and terrifying – read. I love titles that work on many levels and this one is brilliant. Brilliant pun and yet incredibly relevant once you start reading about the damage these mathematic models are doing to society in all areas from the justice system to education to consumer profiling.

 

These models, used in all walks of life, supposedly to streamline or enhance an area are built with inherent biases, resulting in incredible damage to many people, often the most marginalized among us. And because there is no transparency in how these models are determined or even, in many cases, an awareness that people are being modelled, there are no opportunities to push back. Even those that do demand accountability tend to be dismissed because, well, the model has spoken, and is taken as the word of God.

 

I had no idea how widely or how perniciously these models are being employed. This is a very important book that I think all us of should be reading. I appreciate how O’Neil lays these concepts out in an easy-to-follow manner, with plenty of real-world examples. Plus, she gets into the ethics of this kind of data mining and possible ways it could be used for good. It makes for an engaging read. I don’t read non-fiction all that often but this was one of those books like Freakonomics or The Brain That Changes Itself that will stay with me for a long time.

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