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

Cleverly titled and fun read about how data scientists are wielding their WMDs in finance, education, prisons, government, hiring, and ecommerce. O’Neil points out that WMDs tend to punish the poor because the rich are processed more by people and the unwashed masses processed by machines. One signature of a WMD is that the model contributes to a toxic cycle and helps sustain it, not pulling in enough feedback to allow it to correct itself.

Models are opinions embedded in mathematics.

Great anecdotes throughout, from the DC school teacher who lost her job due to an algorithm based on her students’ test scores, to the rejection that a Vanderbilt-dropout got from several part-time minimum wage jobs due to personality tests (Kyle was tested for extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness to ideas).

She covers wellness programs and their invasive tracking, along with social media tracking, search behavior logging, all adding up into bits that go into the Big Data cauldron to be sipped at leisure by the WMDs or other interested parties.