Book Review

Weapons of Math Destruction: How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy

Cathy O’Neil is a data scientist with a Ph.D in mathematics. Based on her experience and research, she describes how we are living in an age where unfairness and inequality are ingrained in the very systems that are supposed to be fair and unprejudiced to everyone.

Data collected from companies, privately or overtly, are used to create algorithms and models that individuals function within. Well intentioned models created for supporting individuals in need of help, can also become the very models that become socially dividing and discriminatory.

Cathy O’Neil, describes how colleges, prisons, online advertising, social media, jobs, insurance companies operate on collected data. Individuals life choices can be impacted by this data and if it works against them, they may have no recourse, because so much value is placed on data. We are impacting the creations of models based on the data we pay attention to and as Ms. O’Neil points out these choices can not just be profit, logistical and efficiency based but also fundamentally moral.

We have to ask questions of the models that exist and whether they are truly serving our society and how can we reduce the inequalities and support the disenfranchised. These types of questions are imperative if we want to live in a true democracy. Being mindful in our choices is important.

I received this book from blogging for books.com and I appreciate the opportunity to post a review. Its a book that has expanded my perception on how social models and our choices are interrelated.

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Peace,

Shobhna

 

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