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

Cathy O’Neil. Crown, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-553-41881-1
This taut and accessible volume, the stuff of technophobes’ nightmares, explores the myriad ways in which large-scale data modeling has made the world a less just and equal place. O’Neil speaks from a place of authority on the subject: a Barnard professor turned Wall Street quant, she renounced the latter profession after the 2008 market collapse and decided to educate laypeople. Unlike some other recent books about data collection, hers is not hysterical; she offers more of a chilly wake-up call as she walks readers through the ways the “big data” industry has facilitated social ills such as skyrocketing college tuitions, policing based on racial profiling, and high unemployment rates in vulnerable communities. She also homes in on the ways these systems are frequently destructive even to the privileged: sloppy data-gathering companies misidentify people and flag them as criminals, and algorithms determine employee value during company-wide firings. 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. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 06/13/2016
Release date: 09/06/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-0-553-41882-8
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-553-41883-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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