Mathematical models for everything from marketing to perusing resumes are making inequality and discrimination against the poor and minorities worse.
Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction doesn’t break new ground in its discussion of how computer algorithms discriminate against the poor, minorities and women, making them pay more for loans, shutting them out of jobs, and disrupting their work schedules. Just about everything she writes about we’ve seen in the pages of major newspapers and serious magazines.
But O’Neil puts it all together in language we can understand and with the rigor of a mathematician who has actually delved into the various assumptions and computations hidden within the digital black boxes that companies use to sort resumes, banks use to give loans, employers use to schedule employees and virtually every consumer company uses to target customers with products and services.
O’Neil does not advocate doing away with all the mathematical models that permeate contemporary American society, only those that threaten our social fabric because of hidden prejudices built into the algorithm or those that purposely exploit or deceive people.
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