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Book Review: Weapons of Math Destruction


Today’s book review is Weapons of Math Destruction, How big data increases inequality and threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil. Cathy O’Neil is a data scientist, with a PhD in mathematics, who blogs here. She has built models, and also tried to deconstruct them for those affected by them. This book is a thoughtful examination of the uses of Big Data, from someone who deeply understands how it really works, and what you can and can’t do with it. Despite the title, it doesn’t say that all uses of big data are bad. Instead, through many different examples, it explains what anyone who has ever built a model (should) know – models can easily (and unconsciously) replicate the biases of the real world and the model builder. And just because you have lots of data, that doesn’t mean they have predictive power. There are many examples that O’Neil identifies of complex models built…