"Big Data is increasing inequality and threatening democracy."

Weapons of Math Destruction


Fri, Sep 2nd, 2016 11:00 by capnasty NEWS

Harvard-trained mathematician and social activist Cathy O’Neil argues that the big data algorithms that "sort us into piles of 'worthy' and 'unworthy'" by large multinational firms are not only "discriminatory and even predatory" but are also a threat to democracy, thwarting equality between the haves and the have nots.

The effects are just as pernicious. Using her deep technical understanding of modeling, she shows how the algorithms used to, say, rank teacher performance are based on exactly the sort of shallow and volatile type of data sets that informed those faulty mortgage models in the run up to 2008. Her work makes particularly disturbing points about how being on the wrong side of an algorithmic decision can snowball in incredibly destructive ways—a young black man, for example, who lives in an area targeted by crime fighting algorithms that add more police to his neighborhood because of higher violent crime rates will necessarily be more likely to be targeted for any petty violation, which adds to a digital profile that could subsequently limit his credit, his job prospects, and so on. Yet neighborhoods more likely to commit white collar crime aren’t targeted in this way.



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