Weapons of Math Destruction is a pretty interesting book if you’re interested in social sciences or math typed things.
Cathy O’Neil is a mathematician. She worked in academia for a while and then worked at a hedge fund. She was working for the hedge fund when the 2008 recession and market crash happened. This kind of burst her bubble when she realized how math wasn’t really always used to good purposes. She explains what a weapon of math destruction, or WMD, is a lot better than I will here. But, basically, a weapon of math destruction is a formula thing that is applied én masse to something like college admissions, loans, politics and so on. The problem with a WMD is that it disadvantages some people in a lot of interesting, but extremely troubling, ways. I never would have considered to what extent algorithms and formulas could disadvantage people before I read this book. One example is how people have to take tests to apply for jobs sometimes and even if they would be an amazing employee, they might get red flagged unfairly by generalizations and inaccurate applications. This can mean that people struggling to find a job are left or forced into a vicious cycle of unemployment and poverty. It’s just one example of how the math can be used improperly.
This is the second math-related book I have read, the first being How to Bake Pi by Eugenia Chang, and it definitely makes me think it would have been pretty awesome to have gone to university for math because it’s incredible to think about the impacts that numbers have in our lives and what differences someone could make through through being good at math.
Weapons of Math Destruction can feel a little dense at times because it’s very research based. It isn’t necessarily for the faint of heart to read, but if you enjoy very informative books where you’ll learn tons, then this is an excellent choice.
Title: Weapons of Math Destruction; How big data increases inequality and threatens democracy
Author: Cathy O’Neil
Published: September 6, 2016
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Genre: Domestic politics, Business
Page count: 272