Book cover


I went to a conference on Big Data, and one of the presenters recommended this book.

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy by Cathy O'Neil. 

She said that she thought all people that worked with Big Data should read this book to prevent new feedback loops of doom sponsored by big data.

I read this book fairly rapidly for a non-fiction book. It flowed well. I agree with the presenter at the conference: this is a book that should be read by people working in Big Data.

The author of this book, Cathy O'Neil, gives her credentials. She was has a Ph.D. in Mathematics and taught at Columbia University. She quit to go into industry. Her experience in industry gave her plenty of understanding, and examples, of how Big Data can be used poorly.

Ms. O'Neil first talks about what a model is, how models should be used, and how models can create feedback loops that make them bad for society.

She then talks about different examples. Entrance to college, and college costs, were greatly affected by U.S. News and World Report making a list of colleges from best to worst. But how did they rank the colleges? What did the colleges do from year to year to get higher on the list? How many side industries were created because of this?

Credit reports, insurance, and personality tests for getting a job are discussed. Another problem discussed is how police are distributed in a city because of past reports and data.

I'll probably read this book again, which is something I rarely do. So, it was good.