Weapons of Math Destruction
How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens DemocracyeBook - 2016
From Library Staff
Data scientist O'Neill sounds the alarm on the impact of Big Data on our society. Mathematics has great potential to build fair and neutral systems, but it gets weaponized time and again because of human biases that get baked in. The patented algorithms created by big companies are shielded from ... Read More »
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Models, despite their reputation for impartiality, reflect goals and ideology. . . . It’s something we do without a second thought. Our own values and desires influence our choices, from the data we choose to collect to the questions we ask. Models are opinions embedded in mathematics.
Big Data processes codify the past. They do not invent the future. Doing that requires moral imagination, and that’s something only humans can provide. We have to explicitly embed better values into our algorithms, creating Big Data models that follow our ethical lead. Sometimes that will mean putting fairness ahead of profit.
We’ve seen time and again that mathematical models can sift through data to locate people who are likely to face great challenges, whether from crime, poverty, or educations. It’s up to society whether to use that intelligence to reject and punish them—or to reach out to them with the resources they need. We can use the scale and efficiency that make WMDs so pernicious in order to help people. It all depends on the objective we choose.
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