ECO 397 Book Review
Cathy O’Neill’s book “Weapons of Math Destruction” is an analysis of big data and its use of machine learning programs that aim to maximize market efficiency. In the process of doing so, she coins the initialism WMDs as logical flaws in the models that skew results in one way or another. Her argument focuses on the fact that more often than not, these failures result in the worsening of ongoing structural violence and only add fuel to the fire for recidivism rates, bankruptcies, mortgage defaults, college dropouts, and health-related deaths. While there is absolutely no single root cause for poverty in the United States, there certainly are rhizomes that are heavily influenced by big data and their predatory practices regarding mass data collection.
In an attempt to expose these injustices she uses both her academic and industrial knowledge to identify the failures in these practices and potential solutions to the problem. With so many of the issues intertwined, it may seem impossible to fix the mess that has been created. Yet, with the education of the public and a call on Washington for greater regulatory action one can certainly hope that the current trajectory does not spell the end for American democracy.