Weapons of Math Destruction

  • by Cathy O'Neil
  • Narrated by Cathy O'Neil
  • 6 hrs and 23 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

A former Wall Street quant sounds an alarm on the mathematical models that pervade modern life - and threaten to rip apart our social fabric
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly the decisions that affect our lives - where we go to school, whether we get a car loan, how much we pay for health insurance - are being made not by humans but by mathematical models. In theory this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules, and bias is eliminated.
But as Cathy O'Neil reveals in this urgent and necessary book, the opposite is true. The models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable even when they're wrong. Most troublingly, they reinforce discrimination: If a poor student can't get a loan because a lending model deems him too risky (by virtue of his zip code), he's then cut off from the kind of education that could pull him out of poverty, and a vicious spiral ensues. Models are propping up the lucky and punishing the downtrodden, creating a "toxic cocktail for democracy". Welcome to the dark side of big data.
Tracing the arc of a person's life, O'Neil exposes the black-box models that shape our future, both as individuals and as a society. These "weapons of math destruction" score teachers and students, sort résumés, grant (or deny) loans, evaluate workers, target voters, set paroles, and monitor our health.
O'Neil calls on modelers to take more responsibility for their algorithms and on policy makers to regulate their use. But in the end, it's up to us to become savvier about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.


Audible Editor Reviews

"Though terrifying, it's a surprisingly fun read: O'Neil's vision of a world run by algorithms is laced with dark humor and exasperation - like a modern-day Dr. Strangelove or Catch-22." (Steven Strogatz, Cornell University, author of The Joy of x)


What the Critics Say

"Weapons of Math Destruction opens the curtain on algorithms that exploit people and distort the truth while posing as neutral mathematical tools. This book is wise, fierce, and desperately necessary." (Jordan Ellenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of How Not to Be Wrong )
"Weapons of Math Destruction shines invaluable light on the invisible algorithms and complex mathematical models used by government and big business." (Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Save Yourself Some Time and Read A Pamphlet Instead

While the author makes some compelling points about the use of big data and how people can get caught up in "pernicious feedback loops," understand going in that she is an Occupy Wall Street sympathizer and has a strong left wing stance. Unfortunately I didn't understand this before my purchase and could have saved myself a lot of time by just reading a pamphlet instead.

While I would consider myself a centrist and am open to a lot of the arguments made by the left, some of this was just hard to stomach. (To be clear, she makes some valid points and gives the listener some interesting things to think about). The author is clearly out to prove a point about how the poor, minorities, and women are being kept down by The Man, which is now essentially labeled as "weapons of math destruction" or WMD's. The answer as usual is bigger government, more regulation & oversight, and socialist tendencies in order to provide justice.

In my view, the real answer lies somewhere in the middle and not on the fringes. If you're an OWS sympathizer, voted for Bernie, or think that capitalism stinks, this book is for you. If not, buyer beware and understand beforehand that you're going to be challenged to listen to 8+ hours of how everyone except the wealthy and privileged are being oppressed by WMD's.

Also, her narration is not the best. Kind of tedious at times.
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- R

Superb narration, beautifully written.

This is a must read! I thoroughly enjoyed the real world examples of how everything I do is a data point that is being used against me.
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- Kacper

Book Details

  • Release Date: 09-06-2016
  • Publisher: Random House Audio