Weapons of Math Destruction

I was recently given a link to a video that caught my interest because of the title: Weapons of Math Destruction. The video features Cathy O’Neil, the author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. The book is now at the top of my reading list. The video is an eye opener that hardly scratches the surface of a number of issues. I hope the book fills in more supporting detail. Watch the 12 minute video and see what you think.

In this brief video, Cathy O’Neil makes the point that algorithms are being used as weapons for social control and that these algorithms are a set of secret rules. This undermines the notion that understanding rules is a part of our democracy. These algorithms have a direct affect on targeted people, threaten democracy, and increases inequality. She provides three examples: one from education, one from the justice system, and the last from politics.

Education. The example she uses is the Value Added Model (VAM) for evaluating teachers. She makes that point that VAM is used to hold teachers accountable for good teaching yet there is no accountability for VAM.

Justice. She touches on the use of data, predictive policing, and evidence based sentencing.

Politics. Here she addresses the powerful use of micro targeting in politics.

With education as my main interest, concern about VAM should be evident but I see another possible concern that may be more alarming. Consider the kind of micro targeting in politics that she refers to. How much of a shift is it to think of the implications of micro targeting being used with students in our education system?


1 thought on “Weapons of Math Destruction

  1. Not easy to understand what points she is trying to make. Could have been explained much better, I think. Did get the point that it is not about the kids anymore, but how to control our kids.

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