Weapons of Math Destruction: A Conversation with Cathy O'Neil
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Weapons of Math Destruction: A Conversation with Cathy O'Neil

Weapons of Math Destruction: A Conversation with Cathy O'Neil

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PNC Place

800 17th Street. NW

12th Floor Conference Center

Washington, D.C 20006

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Join author Cathy O’Neil to hear about her acclaimed book: Weapons of Math Destruction. The discussion will be moderated by A Wider Circle’s founder, Mark Bergel. The event - a joint effort between A Wider Circle and Hooks Book Events - will serve as a community conversation on topics discussed in the book as they relate to the work of A Wider Circle and other non-profit organizations. The discussion will conclude with a book signing by Cathy O’Neil. Free copies of Weapons of Math Destruction will be available to the first 50 attendees.

“This taut and accessible volume, the stuff of technophobes’ nightmares, explores the myriad ways in which largescale data modeling has made the world a less just and equal place. O’Neil speaks from a place of authority on the subject… Unlike some other recent books on data collection, hers is not hysterical; she offers more of a chilly wake-up call as she walks readers through the ways the ‘big data’ industry has facilitated social ills such as skyrocketing college tuitions, policing based on racial profiling, and high unemployment rates in vulnerable communities… eerily prescient.”

—Publishers Weekly


More on Dr. Cathy O’Neil:

Cathy O’Neil earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and taught at Barnard College before working in the private sector. She worked for a hedge fund, D.E. Shaw & Co, then started working as a data scientist for various start-ups. She would build models that predict people’s purchases and clicks at the start-ups. O’Neil started the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia and is the author of Doing Data Science. She also appears weekly on Slate Money podcast.


More on Dr. Mark Bergel:

Mark Bergel founded A Wider Circle in 2001 and has emerged as a leader in the movement to end poverty. He is a nationally acclaimed speaker in the fields of poverty, health, and social connection and has been featured on national television and radio programs. Dr. Bergel’s efforts to end poverty have led to his selection as Washingtonian of the year by Washingtonian Magazine, named as a 2014 CNN Hero, and one of People Magazine’s All-Stars Among Us.


More on the book:

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 troubling, 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 parole, 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 more savvy about the models that govern our lives. This important book empowers us to ask the tough questions, uncover the truth, and demand change.

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PNC Place

800 17th Street. NW

12th Floor Conference Center

Washington, D.C 20006

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