Book talk at Occupy today!

September 11, 2016 1 comment

I’ll be giving a version of my book talk at the Alt Banking meeting today. Please come!

Here are the deets:

When: 2-3pm today

Where: Room 409 of the International Affairs Building, 118th and Amsterdam

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Slate Money discusses WMD

September 10, 2016 3 comments

We discussed my new book, Weapons of Math Destruction, on my Slate Money podcast this week. Take a listen!


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Time to unionize customer-facing bankers

Have you heard of the most recent outrage committed by a bank? Wells Fargo just got fined a total of $185 million for corrupt practices involving the accounts of depositors.

Specifically, a bunch of depositors were given accounts they didn’t sign up for, and then charged for via fees. Wells Fargo claims they have fired 5,300 low-level workers over the past five years for doing stuff like this.

But as many have pointed out, including Naked Capitalism, this is really not about low-level workers. It’s about ridiculous and unattainable sales quotas imposed on bankers, and then a complete disregard for the knock-on effects of those stupid quotas.

The fact that so much fraud went on so widely means that either the top dogs knew about it and didn’t care (I’m voting for this – after all the high pressure sales tactics were probably profitable overall even with this $185 fine) or that they had entirely insufficient controls and didn’t know about it. Either way they’re idiots, and it’s outrageous that only the underlings were fired, and not the management. For that matter the person who came up with rigid sales quotas without thinking for five minutes about what would happen next needs to get canned.

Oh wait, I just remembered: the lowest paid bank workers, who really work for very little money under tremendous pressure, have very little power. It’s time they form a union. This is not a new idea, but it’s never been more obvious.

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Brian Lehrer and Barnes & Noble today!

I’ll be live on the Brian Lehrer Show today around 11:15am, talking about my book, maybe with live callers! You can listen to it at 93.9 if you’re in the New York City area, and you can stream it from if not.

Also, tonight I’ll be talking about my book with my buddy Felix Salmon at Barnes & Noble on the upper east side, 86th and Lexington. It starts at 7pm tonight, and more info is here.

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Reviews for Weapons of Math Destruction

The reviews are coming in of my new book, Weapons of Math Destruction (also available as an audiobook, which I read myself! (clip here)). Here are some of them:

  1. Weapons of Math Destruction: invisible, ubiquitous algorithms are ruining millions of lives by Cory Doctorow from his blog
  2. Weapons of Math Destruction by Peter Woit from his blog, Not Even Wrong
  3. Big Data Isn’t Just Watching You—It’s Making You Poorer by Pankaj Mehta on the site In These Times
  4. Review: Weapons of Math Destruction by Evelyn Lamb in Scientific American
  5. Math is racist: How data is driving inequality by Aimee Rawlins on CNN Money. Note: I would not have chosen this title, since I’m not claiming math is racist, but rather that some potentially discriminatory practices are being shielded by mathematics. I should note that journalists don’t always choose their own titles, and I think Aimee did a good job with the content of the article
  6. On Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction by Chris Hoofnagle, on his blog at the UC Berkeley Law School
  7. Math Is Biased Against Women and the Poor, According to a Former Math Professor by Priya Rao on NYMag’s The Cut

There may be more I’m missing, please send me links! The coverage has been fantastic, and I’m super excited for the coming weeks and months as we finally get to discuss these issues.

Also, I’d like to urge you all to review my book on Amazon when you get a chance. The book is controversial and a few negative reviews can drag down the average pretty quickly. Having said that, please be completely honest of course!

Here’s my favorite graphic, from CNN:


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Book Release! and more

Oh my god, people, today’s the day! I’m practically bursting with excitement and anxiety. I feel like throwing up all the time, but in a good way. I want to go into every bookstore I walk by, find my book, and throw up all over it. That would be so nice, right?

Also, I wanted to mention that Carrie Fisher, who is a SUPREME ROLE MODEL TO ME, has just started an advice column at the Guardian. How exciting is that?! So please, anyone who still mourns the loss of Aunt Pythia, go ahead and take a look, she’s just the best.

Also! I’m into this new report, and accompanying Medium piece, by Team Upturn on the subject of predictive policing. It explains the field in a comprehensive way, and offers a convincing critique as well.

Also! It turns out I’ll be in Berkeley next Friday, here’s the flier thanks to Professor Marion Fourcade:

Cathy O'Neil Book Talk Flyer

I hope I see you there!

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Tech industry self-regulates AI ethics in secret meetings

This morning I stumbled upon a New York Times article entitled How Tech Giants Are Devising Real Ethics for Artificial IntelligenceThe basic idea, and my enormously enraged reaction to that idea, is perfectly captured in this one line:

… the basic intention is clear: to ensure that A.I. research is focused on benefiting people, not hurting them, according to four people involved in the creation of the industry partnership who are not authorized to speak about it publicly.

So we have no window into understanding how insiders – unnamed, but coming from enormously powerful platforms like Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft – think about benefit versus harm, about who gets harmed and how you measure that, and so on.


That’s not good enough. This should be an open, public discussion.

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