"cathy o'neil"

Algorithmic decision-making: an arms-race between entropy, programmers and referees

Nesta's Juan Mateos-Garcia proposes that "entropic forces" make algorithmic decision-making tools worse over time, requiring that they be continuously maintained and improved (this is also a key idea from Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction: a machine-learning system is only honest if someone is continuously matching its predictions to reality and refining its model based on the mistakes it makes). Read the rest

By sabotaging the 2020 census, Republicans make it harder to fight gerrymandering

The best way to fight gerrymandering is to prove to courts that electoral districts have been unfairly formed, a tactic that's been used successfully in places like North Carolina; but for this to work, you need good demographic data to show that the district is unfair, and for that, you need an accurate census. Read the rest

Wearing an activity tracker gives insurance companies the data they need to discriminate against people like you

Many insurers offer breaks to people who wear activity trackers that gather data on them; as Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil points out, the allegedly "anonymized' data-collection is trivial to re-identify (so this data might be used against you), and, more broadly, the real business model for this data isn't improving your health outcomes -- it's dividing the world into high-risk and low-risk people, so insurers can charge people more. Read the rest

Skynet: Trump campaigned like a crappy AI, and now he's governing like one, too

Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neil nailed Trump's tactics when she compared him to a busted machine-learning algorithm, throwing a ton of random ideas out, listening for his base to cheer the ones that excited their worst instincts, and then doubling down on them. Read the rest

Trump's big data "secret sauce" sorcery - a much-needed reality check

An article that went viral last week attributed Trump's Electoral College victory to the dark big data sorcery of Cambridge Analytica, a dirty, dementor-focused big data company that specializes in political campaigns. Read the rest

Why the FBI would be nuts to try to use chatbots to flush out terrorists online

Social scientist/cybersecurity expert Susan Landau (previously) and Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neil take to Lawfare to explain why it would be a dangerous mistake for the FBI to use machine learning-based chatbots to flush out potential terrorists online. Read the rest

A checklist for figuring out whether your algorithm is a "weapon of math destruction"

The Data & Society institute (dedicated to critical, interdisciplinary perspectives on big data) held an online seminar devoted to Cathy O'Neil's groundbreaking book Weapons of Math Destruction, which showed how badly designed algorithmic decision-making systems can create, magnify and entrench the social problems they're supposed to solve, perpetuating inequality, destabilizing the economy, and making a small number of people very, very rich. Read the rest

Quitting Facebook feels GREAT

It's been six years since I quite Facebook and not a day goes by that I don't realize that my life is better for it. Read the rest

Blackballed by machine learning: how algorithms can destroy your chances of getting a job

The Guardian's published a long excerpt from Cathy O'Neil's essential new book, Weapons of Math Destruction, in which O'Neil describes the way that shoddy machine-learning companies have come to dominate waged employment hiring, selling their dubious products to giant companies that use them to decide who can and can't work. Read the rest

Sampling bias: how a machine-learning beauty contest awarded nearly all prizes to whites

If you've read Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction (you should, right NOW), then you know that machine learning can be a way to apply a deadly, nearly irrefutable veneer of objectivity to our worst, most biased practices. Read the rest

Weapons of Math Destruction: invisible, ubiquitous algorithms are ruining millions of lives

I've been writing about the work of Cathy "Mathbabe" O'Neil for years: she's a radical data-scientist with a Harvard PhD in mathematics, who coined the term "Weapons of Math Destruction" to describe the ways that sloppy statistical modeling is punishing millions of people every day, and in more and more cases, destroying lives. Today, O'Neil brings her argument to print, with a fantastic, plainspoken, call to arms called (what else?) Weapons of Math Destruction.

Predictive policing predicts police harassment, not crime

In Chicago, the "Heat List" system is used to direct policing resources, based on data-mining of social media to identify potential gang-members; the model tells the cops where to go and who to arrest, and is supposed to reduce both violent crime and the likelihood that suspects themselves will be killed -- but peer-reviewed analysis (Scihub mirror) of the program shows that while being on the Heat List increases your chances of being harassed and arrested by Chicago PD, it does not improve crime rates. Read the rest

Trump is an object lesson in the problems of machine learning

Trump's algorithm is to say semi-random things until his crowd roars its approval, then he iteratively modifies those statements, seeking more and more approval, until he maxes out and tries a new tack. Read the rest

Broken Windows policing is nonsense

For years, the NYPD and other police departments have justified the highly racialized practice of stop-and-frisk and zero-tolerance approaches to turnstyle hopping, etc, by citing the "broken windows" theory of policing -- the idea that if the police stop petty crime, major crime will follow. Read the rest

Algorithmic risk-assessment: hiding racism behind "empirical" black boxes

Courts around America and the world increasingly rely on software based risk-assessment software in determining bail and sentencing; the systems require the accused to answer more than a hundred questions which are fed into a secret model that spits out a single-digit "risk score" that courts use to decide who to lock up, and for how long. Read the rest

Chicago Police Accountability Task Force Report: racism, corruption, and a "broken system"

Chicago's Police Department are notorious: the force maintains a "black site" where prisoners are secretly held under fake names and tortured, uses political shenanigans to suppress information about corruption, sabotages their own dashcams, secretly operates illegal mass-surveillance equipment (bought with asset forfeiture money, natch), forces out internal investigators who do their jobs conscientiously, and don't get me started on the evils of the Illinois prison system! Read the rest

Big Data Ethics: racially biased training data versus machine learning

Writing in Slate, Cathy "Weapons of Math Destruction" O'Neill, a skeptical data-scientist, describes the ways that Big Data intersects with ethical considerations. Read the rest

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