A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 2016A Boston Globe Best Book of 2016 One of Wired's Required Reading Picks of 2016 One of A Chicago Public Library Best Book of 2016 Fortune's Favorite Books of 2016 A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2016 A Nature.com Best Book of 2016 An On Point Best Book of 2016 Editor's Choice New York Times A Maclean's Bestseller Winner of the 2016 SLA-NY PrivCo Spotlight Award “O’Neil’s book offers a frightening look at how algorithms are increasingly regulating people… Her knowledge of the power and risks of mathematical models, coupled with a gift for analogy, makes her one of the most valuable observers of the continuing weaponization of big data… [She] does a masterly job explaining the pervasiveness and risks of the algorithms that regulate our lives.” — New York Times Book Review " Weapons of Math Destruction is the Big Data story Silicon Valley proponents won't tell.... [It] pithily exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics.... a thought-provoking read for anyone inclined to believe that data doesn't lie.” — “This is a manual for the 21st-century citizen, and it succeeds where other big data accounts have failed Reuters it is accessible, refreshingly critical and feels relevant and urgent.” — "Insightful and disturbing." —Financial Times “ —New York Review of Books Weapons of Math Destruction is an urgent critique of… the rampant misuse of math in nearly every aspect of our lives.” “A fascinating and deeply disturbing book.” —Boston Globe — Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens; The Guardian’s Best Books of 2016 “Illuminating… [O’Neil] makes a convincing case that this reliance on algorithms has gone too far.” “A nuanced reminder that big data is only as good as the people wielding it.” —The Atlantic “If you’ve ever suspected there was something baleful about our deep trust in data, but lacked the mathematical skills to figure out exactly what it was, this is the book for you.” —Wired “O’Neil is an ideal person to write this book. She is an academic mathematician turned Wall Street quant turned data scientist who has been involved in Occupy Wall Street and recently started an algorithmic auditing company. She is one of the strongest voices speaking out for limiting the ways we allow algorithms to influence our lives… While —Salon Weapons of Math Destruction is full of hard truths and grim statistics, it is also accessible and even entertaining. O’Neil’s writing is direct and easy to read—I devoured it in an afternoon.” — “Readable and engaging… succinct and cogent… Scientific American Weapons of Math Destruction is The Jungle of our age… [It] should be required reading for all data scientists and for any organizational decision-maker convinced that a mathematical model can replace human judgment." — Mark Van Hollebeke, Data and Society: Points“Indispensable… Despite the technical complexity of its subject, Weapons of Math Destruction lucidly guides readers through these complex modeling systems… O’Neil’s book is an excellent primer on the ethical and moral risks of Big Data and an algorithmically dependent world… For those curious about how Big Data can help them and their businesses, or how it has been reshaping the world around them, Weapons of Math Destruction is an essential starting place.” — National Post “Cathy O’Neil has seen Big Data from the inside, and the picture isn’t pretty. 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“O’Neil has become [a whistle-blower] for the world of Big Data… [in] her important new book… Her work makes particularly disturbing points about how being on the wrong side of an algorithmic decision can snowball in incredibly destructive ways.” “O’Neil’s work is so important… [her] book is a vital crash-course in the specialized kind of statistical knowledge we all need to interrogate the systems around us and demand better.” — TIME “Cathy O’Neil, a number theorist turned data scientist, delivers a simple but important message: Statistical models are everywhere, and they exert increasing power over many aspects of our daily lives… — Boing Boing Weapons of Math Destruction provides a handy map to a few of the many areas of our lives over which invisible algorithms have gained some control. As the empire of big data continues to expand, Cathy O’Neil’s reminder of the need for vigilance is welcome and necessary.” “An avowed math nerd, O’Neil has written an engaging description of the effect of crunched data on our lives.” —American Prospect — Hicklebee’s, San Francisco Chronicle “By tracking how algorithms shape people's lives at every stage, O'Neil makes a compelling case that our bot overlords are using data to discriminate unfairly and foreclose democratic choices. If you work with data, or just produce reams of it online, this is a must-read.” “Lucid, alarming, and valuable… [O’Neil’s] writing is crisp and precise as she aims her arguments to a lay audience. This makes for a remarkably page-turning read for a book about algorithms. —ArsTechnica Weapons of Math Destruction should be required reading for anybody whose life will be affected by Big Data, which is to say: required reading for everyone. It’s a wake-up call – a journalistic heir to The Jungle and Silent Spring. Like those books, it should change the course of American society.” "[O'Neil's] propulsive study reveals many models that are currently 'micromanaging' the US economy as opaque and riddled with bias." —Aspen Times “You don’t need to be a nerd to appreciate the significance of [O’Neil’s] message… —Nature Weapons is a must-read for anyone who is working to combat economic and racial discrimination.” "Cathy O’Neil’s book... is important and covers issues everyone should care about. Bonus points: it’s accessible, compelling, and —Goop something I wasn’t expecting — really fun to read.” — “Often we don’t even know where to look for those important algorithms, because by definition the most dangerous ones are also the most secretive. That’s why the catalogue of case studies in O’Neil’s book are so important; she’s telling us where to look.” —Inside Higher Ed —The Guardian “O’Neil is passionate about exposing the harmful effects of Big Data–driven mathematical models (what she calls WMDs), and she’s uniquely qualified for the task… [She] makes a convincing case that many mathematical models today are engineered to benefit the powerful at the expense of the powerless… [and] has written an entertaining and timely book that gives readers the tools to cut through the ideological fog obscuring the dangers of the Big Data revolution.” “In this simultaneously illuminating and disturbing account, [O’Neil] describes the many ways in which widely used mathematic models—based on ‘prejudice, misunderstanding, and bias’—tend to punish the poor and reward the rich… She convincingly argues for both more responsible modeling and federal regulation. An unusually lucid and readable look at the daunting algorithms that govern so many aspects of our lives.” —In These Times — Kirkus Reviews (starred) “Even as a professional mathematician, I had no idea how insidious Big Data could be until I read Weapons of Math Destruction. 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. It is eye-opening, disturbing, and deeply important.” — Steven Strogatz, Cornell University, author of The Joy of x “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 "Well-written, entertaining and very valuable." — "Not math heavy, but written in an exceedingly accessible, almost literary style; [O'Neil's] fascinating case studies of WMDs fit neatly into the genre of dystopian literature. There's a little Philip K. Dick, a little Orwell, a little Kafka in her portrait of powerful bureaucracies ceding control of the most intimate decisions of our lives to hyper-empowered computer models riddled with all of our unresolved, atavistic human biases." Times Higher Education — Paris Review “Through harrowing real-world examples and lively story-telling, Weapons of Math Destruction shines invaluable light on the invisible algorithms and complex mathematical models used by government and big business to undermine equality and increase private power. Combating secrecy with clarity and confusion with understanding, this book can help us change course before it’s too late.” — Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age " Weapons of Math Destruction is a fantastic, plainspoken call to arms. It acknowledges that models aren't going away: As a tool for identifying people in difficulty, they are amazing. But as a tool for punishing and disenfranchising, they're a nightmare.” — Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and co-editor of Boing Boing “Many algorithms are slaves to the inequalities of power and prejudice. If you don’t want these algorithms to become your masters, read Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil to deconstruct the latest growing tyranny of an arrogant establishment.” — Ralph Nader, author of Unsafe at Any Speed “In this fascinating account, Cathy O'Neil leverages her expertise in mathematics and her passion for social justice to poke holes in the triumphant narrative of Big Data. She makes a compelling case that math is being used to squeeze marginalized segments of society and magnify inequities. Her analysis is superb, her writing is enticing, and her findings are unsettling.” — danah boyd, founder of Data & Society and author of It’s Complicated "From getting a job to finding a spouse, predictive algorithms are silently shaping and controlling our destinies. Cathy O'Neil takes us on a journey of outrage and wonder, with prose that makes you feel like it's just a conversation. But it’s an important one. We need to reckon with technology.” — Linda Tirado, author of Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America “Next time you hear someone gushing uncritically about the wonders of Big Data, show them Weapons of Math Destruction. It’ll be salutary.” — Felix Salmon, Fusion
[O'Neil's] knowledge of the power and risks of mathematical models, coupled with a gift for analogy, makes her one of the most valuable observers of the continuing weaponization of big data…Understanding just how big the problem is…is critical, and O'Neil does a masterly job explaining the pervasiveness and risks of the algorithms that regulate our lives.
The New York Times Book Review - Clay Shirky
This taut and accessible volume, the stuff of technophobes’ nightmares, explores the myriad ways in which large-scale data modeling has made the world a less just and equal place. O’Neil speaks from a place of authority on the subject: a Barnard professor turned Wall Street quant, she renounced the latter profession after the 2008 market collapse and decided to educate laypeople. Unlike some other recent books about 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. She also homes in on the ways these systems are frequently destructive even to the privileged: sloppy data-gathering companies misidentify people and flag them as criminals, and algorithms determine employee value during company-wide firings. The final chapter, in which O’Neil discusses Facebook’s increasing electoral influence, feels eerily prescient. She offers no one easy solution, but has several reasonable suggestions as to how the future can be made more equitable and transparent for all. Agent: Jay Mandel, William Morris Endeavor. (Sept.)
As mathematical models affect more and more aspects of our lives, it is crucial to understand that algorithms are not neutral, free from human prejudice and fallibility; instead, those biases and failings are encoded into the systems. Data scientist O'Neil, who blogs at mathbabe.org, explores this premise in depth and chillingly describes the extent to which data-driven, algorithm-based decision making in such areas as hiring, policing, lending, education, and health care actually increases inequality. With barely contained exasperation, O'Neil chronicles the way these "weapons of math destruction"—opaque and unregulated—shape all lives, and, especially, those of the poor. More than just sounding the clarion call to action, O'Neil seeks to empower her readers to ask questions about the algorithms and to demand change. Though the subject matter is alarming and dire, O'Neil's dry wit and ease when describing complicated ideas is more enlivening than depressing. VERDICT This important book will be eye-opening to many readers, possibly even those involved with the kind of models O'Neil criticizes.—Rachel Bridgewater, Portland Community Coll. Lib., OR
How ill-conceived algorithms now micromanage America’s economy, from advertising to prisons.“Welcome to the dark side of Big Data,” writes math guru O’Neil (Doing Data Science: Straight Talk from the Frontline, 2013, etc.), a blogger (mathbabe.org) and former quantitative analyst at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. In this simultaneously illuminating and disturbing account, she describes the many ways in which widely used mathematic models—based on “prejudice, misunderstanding, and bias”—tend to punish the poor and reward the rich. The most harmful such models, which she calls “Weapons of Math Destruction,” often have devastating effects on people when they are going to college, borrowing money, getting sentenced to prison, or finding and holding a job. For example: credit scores are used to evaluate potential hires (assuming bad scores correlate with bad job performance, which is often not true); for-profit colleges use data to target and prey on vulnerable strivers, often plunging them into debt; auto insurance companies judge applicants by their consumer patterns rather than their driving records; crime predictive software often leads police to focus on nuisance crimes in impoverished neighborhoods. As the author notes, the harmful effects are apparent “when a poor minority teenager gets stopped, roughed up, and put on warning by the local police, or when a gas station attendant who lives in a poor zip code gets hit with a higher insurance bill.” She notes the same mathematical models “place the comfortable classes of society in their own marketing silos,” jetting them off to vacations in Aruba, wait-listing them at Wharton, and generally making their lives “smarter and easier.” The author writes with passion—a few years ago she became disillusioned over her hedge fund modeling and joined the Occupy movement—but with the authority of a former Barnard professor who is outraged at the increasingly wrongheaded use of mathematics. She convincingly argues for both more responsible modeling and federal regulation. An unusually lucid and readable look at the daunting algorithms that govern so many aspects of our lives.