Welcome to the Big Data economy, where companies extract value from the study of how you behave online. The algorithms these companies use can be tools that help us google information or choose which show to binge on Netflix. But they can also perpetuate inequity and harm—and will divide the world if we allow them to go unchecked.
Cathy O’Neill, who founded the data journalism program at Columbia University, has a name for the algorithms that increasingly govern our lives: Weapons of Math Destruction. Companies are using WMDs to determine creditworthiness, predict job performance, and maximize profit without regard for the consequences.
These algorithms influence most aspects of life, including higher education, work, real estate, entertainment, and elections. But the data is often processed behind the scenes. How can we hold companies accountable? Check out our Instaread on Weapons of Math Destruction.