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Weapons of Math Destruction

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on 11 September 2016

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Transcript of Weapons of Math Destruction

Cathy O'Neil

Motivating Q's
What are some problems?
How bad are they?
How can we address them?

What problems?
How bad does it get?
What can we do?
Stats mistakes in
the big data world
Dirty or incomplete data
Survivor bias
Selection bias
Bad proxies
Bad or misleading evaluation metrics
In the academic world
- Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff - John Ioannidis
- David Madigan
- Victoria Stodden
Models often fail
on purpose
- Credit rating agencies
- Pension models
- VaR
Death Spiral
Most models are
I'll make you click
I'll make you buy
I'll make you stay
I'll decide if you're smart
I'll decide whether to hire you
I'll optimize you for ROI
Political modeling
Set standards
for models

Set standards
for modeling
Data Privacy
After all, black boxes are nice, and they make us feel smart, and give us employment.
What are the systemic risks and who's keeping track?
Is this an intractible inevitable problem of modern life?
Parting thoughts
It would kind of be awesome if we just stopped modeling altogether.
Models aren't going away
Regulations alone won't solve this problem
Need to educate people about the risks
Models are also cool
Let's focus on making models work for people
instead of on them.
Don't overestimate
Twitter/ obesity
Don't underestimate
Predator/ prey
Let's be realistic.
Thank you!
Incomplete - revision history
Survivorship - financial data
Selection - rec'n engines
Proxies - "interest"
Eval metric - Times Sq peds
The issue of time
Are models racist?
- Google search
- Job hiring
- Peer-to-peer lending
- Invisible failures
feedback loop
long term systemic changes
winner as witness
beyond the filter bubble
Is Segmentation "Good"?

- insurance
- screening at the airport
- generalized surveillance
Quantify this?
- How?
- Modeling the model
- Monte Carlo?
What are the long-term effects?
Rich get richer
Poor get poorer
less mobility
increased inequality
Go back to "time"
- Short term gains from private co's
- Long term negative effects
- Completely unregulated
- Fiercely lobbied even in Europe
First it was Obama
Next it's everyone
Personal messaging
Personal offers
Is this democratic?
Related but different:
Poll models
- Feedback loop here too
- Might cause weird voting behavior
- But doesn't directly pervert issues
How it worked
- Individual appeals
- Facebook graph etc.
- Linking databases
- Money, then votes
- Targeted phone calls, emails
- Ads and Reddit
- Now used by Caesar's
Tons of data out there
European attempts
Start with kids?
Scrutiny for:
high impact,
high stakes, and
widespread models
What would that look like?
Hippocratic Oath of modeling
Data skepticism
Data standards
Story telling
Reproducibility and beyond
Modeling is hard
Need better tools
Wakari, ipython notebook
and beyond
Public access
Robustness tests
Open Models
Weapons of
Math Destruction
Full transcript