Welcome to the Black Box

Our new issue, “Rank and File,” is out now. To celebrate its release, new subscriptions are discounted. Terms like “big data” and “machine learning” have entered the mainstream, and are often presented as solutions to thorny economic and social problems. Much less consideration is given to their negative impacts, and the ways that mathematical algorithms affect the lives of ordinary people. But Cathy O’Neil — a mathematician and former Wall Street quantitative analyst (a “quant”) — thinks we should be paying attention. Her new book Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy shows how popular algorithms used by companies and institutions often harm poor and working people and benefit elites. Jacobin sat down with O’Neil to discuss these destructive algorithms and what we can do about them.…


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