A Harvard PhD graduate in mathematics and actively involved in the Occupy movement, O’Neil’s experience is crucial to her new book: Weapons of Math Destruction describes the way that math can be manipulated by biases and affect every aspect of our lives.
As well as questioning the two-party system in the US, she’s also looked at how mathematics has been used in the housing and banking sector to affect our lives via her blog mathbabe for more than a decade. So what’s her problem with good old American democracy in 2016?
How algorithms rule our working lives
“Democracy is more than a two-party system. It’s an informed public and that’s what’s at risk,” she says. “The debates are where you would hope to find out real information, but they’re just talking about their dick size … The algorithms are making it harder and harder to get good information.” And algorithms, rule-based processes for solving mathematical problems, are being applied to more and more areas of our lives.
This idea is at the heart of O’Neil’s thinking on why algorithms can be so harmful. In theory, mathematics is neutral – two plus two equals four regardless of what anyone wishes the answer was. But in practice, mathematical algorithms can be formulated and tweaked based on powerful interests.
Those bargaining attempts were rebuffed by most factory owners. The Luddites then began months of “machine breaking” in 1811-1812,
It’s a striking position from the world’s richest man and a self-described techno-optimist who co-founded Microsoft, one of the leading players in artificial-intelligence technology.
Should you sacrifice one man to save five? Whatever your answer, it should not depend on whether you were asked the question in your native language or a foreign tongue so long as you understood the problem. And yet here we report evidence that people using a foreign language make substantially more utilitarian decisions when faced with such moral dilemmas. We argue that this stems from the reduced emotional response elicited by the foreign language, consequently reducing the impact of intuitive emotional concerns.
Civic and community initiatives are working to vitalize our urban, rural, scientific and digital commons, and promoting a future guided by democratic participation, social equity and environmental sustainability. At the heart of these acts of “commoning” are satisfying, joyful social relationships that regenerate our interpersonal and physical surroundings. We reject the idea that we are merely self-interested individual consumers or competitors in a fierce market jungle. Instead, we also consider ourselves active and cooperative citizen caretakers working for healthy and fair neighbourhoods, cities and societies.
In times when European institutions are losing support and in deep crisis, we as European citizens are reclaiming Europe. We are concerned that many of our governments tend to favour the narrow interests of dominant market forces instead of catering to the common good of people and the planet.
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