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ACM Opinion

Algorithms Aren't Biased, But the People Who Write Them May Be


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Weapons of Math Destruction

A provocative new book called "Weapons of Math Destruction" has inspired some charged headlines. "Math Is Racist," one asserts. "Math Is Biased Against Women and the Poor," declares another.

But author Cathy O'Neil's message is more subtle: Math isn't biased. People are biased. From her perspective as a data scientist and social activist, O'Neil has written a book about how algorithms discriminate.

In particular, she is concerned about mathematical models that rank or score individuals, institutions or places, often by using proxies to stand in for things the modelers wish to measure but can't. The algorithms share three characteristics, O'Neil says: They are biased. They are opaque. And they are scalable.

From The Wall Street Journal
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