For three feverish months late last year, I worked with a extraordinary mathematician and person, Cathy O’Neil, on her book Weapons of Math Destruction. It’s coming out this September, just in time for the political season, and I think it could have an impact on the debate. More details on the Amazon page, where it’s available for pre-order.
When friends asked me about Cathy’s book, I described it as the dark side of the Numerati. I think that’s apt. I made a point in my book, released in time for the 2008 presidential election (and crash), that the mathematicians were fallible and that the results would often be unfair. But I focused more on how they were reading us, and how their power was increasing, than on the negative implications. (One reviewer, Roger Lowenstein, went so far as to call me a “cheerleader for Big Brother.”)
Cathy’s book looks not only at what the Numerati get wrong, but how poisonous algorithms gain immense scale, become accepted as “truth,” and generate destructive feedback loops. I had great fun working with her and recommend her book.
One of the reasons I haven’t been posting recently is that I’ve been working on different book projects. I’ll discuss the most recent one, another novel, in another post.