Weapons of Math Destruction: In the Archives
In Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Math Destruction, the author presents arguments for how algorithms increasingly control critical functions in our lives and the danger of increasing our dependence on these flawed algorithms. Due to the inability of algorithms to interpret the complexity of humans and our lives and due to the inherent and implicit bias present in the creators of these algorithms, we see systems perpetuating and deepening inequities. O’Neil notes that algorithms represent the values and assumptions of their creators and that creators of algorithms tend to come from groups who hold a lot of power, namely white-cis- hetero-males.
While much of the material in Special Collections and University Archives cannot speak to the issues with present day algorithms, what these collections can help us understand are the “historical data sets” that drive our cultural implicit biases and shape the algorithms we encounter everyday. These items allow us to explore the ways that bias has historically played a role in upholding inequitable systems. By better understanding lessons of our past, we can resist succumbing to the same missteps as our predecessors. Explore material from our collection related to higher education, hiring and employment, credit, insurance, and advertising.
The Truth About Algorithms | Cathy O'Neil