Ep224 - Mixed Mental Arts: Cathy O'Neil on Weapons of Math Destruction

For regular listeners of the show or readers of the accompanying blog at mixedmentalarts.club, you know that power rests on mystery. That is how you eliminate the possibility of being held accountable. Fortunately, there are decent people in the corridors of power and periodically they get so fed up that they decide to pull back the curtain and let the people see that there is no Wizard. There is just a man pulling some levers. What is he up to? And is he using his power in the interests of the people or is he abusing his power to puff himself up. Well, it's not for us to say, because that's not what science is about. But when you read Cathy's book, you realize that sometimes that data is being used to make people's lives better and sometimes it's not. All math rests on assumptions and if those assumptions are bad assumptions then they can do an awful lot of damage. Math's assumptions can contain all sorts of biases. They can have a liberal bias, a conservative bias, a racial bias, a sexist bias and on and on. Biases like Baskin Robbins ice cream come in 52 Flavors. In addition to laying out a couple of examples of Weapons of Math Destruction (or WMDs), Cathy and I [Hunter] talk about their own experiences leaving the tribe of academia and finding their own way. Science powerfully needs both internal and external accountability in order to make the most progress possible in the least possible time. And that's why Cathy and I [Hunter] will be building a coalition of science writers, scientists and citizens to push for a Scientific Reformation. You deserve to have experts who use their intellectual power responsibly and whose primary focus is on serving you, the citizen. We hope you'll join us and we'll keep pulling back the curtain regardless. As Cathy so neatly puts it, science isn't about taking things on faith or relying on the authority of the establishment. It's about having the evidence presented to you in a clear way so you can form your own conclusions.

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