Weapons of Math Destruction - A Book Review

Published on 20 Jan 2023

The issue of ethics in large information systems interest me, so I purchased this book, thinking it might yield some interesting ideas and insight into the world of Big Data and how tech corporations have the power to shape our thoughts.

After reading the first couple of pages, I started feeling irritated with the tone and I had flashbacks of that book by Thomas Friedman called The World Is Flat, which was also rather shitty despite its age. If I want to be dramatic, I would call this feeling something akin to mild PTSD.

I am not American and I could not relate to any of the issues mentioned in this book. Its focus is on Americans, not the rest of the world, as the examples and scenarios used in this book by the author is American. One could possibly apply some of the concepts to my country of origin, but the issues we face is vastly different than America's, and America is about 30 years behind my country's current state. We do not share the same societal issues that these "deadly" algorithms exploit, our problems are more on an infrastructure level. Sure, I understand how algorithms can be bad, but she makes some rather idealistic, unrealistic suggestions on how to avoid their problems.

It's like trying to build AI that is 100% unbiased. Good luck, lady, you can try if it makes you feel better.

I should have known this book would be a waste of time and money by the numerous praises by publications such as New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and the author also uses these publications as sources for her "scientific" analysis. Many of her arguments have logical fallacies in them and she seems to assume that her and people like her way of thinking is the only right way to see the world.

And you call yourself a data scientist, Cathy. Tsk, tsk...

This book is by no means unbiased and scientific, instead it is riddled with Marxist undertones and personal opinions posing as facts. The chapters are all over the place and felt poorly structured, I lost track of where she was going with many of her tangents. I admit, I was misled by the title...

What a waste of time, I was expecting a more in-depth, factual analysis of Big Data. Instead I got a hot mess of ramblings by a highly opinionated academic. I was honestly expecting too much, but I've now learned that one should avoid books that are praised by publications like New York Times and The Washington Post. I am not American, but I had some American friends who, on the odd occasion, sent me some of those publications' articles. I never liked them, it felt like reading Marxist propaganda.

In short, Weapons of Math Destruction is a mediocre book written by a mediocre individual for mediocre audiences. This is not a book about scientific analysis or factual information, it is a personal opinion piece written by a social justice warrior with poorly structured chapters and a questionable list of references. If you're looking for a proper in-depth study on Big Data's problems within society, I would recommend you look somewhere else.