Book Review: Weapons of Math Destruction

Don't Worry About the Vase

Epistemic Status: Minus One Million Points

Shortness Status: Long (this is a proposed new norm I want to try out, in the sense of ‘apologies for writing a long letter, I did not have enough time to write a shorter one.’ By contrast, Against Facebook was longer in words, but would be short.)

Weapons of Math Destruction is an easy read, but a frustrating one.

The book claims to be about the misuse of big data and machine learning to guide decisions, how that harms people and leads to bad outcomes, and how to fix it. The distortions of aiming at and rewarding what we are measuring rather than what we actually want worries me more and more. It is one of the biggest issues of our age, so I was excited to read a new take on it, even if I expected to already know the bulk of the…

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