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Many of the processes we take for granted, such as deciding whether somebody is creditworthy, for example are handled by computers. The machines use algorithms, and they in turn are based on precise mathematical models. In other words, the programs are objective and foolproof, right?
Wrong! Unfortunately, as Cathy O’Neil reveals in this riveting book, the models are often constructed on the basis of flimsy data. No problem, one might say. All it needs is for people to point out the resulting errors, and someone will tweak the program. But the organisations that use the programs often don’t understand them, and the companies that provide them guard their code and IPR jealously. The result is a combination of a pernicious feedback loop and self-fulfilling prophecy: the computer says it, so it must be right. This book is a must-read for all students and teachers of computing.
Reviewed by: Terry Freedman.
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