Human-Algorithm-Human Relationship as a Social Problem and a Sociological Problem. Book Review: Cathy O’Neil “Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy”. New York: Crown Publishers, 2016




Today the human-algorithm-human relationship is becoming a focal point for research in numerous disciplines. This book is a contribution to the topic and provides a critical perspective on non-reflexive introduction of algorithms into social life. Using “WMD” (weapons of math destruction) as a specific term, Cathy O’Neil sets forward her main thesis stating that this very type of models has an increasingly negative impact on the America society. The book analyses the problems related to the “WMD” penetration into various spheres of life ranging from university choices to employment, from health evaluation to loans, from police performance to news content on social media. Some algorithms fit the definition of artificial intelligence; some may become one with further development of technologies. In the first part of the review the author considers the theses of the book and the arguments proving these ideas. The second part of the review addresses the following issues: Why would Russian readers be interested in this book? Would it be of interest to social scientists? In what way would the review’s author be interested in the social scientists’ studies? The author concludes that the weapons of math destruction have considerable heuristic value for social science.

Acknowledgments. The study was supported by RFBR and the Ministry of Science and Technology (Taiwan), project no. 21-511-52002.

Author Biography

Anastasia A. Ivanova, Saint Petersburg University

  • Saint Petersburg State University, Saint Petersburg, Russia
    • Post-Graduate Student, Faculty of Sociology