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Weapons of Math Destruction (First Year Read, 2021)

A guide to the 2021 First Year Read pick, Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O'Neil.

March of a Virtual Lifetime

Your Life in Big Data

Cathy O'Neil writes in the conclusion that her book serves as a "march through a virtual lifetime" (p. 199). The data that represents your decisions, your spending, and your life thus far is already being collected and analyzed by these mathematical models.


To find out more about these topics, consider the following sources:

  • Government information: USA.gov
    • Many of these issues involve laws and regulations, and USA.gov, a portal to government agencies, will return information, research, and resources from these agencies.

  • Newspapers and magazines
    • Consumer issues are regularly covered by the news, in short- and long-form journalism as well as opinion pieces by experts and editors. Magazines, which are usually more subject-focused than newspapers, discuss these topics from a different perspective.  
  • Trade journals and industry/specialty blogs
    • Professionally-run blogs and trade journals focus very narrowly on a subject or field, whether it's an industry such as insurance or higher education or a consumer product category like technology. 
  • Important note
    • When reading these sources, as when reading anything, make sure to assess the perspective of the author/contributor, which you can do so by checking the author's byline - is the author employed or consulting in the field? Is the piece clearly labeled as an editorial or opinion? The information you read will still be of value, as long as you are clear about the author's perspective and goals in writing it.