Every year the Adelphi Community Reads Committee chooses a book that addresses a relevant topic to be discussed by our entire community.
Every year the Adelphi Community Reads Committee chooses a book that addresses a relevant topic to be discussed by our entire community. It is also chosen as our Adelphi Community Reads book for our first-year students. This year’s pick promises to cause some lively discussions. Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy, by Cathy O’Neil, addresses the data collected on us and how that data is used to influence decisions; from whether we get a loan, to how much we pay for health insurance to what ads we see.
Peter West, Ph.D., associate dean of arts and sciences, said about 24 books were nominated for this year’s selection. O’Neil’s book was chosen, he said, because it “is written in a clear and accessible style and offers many exciting opportunities for various departments and offices around campus to develop programming related to the ideas raised in the book.”
In each chapter, O’Neil addresses the role of a rapidly evolving data industry within a particular aspect of 21st-century American society—from policing, to college rankings, to auto insurance.
The committee believes that this text will offer a great opportunity for students to think in nuanced and ethical ways about our society, their own place in a democracy and how they can control an environment increasingly governed by complex, and potentially dangerous, algorithms.
Dr. West said the book is about far more than mathematics. It’s about the increasing power of data and algorithms to influence politics, global affairs, criminal justice, nursing, business, healthcare—just about every aspect of our lives, in ways we don’t yet realize.
Students will address the issues of the book in classroom discussions, but also out of the classroom—in off-campus outings, with guest speakers and even at a data block party.
“We’re hoping this will start compelling conversations and debates, and bring students and faculty together in discussions around this important topic.”
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