The Dark Side of Big Data

Cathy O'Neil

Tuesday, 11 Sep 2018 at 7:00 pm – Great Hall, Memorial Union

Cathy O'Neil is a mathematician, data scientist and the author of Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy. She will discuss the unintended negative consequences of using big data, including how so-called "objective" black-box algorithms have the potential to reinforce human bias in everything from sentencing to hiring workers. O'Neil began her career in academia before moving to the private sector, where she worked as a hedge-fund analyst during the credit crisis and then as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene. She writes regularly for Bloomberg View about algorithms, and in 2017 she founded the consulting firm ORCAA to audit algorithms for racial, gender and economic inequality. Part of the National Affairs Series
Cathy O'Neil earned a PhD in math from Harvard, was a postdoc at the MIT math department, and a professor at Barnard College where she published a number of research papers in arithmetic algebraic geometry.

Switching to the private sector, working as a quant for the hedge fund D.E. Shaw in the middle of the credit crisis, and then for RiskMetrics, a risk software company that assesses risk for the holdings of hedge funds and banks. She left in 2011 to work as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene, building models that predicted people’s purchases and clicks.

She wrote the book Doing Data Science in 2013 and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia in 2014.

Cosponsored By:
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Sciences
  • Ivy College of Business
  • LAS Miller Lecture Fund
  • Mathematics
  • National Affairs
  • Office of the Vice President for Research
  • Philosophy & Religious Studies
  • Program for Women in Science and Engineering
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Statistics
  • University Library
  • Committee on Lectures (funded by Student Government)

Stay for the entire event, including the brief question-and-answer session that follows the formal presentation. Most events run 75 minutes.

Sign-ins are after the event concludes. For lectures in the Memorial Union, go to the information desk in the Main Lounge. In other academic buildings, look for signage outside the auditorium.

Lecture Etiquette

  • Stay for the entire lecture and the brief audience Q&A. If a student needs to leave early, he or she should sit near the back and exit discreetly.
  • Do not bring food or uncovered drinks into the lecture.
  • Check with Lectures staff before taking photographs or recording any portion of the event. There are often restrictions. Cell phones, tablets and laptops may be used to take notes or for class assignments.
  • Keep questions or comments brief and concise to allow as many as possible.