What can a non-academic mathematician and former hedge fund quantitative expert do that makes the world a better place? Cathy O’Neil is a writer, blogger, and consultant that decided to expose that, increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives are being made not by humans, but by mathematical models. And not only the models being used today are opaque, unregulated, and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination.
After a postdoctoral degree in mathematics at Harvard, O'Neil started working in the private sector, first as an expert in quantitative information analysis and management for an investment firm and then for a software company that studies the risk of hedge funds and banks. In 2011 O'Neil participated in the Occupy Wall Street self-organized movement creating a working group around the idea of Alternative Banking. Then she left the financial sector for good and began to work as a data scientist and writer in her blog and for media outlets such as Bloomberg, Financial Times, Slate, among others.
Her book Weapons of Mathematical Destruction was nominated for the 2016 National Book Award.