Cathy O'Neil

Episode 78: Getting the Bias Out with Cathy O’Neil

We all have our own personal biases. The question is how do you keep them out of your data so that you can create better products for your customers? In this episode of the Impact Podcast, we welcome renowned mathematician and author Cathy O’Neil to the show. Cathy has long called for an end to unconditional trust in big data, and shares her views on why data is so vulnerable to bias, the massive implications this can have, and what your business needs to do to avoid it.

You’ll learn about:

  • How personal bias affects data
  • Developing a data strategy to avoid bias
  • How to communicate bias to end users
  • Creating a data Bill of Rights
  • The risks to companies of having biased algorithms

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Mentioned in the Episode

Who is Cathy O’Neil?

Cathy O’Neil earned a Ph.D. 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. She then switched over 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 finance in 2011 and started working as a data scientist in the New York start-up scene, building models that predicted people’s purchases and clicks. She wrote Doing Data Science in 2013 and launched the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia in 2014. She is a regular contributor to Bloomberg View and wrote the book Weapons of Math Destruction: how big data increases inequality and threatens democracy. She recently founded ORCAA, an algorithmic auditing company.