Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 403
O’Neil harnesses the power of her analogy to organize the contents of her book. The analogy, of course, is the famous phrase “weapons of mass destruction,” coined during the George W. Bush administration. The original phrase was used to refer to nuclear missiles and the like that posed a threat to national security. Seizing on this allusion, O’Neil changes the phrase to “weapons of math destruction” to indicate how Big Data is the most tangible threat to our national security. While she does not refer to military threats in her book, she does focus on the integrity of our democracy when referring to national security.
Each chapter of the text bears a title that alludes to this analogy. In “Bomb Parts,” O’Neil explains how mathematical models are created as the foundation for data analysis, much like the individual components of an explosive WMD.
In “Shell Shocked,” O’Neil describes her personal relationship to the topic and how she became disillusioned with Big Data. Much like what happens when someone is victim to an explosive attack, O’Neil was dismayed, after working in the finance and e-commerce industries, to realize how math was being used to manipulate and harm people.
In “Arms Race,” O’Neil likens the competition for higher rankings on the US News college list to a nuclear arms race. The rankings encourage schools to improve their scores rapidly by whatever means necessary, even if that means sacrificing integrity, making this an apt metaphor.
“Propaganda Machine” and “Civilian Casualties” relate the ways in which individuals are at...
(The entire section contains 403 words.)
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