Last Updated on August 15, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 475
The most significant quotes from the book explain why the current state of Big Data threatens our society and harms the individual. Throughout, O’Neil explains how the goals of Big Data are not always bad, but that the methods by which they are carried out have unintended consequences.
All of those sound like worthy goals, to be sure, but every ranking system can be gamed.
This quote comes from the chapter in which O’Neal explains how college rankings have impacted student behavior as well as the operations of the colleges themselves. In an attempt to revamp the way colleges are ranked, a new system proposed during the Obama administration threatened to remove funding if colleges didn’t meet certain criteria that would positively impact students, such as graduation rate. However, O’Neil reveals that all such systems can be easily gamed. What this means is that rankings encourage people to cheat in order to gain an advantage over others. This is even worse in systems in which rankings are based on proxies that are difficult to control. An environment like this that rewards dishonesty leads to dishonest rankings, an ethical dilemma that Big Data has yet to solve.
If the goal of testing is to find someone to blame, and to intimidate workers, then, as we’ve seen, a WMD that spews out meaningless scores gets an A-plus.
This quote comes at the end of O’Neal’s chapter on how Big Data affects our professional lives. After discussing scheduling and efficiency/profit maximizing goals, O’Neil criticizes value-added systems of evaluation, which are most commonly used in teacher evaluations. This quote sums up O’Neil’s claim that numbers without justification or transparency are arbitrary and should not be used in decisions regarding employment. If evaluations are used to...
(The entire section contains 475 words.)
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