WEAPONS OF MATH DESTRUCTION, by O'Neil NOTE: Meeting Online

Public Affairs
Monday, May 23, 7:00 pm

Public Affairs Book Group meets the 4th Monday each month at 7:00 p.m. The book group is now meeting online--for details please contact judytaylor2011@gmail.com

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy By Cathy O'Neil Cover Image

Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy (Paperback)

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A former Wall Street quant sounds the alarm on Big Data and the mathematical models that threaten to rip apart our social fabric—with a new afterword
 
“A manual for the twenty-first-century citizen . . . relevant and urgent.”—Financial Times
 
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD LONGLIST • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New York Times Book Review The Boston GlobeWired • Fortune • Kirkus Reviews • The Guardian • Nature • On Point
 
We live in the age of the algorithm. Increasingly, the decisions that affect our lives—where we go to school, whether we can get a job or a loan, how much we pay for health insurance—are being made not by humans, but by machines. In theory, this should lead to greater fairness: Everyone is judged according to the same rules.
 
But as mathematician and data scientist Cathy O’Neil reveals, the mathematical models being used today are unregulated and uncontestable, even when they’re wrong. Most troubling, they reinforce discrimination—propping up the lucky, punishing the downtrodden, and undermining our democracy in the process. Welcome to the dark side of Big Data.
Cathy O'Neil is a data scientist and author of the blog mathbabe.org. She earned a Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard and taught at Barnard College before moving to the private sector, where she worked for the hedge fund D. E. Shaw. She then worked as a data scientist at various start-ups, building models that predict people’s purchases and clicks. O’Neil started the Lede Program in Data Journalism at Columbia and is the author of Doing Data Science. She is currently a columnist for Bloomberg View.
Product Details ISBN: 9780553418835
ISBN-10: 0553418831
Publisher: Crown
Publication Date: September 5th, 2017
Pages: 288
Language: English
“O’Neil’s book offers a frightening look at how algorithms are increasingly regulating people. . . . Her knowledge of the power and risks of mathematical models, coupled with a gift for analogy, makes her one of the most valuable observers of the continuing weaponization of big data. . . . [She] does a masterly job explaining the pervasiveness and risks of the algorithms that regulate our lives.”—The New York Times Book Review

"Weapons of Math Destruction is the Big Data story Silicon Valley proponents won't tell. . . . [It] pithily exposes flaws in how information is used to assess everything from creditworthiness to policing tactics . . . a thought-provoking read for anyone inclined to believe that data doesn't lie.”Reuters

“This is a manual for the twenty-first century citizen, and it succeeds where other big data accounts have failedit is accessible, refreshingly critical and feels relevant and urgent.”—Financial Times

"Insightful and disturbing."—New York Review of Books

Weapons of Math Destruction is an urgent critique of . . . the rampant misuse of math in nearly every aspect of our lives.”—Boston Globe

“A fascinating and deeply disturbing book.”Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens

“Illuminating . . . [O’Neil] makes a convincing case that this reliance on algorithms has gone too far.”—The Atlantic

“A nuanced reminder that big data is only as good as the people wielding it.”—Wired

“If you’ve ever suspected there was something baleful about our deep trust in data, but lacked the mathematical skills to figure out exactly what it was, this is the book for you.”—Salon

“O’Neil is an ideal person to write this book. She is an academic mathematician turned Wall Street quant turned data scientist who has been involved in Occupy Wall Street and recently started an algorithmic auditing company. She is one of the strongest voices speaking out for limiting the ways we allow algorithms to influence our lives. . . . While Weapons of Math Destruction is full of hard truths and grim statistics, it is also accessible and even entertaining. O’Neil’s writing is direct and easy to read—I devoured it in an afternoon.”—Scientific American

“Indispensable . . . Despite the technical complexity of its subject, Weapons of Math Destruction lucidly guides readers through these complex modeling systems. . . . O’Neil’s book is an excellent primer on the ethical and moral risks of Big Data and an algorithmically dependent world. . . . For those curious about how Big Data can help them and their businesses, or how it has been reshaping the world around them, Weapons of Math Destruction is an essential starting place.”National Post

“Cathy O’Neil has seen Big Data from the inside, and the picture isn’t pretty. Weapons of Math Destruction opens the curtain on algorithms that exploit people and distort the truth while posing as neutral mathematical tools. This book is wise, fierce, and desperately necessary.”—Jordan Ellenberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, author of How Not To Be Wrong

“O’Neil has become [a whistle-blower] for the world of Big Data . . . [in] her important new book. . . .  Her work makes particularly disturbing points about how being on the wrong side of an algorithmic decision can snowball in incredibly destructive ways.”Time

MAN WITHOUT A FACE, by Gessen NOTE: Meeting Online

Public Affairs
Monday, April 25, 7:00 pm

Public Affairs Book Group meets the 4th Monday each month at 7:00 p.m. The book group is now meeting online--for details please contact judytaylor2011@gmail.com

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin By Masha Gessen Cover Image

The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (Paperback)

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National Book Award winner Masha Gessen's biography of a ruthless man's ascent to near-absolute power.

“In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia.” —The Wall Street Journal

“Thanks to fearless reporting and acute psychological insights, Masha Gessen has done the impossible in writing a highly readable, compelling life of Russia's mysterious president-for-life.” –Tina Brown, The Daily Beast


The Man Without a Face is the chilling account of how a low-level, small-minded KGB operative ascended to the Russian presidency and, in an astonishingly short time, destroyed years of progress and made his country once more a threat to his own people and to the world.
 
Handpicked as a successor by the "family" surrounding an ailing and increasingly unpopular Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin seemed like a perfect choice for the oligarchy to shape according to its own designs. Suddenly the boy who had stood in the shadows, dreaming of ruling the world, was a public figure, and his popularity soared. Russia and an infatuated West were determined to see the progressive leader of their dreams, even as he seized control of media, sent political rivals and critics into exile or to the grave, and smashed the country's fragile electoral system, concentrating power in the hands of his cronies.

As a journalist living in Moscow, Masha Gessen experienced this history firsthand, and for The Man Without a Face has drawn on information and sources no other writer has tapped. This account of how a "faceless" man maneuvered his way into absolute—and absolutely corrupt—power is the definitive biography of Vladimir Putin.

Masha Gessen is a Russian-American journalist who writes fluently in Russian and English. She contributes frequently to Vanity Fair, The New York Times, Newsweek, Slate, and many other publications. The author of several previous books, she lives in Moscow.
Product Details ISBN: 9781594486517
ISBN-10: 1594486514
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: March 5th, 2013
Pages: 352
Language: English
Slate and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012

"[An] absorbing portrait… Gessen is most illuminating when she details the historical accidents that allowed an unexceptional bureaucrat to rule Russia." The New Yorker  

“Part psychological profile, part conspiracy study… As a Moscow native who has written perceptively for both Russian and Western publications, Gessen knows the cultures and pathologies of Russia… [and has] a delicious command of the English language… A fiercely independent journalist… Gessen’s armchair psychoanalysis of Putin is speculative. But it is a clever and sometimes convincing speculation, based on a close reading of Putin’s own inadvertently revealing accounts of his life, and on interviews with people who knew Putin before he mattered.” The New York Times Book Review  

“In a country where journalists critical of the government have a way of meeting untimely deaths, Ms. Gessen has shown remarkable courage in researching and writing this unflinching indictment of the most powerful man in Russia… Although written before the recent protests erupted, the book helps to explain the anger and outrage driving that movement.”The Wall Street Journal

“Thanks to her fearless reporting and acute psychological insights, Masha Gessen has done the impossible in writing a highly readable, compelling life of Russia's mysterious president-for-life.” –Tina Brown, The Daily Beast 

"Powerful and gracefully written… Gessen's book flows on multiple tracks, tracing Putin's life back to boyhood, the story of his hometown of St. Petersburg, and finally the last quarter-century of Russian history… For all of the ghoulish detail, Gessen's account of Russia is not overwrought… [she] displays impressive control of her prose and her story, painting a portrait of a vile Putin without sounding polemical." San Francisco Chronicle

“Engrossing and insightful.” Bloomberg

"Gessen shines a piercing light into every dark corner of Putin's story… Fascinating, hard-hitting reading." Foreign Affairs

“[An] incisive bildingsroman of Putin and his regime… Alongside an acute apprehension of the post-Soviet dynamics that facilitated Putin’s rise, Gessen balances narratives of Putin-as-bureaucrat and Putin-as-kleptocrat with a wider indictment of the “Mafia clan” that retains him solely as its Godfather.” The Daily

“Illuminating… Gessen sprinkles telltale signs of the Putin who would eventually emerge and rule Russia with an iron fist…It is with these explosive revelations that Gessen truly excels… [She] presents her case calmly, picking holes in Putin’s character, his policies, and his rule without stooping to hysterical condemnation… an electrifying read from what can only be described as an incredibly brave writer.” Columbia Journalism Review

“A chilling and brave work of nonfiction… Gessen has succeeded in convincingly portraying the forces that made Putin who he is today.”Bookpage

"Although Gessen is enough of an outsider to write beautifully clear and eloquent English, she is enough of an insider to convey, accurately, the wild swings of emotions, the atmosphere of mad speculation, the paranoia, and, yes, the hysteria that pervade all political discussion and debate in Moscow today."The New York Review of Books

“What Gessen sees in Putin is a troubled childhood brawler who became a paper-pushing KGB man and, by improbable twists and turns, rose to the top in Russia… [She] does not attempt to weigh up Putin’s record but rather examines his biography, mind-set and methods… as a thug loyal to the KGB and the empire it served who never had a clue about the Earth-shattering events that blew the Soviet Union apart.” The Washington Post


“An eye opening story with all the drama and intrigue of a novel.” Popmatters

“Written in English but with Russian heart, Gessen focuses on the places and institutions that bred the nation's most resolute leader since Stalin… Some might say that Gessen's interpretation is political. Of course it is… but more importantly, it is thorough. She has seen fellow journalists killed, has been harassed herself, and yet continues to write from Russia… Her urgency is felt on nearly every page.” Bookforum

HOW TO HIDE AN EMPIRE, by Immerwahr NOTE: Meeting Online

Public Affairs
Monday, March 28, 7:00 pm

Public Affairs Book Group meets the 4th Monday each month at 7:00 p.m. The book group is now meeting online--for details please contact judytaylor2011@gmail.com

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States By Daniel Immerwahr Cover Image

How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States (Paperback)

List Price: $21.00
Our Price: $20.00
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Politics and Prose at 5015 Connecticut Avenue NW
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Named one of the ten best books of the year by the Chicago Tribune
A Publishers Weekly best book of 2019 | A 2019 NPR Staff Pick

A pathbreaking history of the United States’ overseas possessions and the true meaning of its empire


We are familiar with maps that outline all fifty states. And we are also familiar with the idea that the United States is an “empire,” exercising power around the world. But what about the actual territories—the islands, atolls, and archipelagos—this country has governed and inhabited?

In How to Hide an Empire, Daniel Immerwahr tells the fascinating story of the United States outside the United States. In crackling, fast-paced prose, he reveals forgotten episodes that cast American history in a new light. We travel to the Guano Islands, where prospectors collected one of the nineteenth century’s most valuable commodities, and the Philippines, site of the most destructive event on U.S. soil. In Puerto Rico, Immerwahr shows how U.S. doctors conducted grisly experiments they would never have conducted on the mainland and charts the emergence of independence fighters who would shoot up the U.S. Congress.

In the years after World War II, Immerwahr notes, the United States moved away from colonialism. Instead, it put innovations in electronics, transportation, and culture to use, devising a new sort of influence that did not require the control of colonies. Rich with absorbing vignettes, full of surprises, and driven by an original conception of what empire and globalization mean today, How to Hide an Empire is a major and compulsively readable work of history.

Daniel Immerwahr is associate professor of history at Northwestern University and author of Thinking Small: The United State and the Lure of Community Development, which won the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Prize. He has written for N+1, Slate, Dissent, and other publications.
Product Details ISBN: 9781250251091
ISBN-10: 1250251095
Publisher: Picador
Publication Date: March 3rd, 2020
Pages: 528
Language: English

"To call this standout book a corrective would make it sound earnest and dutiful, when in fact it is wry, readable and often astonishing. Immerwahr knows that the material he presents is serious, laden with exploitation and violence, but he also knows how to tell a story, highlighting the often absurd space that opened up between expansionist ambitions and ingenuous self-regard . . . It’s a testament to Immerwahr’s considerable storytelling skills that I found myself riveted by his sections on Hoover’s quest for standardized screw threads, wondering what might happen next." —Jennifer Szalai, New York Times

"[Immerwahr's] book is written in 22 brisk chapters, full of lively characters, dollops of humor, and surprising facts . . . It entertains and means to do so. But its purpose is quite serious: to shift the way that people think about American history . . . Immerwahr convincingly argues that . . . the United States replaced colonies with chemistry,' and partially 'substituted technology for territory.' It is a powerful and illuminating economic argument . . . the book succeeds in its core goal: to recast American history as a history of the 'Greater United States.' . . . deserves a wide audience, and it should find one." —Patrick Iber, The New Republic

“[How to Hide an Empire] is full of pop-culture references and interesting anecdotes that challenge common sense. Immerwahr’s point is not to condemn empire but to explain it. And by doing so, he helps us better understand American foreign and military policy in the present—and the future . . . At its best, Immerwahr’s book describes not only a forgotten history but a history of forgetting itself.” —Adrian Chen, New York

"Consistently both startling and absorbing . . . Immerwahr vividly retells the early formation of the [United States], the consolidation of its overseas territory, and the postwar perfection of its 'pointillist' global empire, which extends influence through a vast constellation of tiny footprints." Harper's

"[Immerwahr] writes in the manner of an entertaining and informative lecturer who cannot wait to tell the class his latest discovery from the archives . . . Gore Vidal was fond of referring to Imperial America, and not in an approving way. Were he alive to read this book he would probably endorse it, perhaps only regretting that he had not written it himself." —James Michael, Times Literary Supplement

"How to Hide an Empire takes you on a whirlwind tour of the islands and territories the U.S. has governed from the 19th century on. It draws you in with smartly weaved, gripping stories and constructs an impressively expansive tale of America’s global conquests. Manifest destiny takes on a whole new meaning. Simmering beneath all these stories is a powerful throughline: As classic colonialism was being fazed out in the 20th century, a new, more covert form of empire-building set in – with the U.S. at the forefront. It’s not a stretch to say that this book will make you think about American history in a new way." —Ramtin Arablouei, NPR

"A richly detailed, thoroughly researched history . . . the author engagingly depicts the nations' conquests . . . Immerwahr animates the narrative with a lively cast of characters . . . A vivid recounting of imperial America's shameful past." —Kirkus (Starred Review)

"There are many histories of American expansionism. How to Hide an Empire renders them all obsolete. It is brilliantly conceived, utterly original, and immensely entertaining — simultaneously vivid, sardonic and deadly serious." —Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Twilight of the American Century

"How to Hide an Empire is a breakthrough, for both Daniel Immerwahr and our collective understanding of America’s role in the world. His narrative of the rise of our colonial empire outside North America, and then our surprising pivot from colonization to globalization after World War II, is enthralling in the telling — and troubling for anyone pondering our nation’s past and future. The result is a book for citizens and scholars alike." —Samuel Moyn, author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal Age

"This book changes our understanding of the fundamental character of the United States as a presence in world history. By focusing on the processes by which Americans acquired, controlled, and were affected by territory, Daniel Immerwahr shows that the United States was not just another 'empire,' but was a highly distinctive one the dimensions of which have been largely ignored." —David A. Hollinger, author of Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America

“Historian Immerwahr argues in this substantial work that . . . for more than two centuries the U.S. has been . . . a kind of empire . . . made up of territories . . . barely acknowledged in popular conceptions of the country . . . This insightful, excellent book, with its new perspective on an element of American history that is almost totally excluded from mainstream education and knowledge, should be required reading for those on the mainland." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

"President Jefferson imagined an 'Empire of Liberty' . . . [but] Immerwahr illustrates how American territorial expansion included control over and governance of millions of Spanish speakers and various Indian tribes who had to be forcefully subdued . . . a useful and informative work, since many of these overseas territories remain under our governance." Booklist

"In How to Hide an Empire, Immerwahr chronicles the history of . . . ‘large colonies and pinprick islands’. The result is a whimsical-serious work: a deft disquisition on America, and America in the world, with a raconteur’s touch and keen sense of the absurd." Stephen Phillips, The Spectator

"Immerwahr peppers his account with colourful characters and enjoyable anecdotes. This tale of territorial empire, he suggests, throws light on the histories of everything from the Beatles to Godzilla, the birth-control pill to the transistor radio." The Economist



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