Weapons of Math Destruction (2016)

Sophisticated models that learn patterns from large datasets offer the promise of providing impartial, efficient, accurate, "smart" decision-makers. As such, they are becoming more widespread and have a lot of influence over people's life outcomes. Weapons of Math Destruction argues, however, that these algorithms have troubling features that codify unjust discrimination and are inscrutable and unaccountable. I focus in this post on these undesirable features and how to counteract them.


Conflict Is Not Abuse (2016)

This book is about the process by which conflict is mistaken for, and thus escalated into, abuse. The author also talks about how shunning shuts people off from crucial knowledge, and how a mentality of supremacy and/or trauma drives this escalation + shunning behavior. She analyzes how this process plays out for an eclectic set of social issues ranging from abusive relationships to large-scale political conflict. I discuss the shared themes of Conflict Is Not Abuse, Why Does He Do That?, and Nonviolent Communication in order to give some insights into abuse, rationalizations of violence, coercion/control, and deescalation.

On the place of empathy in social justice movements

It's unfortunately very common for people to weaponize empathy -- to call for empathy in order to tell people seeking justice to be quieter. Due to this frequent occurrence, I think it is common for people to view practicing empathy as antithetical to achieving justice. In this essay, I argue that the act of truly practicing empathy is much different than what is prescribed by many people who call for empathy, and that truly practicing empathy dovetails with (rather than opposes) justice.