16.03.2018 || Research and Source Evaluation 1

This is the research I have done around my project title so far.


O’Neil C, 2016, Weapons of Math Destruction, Crown Publishing Group New York, NY, USA

This book delves deeper into the nature of the seemingly mysterious programs that, in today’s world, control more than we think: from college rankings to advertising. I found it very useful as the author unveils the ways in which they can damage prospects for many people, and crucially highlights how the negative feedback loops they often create only worsen the situation – a critical problem faced by the poor.  Though O’Neil offers strong arguments against data analytics, she doesn’t offer any viable alternatives to it nor does she go into much depth about its advantages, which would have allowed for a fairer judgement. Otherwise, it was very useful in the way that it provided a thorough, critical view of big data with real-life examples to illustrate her point.


Mason E,  2018, AI and Big Data could Power a New War on Poverty, NY Times,  Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/opinion/ai-and-big-data-could-power-a-new-war-on-poverty.html

This article looks at big data from a less sceptical point of view and evaluates its many benefits to society. The writer claims that the progress that has been made in the way of artificial intelligence in fact allows jobs to be matched efficiently to the appropriate person. I found this article valuable in that it provides real-life examples of how big data can be used for the betterment of society and to eliminate poverty. It also highlights that big data offers unbiased judgements thus has the potential to make our societies more ‘ideology-free’, which is arguable as this isn’t always the case, as in their essence, technology is still programmed by human beings whose ideologies are actually built-in to them. So when used for making high-level decisions, it could be argued that they can be incredibly threatening. Although the article does provide a useful insight into the progress that AI has made, it fails to recognise its imperfections and the problems it poses.



The Joy of Data, Catherine Gale, Hannah Fry, BBC, UK

As a relatively recent production, this documentary provided a very useful insight into the practical implementations of new technology within the UK and the effects of this. It mostly explores the positive impacts data analytics has had, but does very briefly outline the drawbacks it poses in terms of security. However the documentary did not involve any discussion about the problems with data analytics outside of security which I have seen mentioned in other sources so does provide a slightly overly positive, optimistic view about the technology.  Though highly interesting, it is not directly relevant to my hypothesis, as it explores applications of big data such as traffic management and healthcare data. I did find its exploration into analyzing patterns from healthcare data particularly interesting, as it allows for more efficient diagnosis and a great number of possibilities, which could perhaps link to fighting poverty. Overall, I think there are certainly aspects of this documentary that will be useful to arguing the  case for and against in my EPQ, but I will have to look at the application discussed with a focus on the poor rather than the general public.


The Filter Bubble: What the Internet Is Hiding from You, Pariser, Eli, London: Viking/Penguin Press, 2011

The Filter Bubble discusses the rise of personalised content and how it leads to individuals being exposed to very different views of the world. The author explores the issues that arise as a result of personalization as it limits us to a very one-sided and specific portrayal of what is truly going on around us. This raises the question of whether ‘unpleasant’ news should be hidden from us and we should be shown articles that feed into only our self-interest or whether as citizens, we should be given the opportunity to make these choices for ourselves. Again, this does not directly relate to my question as such, but I am keen to use what I have learned from this book, along with information from other sources, to look further into how this supposed ‘digital isolation’ could perhaps link to and perpetuate poverty. Though very one-sided, Pariser does bring up some concerning and eye-opening points as to how our data is used. One particular point that sticks in my head is his perceptive analysis that though online services appear to be free, the price we are paying for them is in fact our own data.



The Human Face of Big Data, Sandy Smolan, USA, 2016

The Human Face of Big Data gave me a broader understanding as to the current uses of big data and it effects within society. It detailed the progress made in the world of big data and how this has enabled us to make measurements and collect data that we have never been able to before. I found it useful in providing an alternate viewpoint to my hypothesis, as it explores the many ways in which big data has the potential to address some of the biggest challenges we face – ranging from nationwide to worldwide problems. It has made me think more about the benefits of harnessing big data analytics and Internet of Things devices which will be very useful in helping me evaluate how big data may, in fact, challenge poverty.

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