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From Facebook and Google to Fake News and Filter-bubbles – The Algorithms That Control Our Lives

Bloomsbury Sigma

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ISBN10: 147294741X
ISBN13: 9781472947413


272 Pages



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Outnumbered is a journey to the dark side of mathematics, from how it dictates our social media activities to our travel routes. Algorithms are running our society, and as Facebook's Cambridge Analytica scandal has revealed, we don't even realize how our data has been used against us. David Sumpter investigates whether mathematics is crossing dangerous lines when it comes to what we can make decisions about.

Our increasing reliance on technology and the internet has opened a window for mathematicians and data researchers to gaze through into our lives. Using the data they are constantly collecting about where we travel, where we shop, what we buy, and what interests us, they can begin to predict our daily habits, and increasingly we are relinquishing our decision-making to algorithms. Are we giving this up too easily? Without understanding what mathematics can and can't do it is impossible to get a handle on how it is changing our lives.

In this book, David Sumpter takes an algorithm-strewn journey to the dark side of mathematics. He investigates the equations that analyze us, influence us and will (maybe) become like us, answering questions like:

- Who are Cambridge Analytica, and what are they doing with our data?
- How does Facebook build a 100-dimensional picture of your personality?
- Are Google algorithms racist and sexist?
- Why do election predictions fail so drastically?
- Are algorithms that are designed to find criminals making terrible mistakes?
- What does the future hold as we relinquish our decision-making to machines?

Featuring interviews with those working at the cutting edge of algorithm, Outnumbered explains how mathematics and statistics work in the real world, and what we should and shouldn't worry about.


Praise for Outnumbered

"As millions slowly wake up to the pitfalls of handing over their digital lives, Sumpter combines engaging hands-on demonstrations with stories from insiders to shed light on precisely how data alchemists seek to persuade and predict us, and whether their almighty algorithms are all they're hyped up to be."John Burn-Murdoch, data journalist, Financial Times

"You've heard about these algorithms that run your life and you want to know two things: how exactly do they work? And how much should I worry? With a refreshing mix of in-depth knowledge and personal honesty, David Sumpter answers both those questions."—Timandra Harkness, writer, comedian and broadcaster, and author of Big Data

"A stellar book about the application of mathematics to the real world. Each chapter tells a fascinating story, and David's warm and witty style demonstrates that a mathematician can be so much more than just a machine for turning coffee into theorems. A riveting read."Kit Yates, Senior Lecturer, Department of Mathematical Sciences, University of Bath

"Ingenious . . . a deliciously insightful, mildly skeptical analysis of internet data manipulation."Kirkus Reviews

"An enlightening book."Publishers Weekly