Q/?: Weapons of Math Destruction

[A few years ago we read and discussed Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil. Here some questions we would ideally like to pose to the author, if we ever get to meet her (in collaboration with Giuseppe De Nicolao)]

Question 1. “Models are opinions embedded in mathematics” (quote from the book). My question will focus on the educational aspect of maths, as one of the key subjects we are taught in school, from the early years until the end of high school. I wonder whether a reshaping of the very way in which the subject is presented by teachers is not more urgent than ever. Sadly, too many students graduate without a great appreciation of the beauty of maths, and, perhaps above all, a sufficient understanding of its nature and purposes. I feel that mathematics is easily reduced to mere memorising of notions and equations, or is at least perceived as such for the most part. That may especially be the case where standardised testing, for example in the form of multiple choice questions, has become the main criteria for evaluating the students’ knowledge. In what ways do you think we could change the current school system, in order to make the situation better?… Read the rest

@ Festivaletteratura 2018

“Science […] nowadays is beset by raids on its epistemological grounding from academia, a backlash from religion, an attack on its professionalism from free-market ideology, and scorn from those who think a simple life without technology is the only salvation for the human race. […] But science […] has the potential to provide an object lesson in how to make good judgments in a society beset by technological dilemmas. For more than three hundred years the old-fashioned values of science have seeped into Western societies like the air we breathe. Imagine a society without any place at all for the cultural authority of science. It would have surrendered all responsibility to politics, market forces, or competing modes of revelation, and it would be a dystopia—at least as anyone who prefers thinking things through to force would see it.

Harry Collins, Science as a Reflection of Society.

For the whole duration of Festivaletteratura a temporary research group composed of university students, Ph.D. candidates, university and industry researchers will occupy the deconsecrated church of Santa Maria della Vittoria and give life to SCIENCEGROUND. In part a playground where you can play with probability, statistics and mathematical logic and in part a meeting point where you can understand the background and the dilemmas of those who do research, or study to become researchers.… Read the rest