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

weapons of mass destruction

Are institutionalised teaching assessments chasing the best teachers from our schools ? Are algorithms using big data to deny people loans based on flawed premises ? Will your child not get into a good school because of an unfortunate combination of demographic indicators ?

Cathy O’Neil’s thought provoking book provides case histories which illustrate how the use of computers and algorithms is often leading to unanticipated serious problems in many areas of society.

The hope had been that computers and algorithms would work for us and integrate within our preferred human behaviours.

Have they instead forced us to adapt to theirs ?


Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships

Deadline for applications: 4pm, Friday 17 November 2017.

Brunel University has advertised for applicants to apply for Leverhulme Early Career Fellowships with Brunel as host institution and with the support of a Brunel academic who is willing to act as mentor.

Successful candidates will be selected through a two stage shortlisting process. In the first instance, applicants have been asked to identify academics at Brunel working in their field of research and request their agreement to act as mentor for the Fellowship.

To meet the eligibility criteria of Leverhulme, applicants must either hold a degree from a UK university or hold an academic position in the UK (e.g. fixed-term lectureship, fellow).  Applicants must not yet have held a full-time permanent academic post in a UK university.

Applicants will need to provide a short cv, a draft statement of research, an abstract, the name of their mentor and the details of academic referees by the 17 November 2017.


For further information please contact Hilary Lynch (Hilary.lynch@brunel.ac.uk).

Are self-driving cars the future of mobility for disabled people?

autonomous disabled

At the Texas A&M Transportation Institute researchers are developing protocols and algorithms for people and autonomous vehicles to communicate with each other. The researchers envision a fully integrated system in which users can connect to a dispatching system and create profiles that include information on their disabilities and communications preferences, as well as any frequent destinations for trips. When a user requests a shuttle, the system would dispatch a vehicle which has appropriate equipment and characteristics to suit the user’s needs.





What Motivates Employees More: Rewards or Punishments?

A recent piece in the Harvard Business Review considers the evidence regarding  the effectiveness of positive and negative feedback in work environments.

The review suggests that when it comes to motivating action, rewards may be more effective than punishments. It was also concluded that the inverse appears to be true, I.. that people are more efficiently deterred from actions when punishments are applied.

The work of the research team further suggested that the human brain encodes positive information better than negative information. In fact, people often assume that negative information is unrelated to them, but view positive information as very much relevant, which generates an optimistic outlook.


Getty Images Bans Photo Retouching Of Body Shape

getty images body shape

A piece in the Pacific Standard describes how the stock photography agency is scrapping Photoshopped images that make models look thinner. Reasons cited for the ban included:

More than a decade’s worth of studies suggest that body-shaming advertising can negatively affect self-esteem.

Research has linked unrealistic media representations to eating disorders.

Researchers have found that social media plays a role in body anxiety, dieting, and idealizing thinness.



Mood Spreads From Person To Person Via Social Contagion

mood spreads from person to person

A new study described in MedicalNewsToday suggests that the moods of young adults are contagious, and that teenagers are susceptible to “catching” their friends’ emotional states. Researchers from the University of Warwick are investigating how adolescents’ social circles can influence their moods, in an effort to better understand what determines depressive symptoms among teenagers and what might alleviate them. The findings were recently published in the journal Royal Society Open Science.