Data scientist and blogger Cathy O’Neil, PhD ’99, will deliver the keynote address at GSAS’s annual Alumni Day celebration, to be held on Saturday, April 4, 2020. O’Neil is the author of Weapons of Math Destruction, which examines how algorithms, and not human beings, are increasingly used to make judgments that impact human lives, for example, by making decisions on car loan applications and determining health insurance costs. During her remarks, she will consider what makes an algorithm accountable, further discussing what academic institutions can do to mitigate algorithmic bias and harm. Her work on algorithms was highlighted in Just Data.

O’Neil earned a PhD in mathematics from Harvard and taught at Barnard College before leaving academia to work first for a hedge fund and later for several start-up companies. Her experiences led her to question whether algorithms, instead of serving as objective evaluation measures, were reinforcing human biases. She later delivered a TED talk about algorithmic harm. In 2017, O’Neil founded the consulting firm ORCAA to audit algorithms for racial, gender and economic inequality. The author of Doing Data Science and On Being a Data Skeptic, she is currently working on “Shame Machine: An Owner’s Manual,” which will consider how shame is used as a social mechanism.

Alumni Day is an annual event that brings GSAS’s global community of alumni together with students and faculty for a day of intellectual renewal and engagement. Sponsored by GSAS’s Graduate School Alumni Association Council, Alumni Day is an opportunity for alumni of all generations to connect with one another and with the innovative research and scholarship fueled by Harvard faculty and graduate students.

Cathy O’Neil to Speak at Alumni Day