AI, Ethics, and Geoethics (CS 5970)

Module 7: Sweating Bullets


  • (30 min) Read the chapter 
  • (10 min) Additional readings
  • (30 min) Discussion and case-study on slack
  • (5 min) grading declaration


Read Chapter 7 “Sweating Bullets: On the Job” in the Weapons of Math Destruction book. 

This chapter spends a lot of time discussing the impacts of the irregular schedules on workers.  I found an excellent article with lots of graphics about the impacts of irregular schedules on workers and their families.  I recommend reading it (it is quick) to learn more!

Irregular Schedules


 Image from Equitable Growth


This discussion will happen in the #weapons-of-math-destruction channel. Remember to use threads so that we can keep track of the conversation more easily.

Since we have a case study outside of this chapter, we will just do discussion and not an additional assignment here.

As with previous chapters, I have a few quotes to think about and discuss.  As before, feel free to find your own quotes and discuss as well.  Also, feel free to bring your own experience on the job to this discussion!  If you feel stuck on discussion, find an example of Simpson’s Paradox in your work or school (see page 112, at least that is how my pdf is numbered).

  • “…we continue the journey on to the job, where efficiency-focused WMDs treat workers as cogs in a machine” (page 103, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)
  • “I should add that companies take steps not to make people’s lives too miserable.  They all know to the penny how much it costs to replace a frazzled worker who finally quits.  These numbers are in the data, too.” (page 106, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)
  • “I consider scheduling software one of the more appalling WMDs.  It’s massive, as we’ve discussed, and it takes advantage of people whoa re already struggling to make ends meet.  What’s more, it is entirely opaque.  Workers often don’t have a clue when they’ll be called to work.  They are summoned by an arbitrary program.”  (page 106, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)
  • “The root of the trouble, as with so many other WMDs, is the modelers’ choice of objectives.  The model is optimized for efficiency and profitability, not for justice or the good of the ‘team.'” (page 1067, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)
  • “…computing systems have trouble finding digital proxies for these kinds of soft skills.  The relevant data simply isn’t collected, and anyway it’s hard to put a value on them.  They’re usually easier to leave out of a model.” (page 109, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)
  • “The problem was that the administrators lost track of accuracy in their quest to be fair.” (page 112, Chapter 7, Weapons of Math Destruction)


OU students: After you have done your reading and engaged actively in discussion, complete the grading declaration titled “Module 7: Sweating Bullets”