Cathy O’Neil received her Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University and, after a brief stint in academia, landed a position as a quant on Wall Street. She was eager to put her math skills to use, predicting movements in the market. But when she realized that the hedge fund she was working for was betting against people’s retirement funds, she became deeply disillusioned. Math was being used in a way she felt was immoral. She left Wall Street and became the financial advisor to the Occupy Movement, bringing their message to audiences from NPR’s Morning Edition to the WGA “Best Documentary” award-winning Frontline episode called “Money, Power, and Wall Street.” She then became a data scientist for a New York start-up.
Now, she is an evangelist for the cause that is at the heart of her book, writing about these ideas and much more on her blog Math Babe. O’Neil is uniquely situated to talk about the social and political implications of this kind of math given her deep knowledge of modeling techniques and an insider’s understanding of how companies are using them.