Seminar – TORCH Oxford – 27 November – A Computational Reckoning: Calculating the Anthropocene

This will be happening in Trinity College’s Sutro Room, 27 November 2-3pm

I’ve got another talk coming up in addition to a talk at King’s College London (7 November) but this time in a seminar session at the research network ‘Life Itself in Theory and Practice‘ which is now in its second year. I had a great time going to these last year and I’m very happy to be able to speak on a bit of research which I’ve been working on but which did not necessarily work itself into my thesis (but broadly pulls on similar arguments around computation and choice) but in broader contexts of the Anthropocene debates (which started very early in 2015 when I contributed to a ‘Future Fossils’ exhibit at Society and Space.

I hope to have an interesting conversation from the other side of the spectrum to Kings and this will hopefully inform how I take forward my whole arguments around choice and computation. I also get to play around with some media (such as the Netflix film Tau) Find the abstract for the seminar below:

Computation has become, and continues to deepen, its integration, actualisation, and sensoriality among, and through, life, environments, and the ‘anthro’ of this era.  Various works on geological media (Parikka, 2014) and technologically-mediated futures (Gabrys, 2016) have opened up how computation impacts this so-called Anthropocene. In this seminar however, we will explore how computation not only unsettles our senses of dominance, but how, from the emergence of the general electronic, digital computer, as the first non-organic ‘cogniser’ (Hayles, 2017), they surrender the last vestiges of human authority of ‘decision-making’ and ‘choice’. This is not restricted to machine learning or ‘AI’ but is at the core of all computation. Unlike much debate around ‘learning data’ and the biases of machine learning – all crucial for social justice – there is something more, something far more nebulous and which cannot be attributed to us. This is the putare, the reckoning of computation – they are political. What is therefore political? How does the supposed ‘calculative machine’ make political choices beyond and through us? Together, we will seek to deepen our exploration to reckon with computation’s choices and decisions that are no longer – or more precisely perhaps, become exposed as not being – our own. Yet, in delegating, even outsourcing, choices and decisions, are we not committing an act of calculative injustice? Is this not another frontier of neoliberalism, the movement away from human politics and intervention itself? How does this reckon with the huge energy required for such choices and decisions and the implications for our climate? The Anthropocene is then not only about the demise or dominance of humanity, but of a new actor, one from the 1940s onwards, as the formulation and articulation of a new politics in our midst.

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