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Machine learning political orders

Amoore, Louise (2022) 'Machine learning political orders.', Review of International Studies . pp. 1-17.


A significant set of epistemic and political transformations are taking place as states and societies begin to understand themselves and their problems through the paradigm of deep neural network algorithms. A machine learning political order does not merely change the political technologies of governance, but is itself a reordering of politics, of what the political can be. When algorithmic systems reduce the pluridimensionality of politics to the output of a model, they simultaneously foreclose the potential for other political claims to be made and alternative political projects to be built. More than this foreclosure, a machine learning political order actively profits and learns from the fracturing of communities and the destabilising of democratic rights. The transformation from rules-based algorithms to deep learning models has paralleled the undoing of rules-based social and international orders – from the use of machine learning in the campaigns of the UK EU referendum, to the trialling of algorithmic immigration and welfare systems, and the use of deep learning in the COVID-19 pandemic – with political problems becoming reconfigured as machine learning problems. Machine learning political orders decouple their attributes, features and clusters from underlying social values, no longer tethered to notions of good governance or a good society, but searching instead for the optimal function of abstract representations of data.

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Publisher statement:Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits any use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.
Date accepted:17 December 2021
Date deposited:25 May 2022
Date of first online publication:15 February 2022
Date first made open access:25 May 2022

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