The Future Will Not Be Calculated: Neural Nets, Neoliberalism, and Reactionary Politics

This article traces the relationship between neoliberal thought and neural networks through the work of Friedrich Hayek, Donald O. Hebb, and Frank Rosenblatt. For all three, networked systems could accomplish acts of evolution, change, and learning impossible for individual neurons or subjects—minds, machines, and economies could therefore all autonomously evolve and adapt without government. These three figures, I argue, were also symptoms of a broader reconceptualization of reason, decision making, and “freedom” in relation to the state and technology that occurred throughout the 1950s–1970s. I also argue that this genealogy of decision-making underpins contemporary relations between machine learning, reactionary politics, and neoliberal economics.

Special Issue:  Surplus Data, Orit Halpern (ed). Critical Inquiry  Winter 2022
ARTICLE : Orit Halpern
The future will not be calculated