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On Algorithmic Welfare: Silicon Valley as the Good Cop of Neoliberalism by Evgeny Morozov

Nervous Systems: Finissage-Lectures
Sun, May 8, 2016

Compared to predictions made thirty years ago, the ultimate neoliberal nightmare — the exclusion of the poor and the weak from access to education, health, and other public services—has not happened. Quite the contrary—rare is a Silicon Valley pundit who doesn’t celebrate the fact that, thanks to technology companies, there are many more ways for the poor to access connectivity, medicine, knowledge, loans (not to mention their recent advocacy of an unconditional basic income). This new form of social mobility, underpinned as it is by the wide and extensive collection and accumulation of data, presents Silicon Valley’s answer to the question of “what could and should Among other associations, the title Nervous Systems intends to invoke the fragility of large techno-social infrastructures, dreams of connectivity and immanence, but also the “nervosity” that haunts modern capitalist power and its ideological operations. This program of lectures brings together speakers from different fields to discuss forms of life and politics in emerging data environments. The first part of the afternoon engages with historical concepts and models that openly or tacitly inform contemporary conceptions and aesthetics of computation and behavior. The second part discusses political strategies and positions toward past- and present-day techno-utopian promises and their downsides. Succeed the welfare state.” Paradoxically, if the previous regime—the social-democratic welfare state—implied surveillance after the distribution of benefits, the new algorithmic welfare regime presupposes universal and ubiquitous surveillance already, as a precondition to receiving any benefits. This talk will explore the multiple ways in which Silicon Valley—and the regime of data-accumulation that it enacts—has emerged as the ultimate (but, in the long run, impotent) savior of neoliberal capitalism.

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