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Neural ‘Freedoms’: Population, Choice, and Machine Learning

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Friday, March 31, 2023
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Orit Halpern
Models of Evolution

Duke's Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Cultural Theory (CISSCT) is excited to announce Orit Halpern's upcoming talk, Neural 'Freedoms': Population, Choice, and Machine Learning. Please join us in the East Duke Pink Parlor on Friday, March 31st from 3:30-5:00 pm for Dr. Halpern's talk.

This talk interrogates the history of models of decision making and agency in machine learning, neo-liberal economic thought, and finance in order to interrogate how reactionary politics, population, and technology are being reformulated in our present. While the relationship between the Right, post-truth, suggestion algorithms, and social media has long been documented, rarely has there been extensive investigation of how ideas of choice and freedom become recast in a manner amenable to machine automation and to particular brands of post-1970s alt-Right discourses. An analysis of this history demonstrates a new logic within algorithmic and artificial intelligent rationalities that intersects with, but is also not merely a repetition of, earlier histories of eugenics, sexism, and racism. This situation provokes serious challenges to political action, but also to our theorization of histories of race and sex capitalism.

Orit Halpern is Lighthouse Professor and Chair of Digital Cultures and Societal Change at the Technical University of Dresden. Her work bridges the histories of science, computing, and cybernetics with design, and she is currently working on two projects: the first is a history of automation, intelligence, and freedom; the second project examines extreme infrastructures and the history of experimentation at planetary scales in design, science, and engineering. Her monograph Beautiful Date: A History of Vision and Reason (Duke UP 2015) investigates histories of big data, design, and governmentality, and she is co-author of the recently published monograph The Smartness Mandate (MIT Press, 2023). For questions about this event, please contact Lizzie Apple (

Contact: Lizzie Apple