Genealogy of Algorithms: Datafication as Transvaluation

le Foucaldien 6 (1):1-43 (2020)
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This article investigates religious ideals persistent in the datafication of information society. Its nodal point is Thomas Bayes, after whom Laplace names the primal probability algorithm. It reconsiders their mathematical innovations with Laplace's providential deism and Bayes' singular theological treatise. Conceptions of divine justice one finds among probability theorists play no small part in the algorithmic data-mining and microtargeting of Cambridge Analytica. Theological traces within mathematical computation are emphasized as the vantage over large numbers shifts to weights beyond enumeration in probability theory. Collateral secularizations of predestination and theodicy emerge as probability optimizes into Bayesian prediction and machine learning. The paper revisits the semiotics and theism of Peirce and a given beyond the probable in Whitehead to recontextualize the critiques of providence by Agamben and Foucault. It reconsiders datafication problems alongside Nietzschean valuations. Religiosity likely remains encoded within the very algorithms presumed purified by technoscientific secularity or mathematical dispassion.

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Virgil W. Brower
Charles University, Prague


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