Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Seminar 5 Position Statement: Prof. Peter Mantello

The Machine that Ate Bad People:    

The Bio-politics of Sentient Machines, Anomic Spaces, and Neo-Security Assemblages

 Prof. Peter Mantello,

Ritsumeikan University, Japan

The rise of smart cities, intelligence sharing fusion centers, RFID chips, and intrusive  biometrics highlight the growing imperatives of bio-political regimes to impose efficiencies  in all facets of human existence, and, importantly, manage uncertainty. Since 9/11, the  politics of pre-emption and economy of risk have created an increasingly porous alliance of  law enforcement/security agencies, communications/tech companies, and other corporate  enterprises dedicated to constructing a multi purposed, networked juridical and disciplinary  neo-security assemblage. Initially premised on identifying threats by data mining  purportedly suspicious forms of online behavior from search habits, financial transactions,  credit card purchases, travel history and email communications, next generation security  systems have shifted their operational focus from nescient machines that simply connect  given dots from the past to becoming intelligent, assemblages capable of integrating data  from a multitude of nodes in order to foresee the future. 
The most salient feature of predictive analytic assemblages belongs to burgeoning field of  computational science known as  machine learning , where computers learn to think for  themselves by sifting massive volumes of data to ascertain patterns and discern anomalies.  For example Hitachi’s Visualization Suite for Public Safety 4.5 suggests that the key to  ‘better’ government lays in the visual and geospatial integration of public and private fix  and moving assets  (Hitachi, 2015). Such developments will be amplified through continued  advances in distributed computer systems, quantum processing, and effectively limitless  data storage. 
While beta versions such as Hitachi’s are now being piloted in real world environments, the  political and social implications are far reaching and understudied. Not only are such  assemblages predicated on the continued normalization of exception, they allow risk  regimes to make the public and private distinction more elastic and in turn, threaten  fundamental privacy rights by encouraging the widening of its physical nodes. This includes   deputizing  [or simply appropriating] private/commercial surveillance cameras, GPS  devices, and social networks, and encouraging the proliferation of eavesdropping tools in smart phones, web browsers, TV sets, game consoles. The extension of juridical reach and disciplinary sight is also augmented through the growth in consumer oriented mobile  security products that encourage voluntary buy in to the neo security assemblage, such as  the iPatriot smart phone app that networks  patriotic citizens , allowing them to report  suspicious activities and persons directly to federal agencies and transit authorities.  Moreover, sentient assemblages are largely driven by neoliberal incentives to take human resource (and the state)  out of the security loop and –as the argument goes -  increase  efficiency, eliminate human error and insider threats. For citizens, they imply accepting  control as the price of safety.  And the lack of human oversight also implies an anomic gap  (of sovereign authority) when deciphering the norm from the anomaly at the point of  action, as well as the opacity of political accountability in the event of the inevitable false  positives.
This paper examines the biopolitics of securitization when data led regimes empower  sentient neo-security assemblages as surrogate forms of sovereign authority and decision.  Projecting the writings of Massumi, Agamben and Amoore into the realm of sentient  machines, I argue that while such assemblages seek legitimacy by offering the widely  admired [if often unproven] predictability, impartiality and objectivity of techno- scientific  solutions their ultimate goal is merely to preempt immediate threats to the body politic by  extending juridical reach and disciplinary sight. I also explain the longer term effects—and  arguably intent—of sentient neo-security assemblages is to preserve the domains of their  masters, who will control immense existential and predictive data that will allow them to  shape public perceptions and quell possible opposition, thereby ensuring the exception  incontrovertible and infinite life. 

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