Capital as Computation & Cognition:
From Babbage’s Factory to Google’s Algorithmic Governance
Instructor: Matteo Pasquinelli Date & Time: Tuesdays: March 3rd - 24th 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM EST

Since the times of Smith, Ricardo and Marx, if not for even longer, capital has functioned as a form of computation constituted by and as a complex mathematical system. After WWII the numeric essence of capital has been coupled with the informational dimension of cybernetics and computing machines, while also subsuming emergent forms of augmented intelligence. Capitalism, as a form of accounting and as an exterior mnemonic technique, is in itself a form of transhuman intelligence. Cognitive capitalism, specifically, on the basis of its infonumeric procedures, from layman’s accounting to sophisticated algotrading, as well as from immaterial labour to scientific research, is an institution of computation.

The aim of the seminar is twofold: on the one hand, it will provide a critical introduction to the notions of cognitive capitalism, immaterial labour and general intellect as developed by Autonomist Marxism, as well as those of abstraction and the automation of intellectual labour & artificial intelligence, as discussed in the accelerationist debates. On the other hand, the seminar will test these theories and hypotheses on the ground of contemporary case studies contextualized by the global networks of the Internet and social media, logistics and the internet of things, intelligence apparatuses, climate science infrastructures and the algorithmic stock exchange. Finally, each session of the seminar will be dedicated to a specific historical technological assemblage: 1) the role of information within the industrial factory; 2) the role of machinic knowledge in post-WWII cybernetic factories; 3) the role of ranking algorithms and procedures in the network society; 4) the role of algorithmic governmentality in the metadata society.

The seminar will be composed of four 2.5 hour sessions. Students will write four mini-essays of 500-1000 words for each session in relation to the research focus, due at the end of each week. The mini-essays will be posted to the Google Classroom page for everyone to read and comment upon, providing some preliminary threads for the group discussions, tutorials and final presentation or potential publication of research projects. The top pieces will be given extensive feedback for revision into a full paper and promoted by the professor for publication in leading academic and/or para-academic venues. This is the first module of a two-part seminar.

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