Curiosity Meets Discovery Lecture Series

Doing algorithmic governance

Mar 16,
  • Time:
  • Location: MPFI.ORG

For a while now, social scientists have been fascinated by utopian narratives surrounding the digital revolution and its potential to optimize efficiency and transparency, for example when checking welfare applications, predicting crimes in troubled neighborhoods, sorting populations at key entry points, or tracking tax income. However, the actual rollout of these new technologies has produced disappointing results, failing to substantially lighten workloads or preserve important resources. Nevertheless, the hope for this growing technology persists, and the goal of automated decision-making remains attractive. How can iterative learning and new technology provoke people to learn and hope? Are incremental improvements enough to keep the utopian dream alive?

In this talk, Dr. Ursula Rao, a Director at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, uses case studies from India’s vast experience in digital and biometric governance to explore the process of making functional new forms of algorithmic governance. She directs attention to the role of human imagination and techno-optimism as critical components of future-making and examines the critical importance of hope when struggling to improve technology for a brighter tomorrow.

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