The Black Technical Object

On Machine Learning and the Aspiration of Black Being The Antipolitical

4.5 in x 7 in 15 b&w illus., 150 pages

Published by Sternberg Press.

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A contemplation on the abstruse nature of machine learning, mathematics, and the deep incursion of racial hierarchy.

The Black Technical Object aims at introducing the history of statistical analysis and a knowledge of sociogenesis—a system of racism amenable to scientific explanation—into machine learning research as an act of impairing the racial ordering of the world. While machine learning—computer programming designed for taxonomic patterning—provides useful insight into racism and racist behavior, a gap is present in the relationship between machine learning, the racial history of scientific explanation, and the Black lived experience.

Ramon Amaro explores how the history of data and statistical analysis provides a clear (and often sudden) grasp of the complex relationship between race and machine learning. Amaro juxtaposes a practical analysis of machine learning with a theory of Black alienation in order to inspire alternative approaches to contemporary algorithmic practice. In doing so, he offers a continuous …

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"We must consider how race makes use of machine learning for the purpose of its own survival"

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Machine learning seeks out coherence and the calculable. Amaro argues that these technologies transform an affirmative Blackness that exceeds any abstraction into something that fits the matrix of Whiteness. The book theorizes a different encounter between the Blackness and machine learning:

"What if this Black technical object was to interact with the logics of machine learning beyond the desire for recognition and reinforcement of its existing rudimeentary operations? What if we, the Black technical object, were to travel through the algorithmic as that which enacts its own form of reason, to arrive at a self-actualization or what Fanon calls 'effective disalienation'?" (14-15)