In a 1955 lecture the physicist Richard Feynman reflected on the place of doubt within scientific practice. ‘Permit us to question, to doubt, to not be sure’, proposed Feynman, ‘it is possible to live and not to know’. In our contemporary world, the science of machine learning algorithms appears to transform the relations between science, knowledge and doubt, to make even the most doubtful event amenable to action. What might it mean to ‘leave room for doubt’ or ‘to live and not to know’ in our contemporary culture, where the algorithm plays a major role in the calculability of doubts? I propose a posthuman mode of doubt that decentres the liberal humanist subject. In the science of machine learning algorithms the doubts of human and technological beings nonetheless dwell together, opening onto a future that is never fully reduced to the single output signal, to the optimised target.
Amoore, L. (2019). Doubt and the Algorithm: On the Partial Accounts of Machine Learning. Theory, Culture and Society, 36(6), 147-169. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276419851846