Taking as point of departure the claim that, in late modern societies, there has been shift from a focus on producing measures of life and death towards metrics of health and disability, this paper investigates how, through what means and processes was this transition achieved. It proposes that such questions can be addressed by analysing the transcripts and sociotechnical network of a meeting held at the United States Senate on July 15th 1983 to assess the validity and sensitivity of life expectancy forecasts. The paper analyses how members of the Hearing transformed a weakly articulated set of differing life expectancy projections into a controversy about the issue of vitality and health in populations. Analysis of the Hearing proceedings suggests that ‘calculative devices’ played a generative role in problematizing the relationship between forms of expertise, calculative procedures, data infrastructures and specific expectations of the effect of technology on health and longevity. The paper details empirically that this re-composition was possible through a collective investigation – an opening up – of key instruments in the management of populations in ‘insurance societies’.
Moreira, T. (2019). Devicing future populations: Problematizing the relationship between quantity and quality of life. Social Studies of Science, 49(1), 118-137. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306312719829841