Insofar as planning mediates between the order of what is and the question of what might be, it is not only a matter of philosophy but also one of engineering. Particularly at a time when routines of financial speculation and pattern recognition have colonized the making of futures, planning has become a process of creating architectural opportunities from scattered corpuses of extracted data. Mindful of the importance of machine learning in such processes, this article critically grapples with the proposition that techniques of reverse engineering offer a means of cracking these future making routines and turning them toward projects of social and political ameli oration. I argue that technical practices of reverse engineering need to articulate to radical political projects and modes of organization. Drawing on computer science studies of adversarial machine learning, I also consider the question of whether reverse engineering of machine learning techniques is technically possible. Ultimately, the article contrasts political claims for reverse engineering with what I call the reverse of engineering, or a program that entails the subordination of data to futures rather than planning processes that work from the merely evidential and measurable.
The Reverse of Engineering
Brett Neilson is a Professor in the Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. He is currently working on the Australian Research Council Discovery Project “Data Centres and the Governance of Labour and Territory.” With Sandro Mezzadra, he is author of Border as Method, or, the Multiplication of Labor (2013) and The Politics of Operations: Excavating Contemporary Capitalism (2019).
Brett Neilson; The Reverse of Engineering. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 January 2020; 119 (1): 75–93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-8007665
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