Rodrigo Ochigame, Actuarialism and Racial Capitalism (Ethics of AI in Context)

Ethics of AI in Context, Race, Ethics + Power

Actuarialism and Racial Capitalism

As national and regional governments form expert commissions to regulate “automated decision-making,” a new corporate-sponsored field of research proposes to formalize the elusive ideal of “fairness” as a mathematical property of algorithms and especially of their outputs. Computer scientists, economists, lawyers, lobbyists, and policy reformers wish to hammer out, in advance or in place of regulation, algorithmic redefinitions of “fairness” and such legal categories as “discrimination,” “disparate impact,” and “equal opportunity.”

But general aspirations to fair algorithms have a long history. This talk recounts some past attempts to answer questions of fairness through the use of algorithms. In particular, it focuses on “actuarial” practices of individualized risk classification in private insurance firms, consumer credit bureaus, and police departments since the late nineteenth century. The emerging debate on algorithmic fairness may be read as a response to the latest moral crisis of computationally managed racial capitalism.

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This is an online event. It will be live streamed on the Centre for Ethics YouTube Channel on Tuesday, October 20. Channel subscribers will receive a notification at the start of the live stream. (For other events in the series, and to subscribe, visit

Rodrigo Ochigame
History, Anthropology, & Science, Technology, and Society

Tue, Oct 20, 2020
04:00 PM - 05:30 PM
Centre for Ethics, University of Toronto
200 Larkin