Life by AlgorithmsHow Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World

Life by AlgorithmsHow Roboprocesses Are Remaking Our World

Catherine Besteman and Hugh Gusterson

Print publication date: 2020

ISBN: 9780226627427

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


The book explores, analyzes, and critiques the ubiquitous, confounding, and powerful ways in which automated processes derived from binary computer logic have infiltrated contemporary life. Roboprocesses are automated models intended to evaluate, enhance profitability or efficiency, audit, or standardize human behavior. Based on evaluation protocols or formulaic scripts for interaction and judgment mobilized by commercial and state bureaucracies in their dealings with customers and citizens, roboprocesses shape human experience and action, create categories and thus identities and hierarchies, define reality, and mold future action. Authors examine how algorithms are applied to such diverse processes and arenas as standardized testing protocols mandated by No Child Left Behind, audits, social media, felony convictions, the mortgage crisis, pig farming, deportations of minors, international indicators, and surveillance. In each of these examples, roboprocesses take on a life of their own, mandating the collection of data in certain predetermined kinds of ways that in turn shape how outcomes are imagined and produced.

Table of Contents

Front Matter


Hugh Gusterson


2 Roboeducation

Anne Lutz Fernandez and Catherine Lutz


6 Emotional Roboprocesses

Robert W. Gehl



Catherine Besteman