Cloud Ethics

Algorithms and the Attributes of Ourselves and Others

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: 27 illustrations Published: May 2020

Author: Louise Amoore

Geography, Politics > Political Theory, Science and Technology Studies

In Cloud Ethics Louise Amoore examines how machine learning algorithms are transforming the ethics and politics of contemporary society. Conceptualizing algorithms as ethicopolitical entities that are entangled with the data attributes of people, Amoore outlines how algorithms give incomplete accounts of themselves, learn through relationships with human practices, and exist in the world in ways that exceed their source code. In these ways, algorithms and their relations to people cannot be understood by simply examining their code, nor can ethics be encoded into algorithms. Instead, Amoore locates the ethical responsibility of algorithms in the conditions of partiality and opacity that haunt both human and algorithmic decisions. To this end, she proposes what she calls cloud ethics—an approach to holding algorithms accountable by engaging with the social and technical conditions under which they emerge and operate.


“Beautifully written and richly documented, Louise Amoore's Cloud Ethics analyzes the workings of algorithms in contemporary society, from those assessing security risks to self-learning and self-programming neural nets. She draws on her extensive interviews with experts in the field to explore the nuances of algorithmic doubt and certainty. Finally, she calls for a new ethics of doubt in which the individual components of algorithms are scrutinized to open new spaces for critique that can ‘crack open’ the seemingly certain fabulations of algorithmic calculation. Technically stunning and critically informed, this book is required reading for anyone interested in how to resist the current trends toward algorithmic governmentality.” — N. Katherine Hayles, Distinguished Research Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

“Calling for an embrace of the contingency and doubt that is inherent in the structure and working of algorithms, this important book refuses mythologies of certainty and machinic omnipotence. Framing computation as a partial accounting, Cloud Ethics moves beyond the unproductive binaries of ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ to consider algorithms as generative of complex political possibilities.” — Caren Kaplan, author of Aerial Aftermaths: Wartime from Above

"Similar to scholars such as N. Katherine Hayles, Amoore engages with a wide range of philosophers and novelists to make sense of the ethicopolitical implications of algorithms. As a result, the book is highly engaging and is densely packed with novel ideas and concepts (e.g., ‘space of play’ and ‘algorithmic author function’) that will undoubtedly take on a life of their own in future research. Given their proliferation in society, there has never been a more apt time to examine the ethicopolitical impact of algorithms, and Louise Amoore’s Cloud Ethics is the book to turn to." — Ben Jacobsen, Information, Communication & Society

"Amoore . . . has written what I consider to be essential reading for anyone interested in the ethical and political analysis of our digital condition." — Davide Panagia, Public Books

Cloud Ethics takes up the ethico-political questions surrounding machine learning and deep neural network algorithms and how they have become arbitrators in governing significant spheres and spaces of human involvement…. At a time when there is a complete polarisation of opinion regarding the use of algorithms as the reactions are generally that of either paranoia or celebration, Amoore’s book attempts to give the reader a much-needed clarity regarding its intricate operations albeit through hefty philosophical concepts, debates and ideas.”

— Suryansu Guha, Theory, Culture & Society

“In a Covid-19 world increasingly organized through new technologies of algorithmic governance, racialized surveillance regimes, biometric data collection, and contact tracing, Louise Amoore’s Cloud Ethics couldn't be more timely. By fabulating an ethicopolitics of algorithmic systems, or what she nominates a cloud ethics, Amoore contributes to a growing body of scholarship dedicated to critiques of artificial intelligence, surveillance regimes, and algorithmic governance.” — Erin McElroy, Society and Space


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Louise Amoore is Professor of Political Geography at Durham University and author of The Politics of Possibility: Risk and Security beyond Probability, also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  xi
Introduction. Politics and Ethics in the Age of Algorithms  1
Part 1. Condensation
1. The Cloud Chambers: Condensed Data and Correlative Reason  29
2. The Learning Machines: Neural Networks and Regimes of Recognition  56
Part 2. Attribution
3. The Uncertain Author: Writing and Attribution  85
4. The Madness of Algorithms: Aberration and Unreasonable Acts  108
Part 3. Ethics
5. The Doubtful Algorithm: Ground Truth and Partial Accounts  133
6. The Unattributable: Strategies for a Cloud Ethics  154
Notes  173
Bibliography  197
Index  212
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0831-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0778-4