Artificial intelligence (AI) is arguably the new spectre of digital cultures. By filtering information out of existing data, it determines the way we see the world and how the world sees us. Yet the vision algorithms have of our future is built on our past. What we teach these algorithms ultimately reflects back on us and it is therefore no surprise when artificial intelligence starts to classify on the basis of race, class and gender. With this issue of spheres we want to focus on current discussions around AI, automation, robotics and machine learning, from an explicitly political perspective. Instead of invoking and, therefore, perpetuating the spectre of artificial intelligence as a ‘programmed vision’ built on our past, we are interested in tracing human and non-human agency within automated processes, discussing the ethical implications of machine learning, and exploring the ideologies behind the imaginaries of AI.