Shoshana Zuboff

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

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The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.
Shoshana Zuboff's interdisciplinary breadth and depth enable her to come to grips with the social, political, business, and technological meaning of the changes taking place in our time. We are at a critical juncture in the confrontation between the vast power of giant high-tech companies and government, the hidden economic logic of surveillance capitalism, and the propaganda of machine supremacy that threaten to shape and control human life. Will the brazen new methods of social engineering and behavior modification threaten individual autonomy and democratic rights and introduce extreme new forms of social inequality? Or will the promise of the digital age be one of individual empowerment and democratization?
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1,073 printed pages

Impressions

    Azizbek Mannopovshared an impressionlast year

    Brilliant

Quotes

    Azizbek Mannopovhas quotedlast year
    Using Karl Polanyi’s lens, we see that surveillance capitalism annexes human experience to the market dynamic so that it is reborn as behavior: the fourth “fictional commodity.” Polanyi’s first three fictional commodities—land, labor, and money—were subjected to law. Although these laws have been imperfect, the institutions of labor law, environmental law, and banking law are regulatory frameworks intended to defend society (and nature, life, and exchange) from the worst excesses of raw capitalism’s destructive power. Surveillance capitalism’s expropriation of human experience has faced no such impediments.
    Azizbek Mannopovhas quotedlast year
    Radical indifference is a response to economic imperatives, and only occasionally do we catch an unobstructed view of its strict application as a managerial discipline. One such occasion was a 2016 internal Facebook memo acquired by BuzzFeed in 2018. Written by one of the company’s long-standing and most influential executives, Andrew Bosworth, it provided a window into radical indifference as an applied discipline. “We talk about the good and the bad of our work often. I want to talk about the ugly,” Bosworth began. He went on to explain how equivalence wins out over equality in the worldview of “an organism among organisms” that is essential to the march toward totality and thus the growth of surveillance revenues:
    We connect people. That can be good if they make it positive. Maybe someone finds love. Maybe it even saves the life of someone on the brink of suicide. So we connect more people. That can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools. And still we connect people. The ugly truth is that… anything that allows us to connect more people more often is de facto good. It is perhaps the only area where the metrics do tell the true story as far as we are concerned.… That’s why all the work we do in growth is justified. All the questionable contact importing practices. All the subtle language that helps people stay searchable by friends. All of the work we do to bring more communication in.… The best products don’t win. The ones everyone uses win… make no mistake, growth tactics are how we got here.26
    As Bosworth makes clear, from the viewpoint of radical indifference the positives and negatives must be viewed as equivalent, despite their distinct moral meanings and human consequences. From this perspective the only rational objective is the pursuit of products that snare “everyone,” not “the best products.”
    Alexey Terekhovhas quoted10 months ago
    We are the sources of surveillance capitalism’s crucial surplus: the objects of a technologically advanced and increasingly inescapable raw-material-extraction operation. Surveillance capitalism’s actual customers are the enterprises that trade in its markets for future behavior

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