Surveillance – the foundation of a new economic paradigm
How does the secret architecture of surveillance capitalism play out? And what is the role of the tech giants in a society where computing increasingly invade privacy and even the bodies of humans?
At this stage computing will permeate all corners of life and increasingly invade the bodies of humans and animals as well. Timely to this new invasive digital stage Shoshana Zuboff, a professor emerita of Havard Business School, published her new book "The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power».
Based on many years of intensive research and underpinned by her extensive studies in economy, information technology and social psychology, Zuboff illuminates the secret architecture of a new economic paradigm surfacing in Silicon Valley under coincidental historic constellations since the early 2000s. The three tech-giants Google, Facebook and Microsoft serve as the Petri dish for her to observe the "DNA-structure" of what she terms "surveillance capitalism". This emergent, more radical and unprecedented version of capitalism based on extensive surveillance of human behaviour claims human experience to be a free raw material for translation into behavioural data. Even though some data is applied to improve services, additionally gathered data is declared proprietary behavioural surplus; secretly extracted, aggregated and analyzed by machine intelligence and fabricated into prediction products that can anticipate peoples present or future actions.
These prediction products are then traded in new marketplaces, which Zuboff coins behavioural futures markets. The emergent economic logic separates citizens into two groups with enormous asymmetries in knowledge and power: the watchers and the watched. While the powerful watchers are invisible, unknown and unaccountable, the watched are powerless and often not aware of being watched.
Zuboff compares the big tech companies procedures´ with the colonial conquest of the first Spaniards that reached the Caribbean islands and enriched themselves in a regulatory vacuum. She discloses the self-referential, parasitic character of this new economic architecture, which she claims is deeply anti-democratic and exclusive of a small tech-elite. The economy builds on a mathematic understanding that degrades human beings; they are considered deterministic objects who can be steered, manipulated and harvested of the most private details by indifferent and unmoral acting machines. Zuboff urgently warns that this new logic is a serious threat not only to democracy in society but to every individuals autonomy, sovereignty and dignity. The book is not only engagingly written but offers a constructive and long-awaited corrective to the dominating and unilateral rhetoric’s of the industry and the tech-giants from Silicon Valley.
Shoshana Zuboff`s Webpage
Reviews of the book:
VoxPublica (in Norwegian)