The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff

I cannot believe that I am finally blogging about this book! It took me an entire year mainly because this is a difficult read, and one that occasionally left me quite devastated. Zuboff is thorough and like anyone trying to find a solution, first she names the problem- Surveillance Capitalism.

1. A new economic order that claims human experience as free raw material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction, and sales; 2. A parasitic economic logic in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture of behavioural modifications; 3….

Too often we have left these large companies and states get away with the plunder of our human experiences. You may still be in the embryonic life-stage of saying “I know I am being tracked, but there’s nothing to see here” or “Am just an aggregated data point, no one cares about me” or “I don’t care“. But you need to care. And perhaps you could start with a small intro here from Zuboff herself.

What is Surveillance Capitalism- Shoshana Zuboff

Which came first in me? The book or a growing sense of dread of the exceedingly wired world? One year later, am not too sure. It was certainly there when I read that Mukesh Ambani, the RICHEST man in India and head of multiple sprawling businesses, had turned his eye (like that of Sauron) towards our data. “Data is the new oil” he said, a statement at once so greasy and terrifying, throwing up pictures of hyper-surveilled China. Maybe it also happened when I realised that Black Mirror episodes were not really as far fetched as it seemed. Or when Amazon, Facebook, Google, Instagram started showing me advertisements of things I had been talking about. Or when everyone was ageing themselves with an app. It definitely got aggravated when Chaayos casually asked customers to sign in “with your facial ID”..yes, just like that. Just like that, these large companies have been entering into our private worlds and making us more acceptable of the inevitable outcome, a society that is highly surveilled and well, manipulated. Some of her research on what Google’s top consultants and thought-leaders have been saying is quite disturbing. Did we actually start with Do No Evil and end up here? Never be so sure of yourself again.

We are in a very Conan-Doyle night of our existence- a cold, dense fog descends and the only way out of the marshes is by following a flickering will o’the wisp. Zuboff is that guide for me. And she should be yours too.

We are husks in a plantation, we hold the fruit of our behaviour.

Zuboff’s work is so seminal and vast, and I have to admit, something that I simply cannot write about. I only blogged to inspire a curiosity in you, a desire to explore this more. Please do, because while it all looks insurmountable, we will need a few of us to start questioning what seems like the inevitable. I end with Hannah Arendt’s quote that Zuboff herself has used in the final chapter- “What usually remains in the epochs of petrification and foreordained doom is the faculty of freedom itself, the sheer capacity to begin, which animates and inspires all human activities and is the hidden source…of all great and beautiful things”.

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