The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

“I reject inevitability, and it is my hope that as a result of our journey together, you will too. We are at the beginning of this story, not the end… There is still time to take the reins and direct the action towards a human future that we can call home.” ~ Shoshana Zoboff


Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is a Big, Important book. (It is also extraordinarily well researched and well written, making it well worth the significant time commitment required to read it.)

The book explores the way our lived experiences (what Shoshana Zuboff terms our “behavioural surplus”) are being processed and commodified by corporations; and then sold back to us in the form of hyper-personalised, maximum-value-extracting offers.

Like it or not, humanity is being quantified. For better or for worse, our lives are being transcribed into bits and bytes that will determine our destines, our access to capital and opportunity, our freedom of movement and even our freedom of thought. If you are alive today your should be concerned about how your own data is being weaponised and being used to exploit and control you by both profit-hungry corporations and power-hungry politicians.

Shoshana Zuboff and I do not agree on everything (I’m pro personal and economic freedoms, she is only pro the former; she believes more regulation can save the day, I believe politicians are an even greater threat to human flourishing than unscrupulous businessmen) but we absolutely do agree that data is power, and that with great power comes great responsibility – and even greater temptation for abuse of that power. (After all, if power corrupts, lots of power, well, corrupts rather a lot.)

This is why I think that the Age of Surveillance Capitalism is required reading for people who believe (as I do) that we deserve more than someone else’s vision of our future.

The future is not set on an irrevocable course to be a utopia or a dystopia. Rather, it is up to each and every one of us to determine what sort of world we want to live in: a perfectly clinical, controlled, digitised robotic existence; a messy, ambiguous, warm, human existence; or something in between.

If the present generation, or any other, are disposed to be slaves, it does not lessen the right of the succeeding generation to be free: wrongs cannot have a legal descent.” ~ Tom Paine


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