, 16 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
#SurveillanceCapitalism from @shoshanazuboff is a MUST read. But at over 700 pages, it’s a beast, so in the thread below I’ve outlined some key ideas. Zuboff introduces a new language to help define an emerging system of power. Also see @susskind_TBA @MazzucatoM @profgalloway
1/ Surveillance capitalism (S.C.) is “a new economic order that claims human experience as free material for hidden commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sales”.
2/ S.C. introduces a new form of power called “Instrumentarianism”. Instrumentarian power “knows and shapes human behavior towards others ends. Instead of armaments and armies, it works its will through the automated medium of an increasingly ubiquitous computational architecture
3/ Instrumentarianism is different to totalitarianism. “Totalitarianism was a transformation of the state into a project of total possession. Instrumentarianism, “signals the transformation of the market into a project of total certainty.”
4/ Surveillance capitalism is NOT technology. Rather it is a “market form that is unimaginable outside of the digital milieu, but it is not the same as the “digital”. S.C. is a result of neo-liberalism and post 9/11 environment. It is not the inevitable result of technology.
5/ New harms are emerging, which can not be explained by old harms such as “monopoly” and “privacy”. They "entail challenges to the sanctity of the individual". Support should be given to "the right to the future tense and the right to sanctuary.”
6/ Under S.C. users are not “the product”. Rather "we are the sources of raw-material supply... Its products are about predicting us, without actually caring what we do, or what is done to us.”
7/ Companies gather data, which they feed into machine intelligence to create “prediction products” to “forecast what we will feel, think and do: now, soon and later.” “prediction products are then sold into a new kind of market that trades exclusively in future behaviour.”
8/ Behavioural futures markets - “Once dedicated to targeted online advertising, these markets now grow to encompass predictions about what human beings will do now, soon and later". Importantly, “unpredictable behaviour is the equivalent of lost revenue.”
9/ For Zuboff the individual should be given “the right to sanctuary”. Forms of “friction”, safe-spaces and sanctuaries should be created to slow down or stop the “pathological” extraction of data.
10/ Quote @paulmschwartz “the danger that the computer poses is to human autonomy. The more that is known about someone, the easier it is to control him....democracy requires structuring of the societal use of information and even permitting some concealment of information.”
11/ What behavior modification is all about - “the aim of this undertaking is not to impose behavioral norms, such as conformity or obedience, but rather to produce behavior that reliably, definitively and certainly leads to desired commercial results.”
12/ Surveillance capitalism drives a “pathological” hunger for data gathering, extraction and analysis. It reminds me of @harir_yuval concept of “dataism”, gone very bad.
13/ Surveillance capitalism could be undermining the importance of “ignorance” which underpins traditional markets. As companies try to achieve total information and profit certainty, this "is a fundamental reversal of the classic ideal of the market as intrinsically unknowable.”
14/ S.C. also abandons “organic reciprocities” that had been (eventually) achieved in capitalism. “These reciprocities hearken back to Adam Smith’s original insights into the productive social relations of capitalism, in which firms rely on people as employees and customers.”
15/ This is not a review and there are many good criticisms that have been put to Zuboff. For comprehensive review, try thebaffler.com/latest/capital… from @evgenymorozov. However Zuboff's concepts, language and arguments are important and should be debated.
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