NPJ Book Review: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff 2019

My take. The Internet is a towering deluge of information and data. The internet user is exploited on a minute to minute bases. Humanity itself has become the product or even worse the carcass left over after the wealthiest high-tech companies “have picked over our remains.”  We are living in age of massive inequities in knowledge, information, power and wealth.

Today, even hope comes with a price tag. The hundreds of volumes published each year on how to survive and achieve wealth helps those already with money who invite the ignorant on new ways to achieve modest wealth, while lining their own pockets. Everything costs, even opinions on self-help. Our human debt grows alongside our economic debt.

It’s the nature of today’s oligarchy to desire control.  Essential to capitalism is the win-loser mentality of competition. In such a game only the wealthiest are the winners. The cards are stacked. The game is rigged against the majority unless you are willing to do whatever is necessary. Even then your playing a game that’s not your game. People have become the product in the age of surveillance capitalism.

The author states, “This book is about the darkening of the digital dream and its rapid mutation into a voracious and utterly novel commercial project that I call surveillance capitalism.” Everything a person does today is affected by the Internet and the technologies on the horizon appear to govern all aspects of the human experience.

Who are these technology companies that are so invasive of the human experience.  Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Microsoft are some of the most significant – with  “technologically advanced and increasingly inescapable raw-material-extraction-operation.” Everything we do online is currently collected and sold to feed the wealthiest…hope in the long run may turn out as an existential illusion as Nietzsche once observed.

Is it too late? Have we already succumbed to capitalism latest incarnation? How does one strike back? Civil ligation is costly for most people. Today who has the resources? What part of your soul is up for sale? The thrust of this work is about knowledge and power and the economics behind it.

Capitalism itself succeeds best when knowledge and wealth are redistributed to level the playing field.

Our competitive and capitalistic ideals? As Thomas Paine observed, “Infidelity (to our ideals) does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving: it consists in professing to believe what he (she) does not believe.”  If the wealthiest have no moral compass then a civilized society finds itself on the edge of a cliff. Is capitalism itself core to problem with the technological giants merely taking advantage of those “of a lesser god?”

The book opens the door to many questions….core to surveillance capitalism is the very nature of greed. Who shall reverse the course? The author gives her thoughts and offers intriguing insights. The questions remain. Thought-provoking.