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Meet ‘Surveillance Capitalism,’ Our Terrifying New Economic Order


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Advanced technology isn’t just getting out of control, it’s being used as a means of control—big time. That’s the key message of Shoshana Zuboff’s new book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight For A Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, where the Harvard professor emerita and business analyst argues that Big Tech is determined to fully commodify, control, and co-opt human experiences to provide raw behavioral data that sustains its massive profits and power.

Put simply, Zuboff contends that surveillance capitalism is the constant tracking, analysis, and attempted modification of human behavior for the profit of tech giants who trade in what she terms “behavioral futures markets,” places where knowing what people are very likely to do tomorrow or next year is of enormous value to those trying to sell a product or service.

Surveillance capitalism renders human behavior by tracking, measuring, and analyzing from your smartphone to your smart home—from browsing the internet to private messages or emails with a colleague. This relatively new, dominant force intrudes through cookies and privacy permissions that in most cases must be accepted for a service to work properly or at all, including, for example, many smart home security systems.

Zuboff distinguishes surveillance capitalism at the outset from information capitalism. Whereas information capitalism makes money from information you provide, surveillance capitalism disguises itself in intimidating terms of service agreements and actually nudges your behavior so that you do what it wants in various ways, perpetuating a feedback loop of predatory control and emotional espionage enabled through advanced machine learning and algorithmic programming.

“Global revenue for AI products and services is expected to increase 56- fold, from $644 million in 2016 to $36 billion in 2025,”she notes, so we should probably be talking about this quite a lot as a society.:snip:

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