Surveillance Capitalism

I picked up an absolutely fascinating book called “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshona Zuboff. First off, I prefer non-fiction (reality) over fiction and this big book dives deep in the non-fiction, scary, scary reality of what it means to live in the digital age. I can already tell that this book is going to be a doozy of a read, because it hits right on the mark with how surveillance of digital and even non-digital ‘existence’ (even in your own home) is being used to plunder the future and create human automatons.

Maybe this is the answer to the zombie-like state I’ve seen in people everywhere. The indifference, apathy, total lack of awareness and zero interest in things that really matter.

From the book:

Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims human experience as free raw material for translation into behavioral data. They’re shaping our behavior at scale. The goal now is to automate us.

Yikes! But definitely true. You’d have to be asleep (oops! most people are) to not already realize this. Surveillance capitalism runs contrary to the early digital dream. Instead, it strips away the illusion that the network form (you) has some kind of indigenous moral content, that being “connected” is somehow intrinsically  pro-social, innately inclusive, or naturally tending toward the democratization of knowledge. Digital connection is now a means to others’ commercial ends. At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential.

In other words, it’s dangerous. And almost nobody realizes this, because billions and billions are doing it every day.

Surveillance capitalists quickly realized that they do anything that they wanted, and they did. The dressed in the fashions of advocacy and emancipation, appealing to and exploiting contemporary anxieties, while the real action was hidden offstage.

Consider that the internet has become essential for social participation, that the internet is now saturated with commerce, and that commerce is now subordinated to surveillance capitalism. Our dependency is at the heart of the commercial surveillance project, in which our felt needs for effective life vie against the inclinations to resist its bold incursions. The conflict produces psychic numbing that inures us to the realities of being tracked, parsed, mined and modified. It disposes us to rationalize the situation in resigned cynicism, create excuses that  operate life defense mechanisms (“I have nothing to hide”), or find other ways to stick our heads in the sand, choosing ignorance out of frustration and helplessness. In this sway, surveillance capitalism imposes a fundamentally illegitimate choice that twenty-first century individuals should not have to make, and its normalization leaves us singing in our chains. Surveillance capitalist know everything about us, whereas their operations are designed to be unknowable to us.

Just as industrial civilization flourished at the expense of of nature and now threatens to cost us the Earth, an information civilization shaped by surveillance capitalism and it’s new instrumentarian power will thrive at the expense of our human nature and will threaten to cost us our humanity.

And now they control us. Way, way beyond what most people might prefer to think. You are no longer ‘you’. You are now the programmed  ‘you’ with careful adjustments to your attitudes, beliefs, opinions, desires, appetites and much more.

Already this resonates with essays that I’ve written far less eloquently over the years. Way, way back, early in my career, I got online at the very beginning of the internet (ARPANET) and quickly realized that once digital connections and online resources became truly connected, there would be nothing stopping the surveillance and commercialization of the online space. This all proved to be true.

Later, I also came to realize that nobody else saw the real danger (at the time) and dismissed it if the topic was brought up. Now, being connected means to be monitored, tracked and even modified in your thinking and behavior, the daily life you live isn’t yours like you think anymore. And the really, really scary part of this now is people are inviting this invisible control directly into their lives.

I doubt they realize the danger their in, but now it’s too late for them to escape, they’re fundamentally changed within and dependent upon these artificial ‘connections’ and subtle modifications taking place. Letting go (disconnecting) is akin to being dead in their minds.


This is the closest I’ve seen to explaining the noticeable (and deeply alarming) change in people in the last few decades. Why they are indifferent, blind, obedient and even dispirited. Why they cannot ‘see’ truth anymore or accept it when presented. Why they have become so dumbed down that you wonder how they managed to get dressed in the morning. And why they fall for so so many incessant lies and distortions so swiftly and so easily.

They’re robots, complete with full systems programming. I have some deep experience with cults and cult practices and this is exactly what I’m finding here. It’s called cultural programming by some, and in this article, Why We Stink At Tacklin Climate Change, the author ‘sort of’ gets it right. But not quite.

Our situation is not hopeless. We are not doomed to plod into an overheated future, prisoners of our slow-moving genomes and at the mercy of our hare-brained, rapid-moving, C02-spewing technology.

As long as we continue to receive and accept that the cultural programming taking place through surveillance capitalism – we probably are doomed, despite our still-remaining ability to recognize the growing peril we are in. Surveillance capitalism is preventing us from the necessary human survival condition of ‘extreme alarm’ and making essential changes to save ourselves.

This is a good example of how deadly this practice now is and why we must be cognizantly constantly aware of what is going on.

Here’s a timely article: You Give Apps Sensitive Personal Information. Then They Tell Facebook

I already know that telling the truth about all of this isn’t going to make any difference or matter to billions of people. They’re too far gone now in their programming and simply can’t accept ‘truth’ – they’re now culturally unable to escape. Maybe my constant rejection of social media is what prevented me from being programmed.


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