Surveillance Capitalism

Never have I been so frightened by a book as I have been with The Age Of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff, a fascinating and scary description of how capitalism has shifted in the past thirty years, essentially since the development of the World Wide Web and the digital age. A brief review is available here.

Since returning from traveling to Eastern Canada in September and October, I have been reluctant to access email, post to my blog, et cetera. Partly this has to do with my reading of this book. Every interchange on the web (browsing, email, cloud storage, et cetera) has a small amount of meta-data hidden from the average viewer. This data may include the date and location of the source transaction as well as the identity of the sender, data that when compiled can track and predict how an individual acts on a minute to minute basis. Much of the time this data is so hidden that it is not subject to the usual rules of privacy, and such that the extraction of this data occurs in the dark, and is then compiled and sold to others as a commodity without the permission of the originator. Such data can also be sold even if the originator expressly requests that the data be removed.

The technology of extracting and utilizing this data has become so potent that targeting of advertising can be made at and to the individual, and the hidden emotional manipulation is easily available. Even with my limited usage of the internet, I’ve been noticing interesting examples. For example, my email is dave.macq@icloud.com and I have a peripheral email dave.macq@gmail.com. I use an iMac and have an iPhone. I almost never use the gmail account; largely I have it so that I can access Google Docs that are sometimes sent to me.

If I am at a browser site, and want to share the link with another person, I access the Share link, then the email link. And of course the system offers auto-refill of addresses. The first one is always my gmail address and usually my default icloud address is not part of the list. Is this an example of targeting? My guess is Yes, particularly since the biggest player in this surveillance commodification Google, followed closely by Facebook.

I strongly recommend the book. The future it paints is very dystopic, even if we somehow manage to minimize the consequences of climate disruption.

All of which places me in a position of great distrust.

For this post, I also include a number of recent (and not so recent) links that I have found useful. Many are from David Suzuki, and although I recognize that (at least in Western Canada) he is a contentious figure, his writing is generally clear.

We owe Greta and the youth more than a Nobel Prize (20191016)

Greta Thunberg represents a tipping point, perhaps. As readers of this blog know, I repeatedly ask what will it take for us to mobilize effectively. It is not yet clear.

Forming bonds in times of crisis (20191113)

In contrast, David Suzuki offers “Change isn’t easy, but when people come together for the good of humanity and Earth, we can accomplish great things.”

Navigating difficult climate conversations (20121211)

A David Suzuki article emphasizing the need for building relationship rather than arguing ‘facts.’

Failure to address climate crisis puts children at risk (20191128)

A brief but fairly good summary of the current impact of global warming.

A 2020 vision for climate action (20201008)

More David Suzuki commentary on our failing systems and how to respond.

What Would Net Zero Emissions by 2025 Look Like? (20191115)

The Extinction Rebellion (XR) social cause asks/demands net zero emissions by 2025. As usual, Dave Pollard presents a detailed thoughtful analysis of what this would really require. Worth reading to get a sense of how difficult this will/would be.

Collective Intelligence to Make Sense of Complexity (20200106)

Here, Dave Pollard offers very clear thinking as to the problems inherent in all complex difficulties.

Revolutionary recycling? A new technology turns everyday trash into plastic treasure. (20191118)

Still under investigation and shrouded in commercial secrecy, this could be a major step forward in the management of our accumulating garbage, as well as a replacement process to manage plastic.

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