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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Big Tech spends billions to lobby against oversight, while capitalizing on publicly funded data and details of our private lives



The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power by Shoshana Zuboff is an eye-opening book, that everyone who loves freedom needs to heed. Here are snippets of reviews of the book:

This book explains the challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, and offers an extensive, highly detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called “surveillance capitalism,” and the quest by powerful corporations led by Leftist billionaires [think: Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Twitter] to predict and control us.

The heady optimism of the Internet’s early days is gone. Technologies that were meant to liberate us have deepened inequality and stoked divisions. Tech companies gather our information online and sell it to the highest bidder, whether government or retailer.

The Profits Roll In

Profits now depend not only on predicting our behavior but modifying it too. How will this fusion of capitalism and the digital shape our values and define our future?

We are at a crossroads. We still have the power to decide what kind of world we want to live in, and what we decide now will shape the rest of the century.

Our choices: allow technology to enrich the few and impoverish the many, or harness it and distribute its benefits. The stark issue at hand is whether we will be the masters of information and machines or its slaves.

We Are Their Pawns

A review of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism from the Guardian observed that we are their pawns. Tech companies want to control every aspect of what we do, for profit. This bold, vital book identifies our new era of capitalism.

First intent on organizing all human knowledge, Google ended up controlling all access to it; we do the searching, and are searched in turn. Setting out merely to connect us, Facebook found itself in possession of our deepest secrets.

In seeking to survive commercially beyond their initial goals, these companies realized they were sitting on a new kind of asset: our “behavioral surplus”, the totality of information about our every thought, word and deed, which could be traded for profit in new markets based on predicting our every need – or producing it.

In a move of such audacity that it bears comparison to colonial conquests, the tech giants unilaterally declared that these previously untapped resources were theirs for the taking, and brushed aside every objection.

Above the Law

While insisting that their technology is too complex to be legislated, companies have poured billions into lobbying against oversight, while building empires on publicly funded data and the details of our private lives. They have repeatedly rejected established norms of societal responsibility and accountability.

What is crucially different about this new form of exploitation and exceptionalism, is that beyond merely strip-mining our intimate inner lives, is that the extraction is so grotesque, so creepy, it is almost impossible to see how anyone who thinks about, it lives with it – and yet we do.

The benefits of faster search results and turn-by-turn directions mask the deeper, destructive predations of  “surveillance capitalism,” a force that is as profoundly undemocratic as it is exploitative….

Ignorance of surveillance capitalism is one of the central strategies of this regime, and yet the tide is turning: more and more people express their unease about the surveillance economy and, disturbed by the fractious, alienated, and trustless social sphere it generates, are seeking alternatives.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®

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