Surveillance Capitalism and Democracy

Speaker: Shoshana Zuboff
Date recorded: Feb 13, 2019
Shoshana Zuboff discusses her latest book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

Shoshana Zuboff–Surveillance capitalism arrived on the scene with democracy already on the ropes, its early life sheltered and nourished by neoliberalism’s claims to freedom that set it at a distance from the lives of people. Surveillance capitalists quickly learned to exploit the gathering momentum aimed at hollowing out democracy’s meaning and muscle. Despite the democratic promise of its rhetoric and capabilities, it contributed to a new Gilded Age of extreme wealth inequality, as well as to once-unimaginable new forms of economic exclusivity and new sources of social inequality that separate “the tuners” from “the tuned.”

Among the many insults to democracy and democratic institutions imposed by this coup des gens, Zuboff counts the unauthorized expropriation of private human experience; the hijack of the division of learning in society; the structural independence from people; the top-down imposition of the hive collective; the rise of instrumentarian power and radical indifference that together sustain its extractive logic; the construction, ownership, and operation of the means of behavior modification that is Big Other; the abrogation of the natural right to the future tense and the natural right to sanctuary; the degradation of the self-determining individual as the crucible of democratic life; and the insistence on psychic numbing as the answer to its illegitimate quid pro quo.

This event is hosted by Data & Society’s AI on the Ground Research Lead Madeleine Clare Elish.