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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella
Length: 24 hrs and 16 mins
5 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)
Regular price: £28.29
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Summary

The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism", and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.

Shoshana Zuboff's interdisciplinary breadth and depth enable her to come to grips with the social, political, business, and technological meaning of the changes taking place in our time. We are at a critical juncture in the confrontation between the vast power of giant high-tech companies and government, the hidden economic logic of surveillance capitalism, and the propaganda of machine supremacy that threaten to shape and control human life. Will the brazen new methods of social engineering and behavior modification threaten individual autonomy and democratic rights and introduce extreme new forms of social inequality? Or will the promise of the digital age be one of individual empowerment and democratization?

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is neither a hand-wringing narrative of danger and decline nor a digital fairy tale. Rather, it offers a deeply reasoned and evocative examination of the contests over the next chapter of capitalism that will decide the meaning of information civilization in the 21st century. The stark issue at hand is whether we will be the masters of information and machines or its slaves. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

©2019 Shoshana Zuboff (P)2019 Hachette Audio

Critic reviews

"I will make a guarantee: Assuming we survive to tell the tale, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism has a high probability of joining the likes Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Max Weber's Economy and Society as defining social-economics texts of modern times. It is not a 'quick read'; it is to be savored and re-read and discussed with colleagues and friends. No zippy one-liners from me, except to almost literally beg you to read/ingest this book." (Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence)

"My mind is blown on every page by the depth of Shoshana's research, the breadth of her knowledge, the rigor of her intellect, and finally by the power of her arguments. I'm not sure we can end the age of surveillance capitalism without her help, and that's why I believe this is the most important book of our time." (Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy, editor in chief, Linux Journal)

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Terrifying & fascinating, a *must* read for C21st

Gripping. I am strongly recommending this book to everyone I can think of.
Essential reading to understand the world we live in, this should be read by every politician, entrepreneur and digital native and be in every schoolroom.

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  • Brad
  • 08-02-19

A MUST, NOT TO BE MISSED

Something wicked indeed has come this way, and is upon us now. Dubbed early on "The Information Age"; the appellation is woefully insufficient. For it is glaringly clear that we are well into the transition from occupying nation states (in which our social contracts as governed populations had long been between civil governments -- varied in kind, but with the one common feature of thriving entirely on human agency) to occupying corporate states. That is, it is not too soon to say we no longer populate nations but vast ruling corporations.

The singular, most curious and even frightening thing to consider is that to the degree we arrived at this predicament, we did so willingly. We did so under no other pressure than our own acquiescence. We did so not from ignorance of what was happening -- for this book is proof of that -- but from, if anything, a mass gaslighting. Thus, with all the facts before us, we chose the road called convenience rather than the road called liberty; and that, as the poet once wrote, made all the difference.

14 of 14 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
  • KYLE KNOLL
  • 15-03-19

Takes too much time to communicate simple points

I really tried hard hard to get into this book, but the author uses way too many words to communicate somewhat simple points. If you are looking to kill some time and like hearing an author ramble on using as many big words as possible, then this book is for you. I couldn't take it anymore and returned it.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Will Szal
  • 24-02-19

Required Reading for Anyone in Tech

The band Editrix begins their debut album with the line, “I did it for the Instagram.” In “Surveillance Capitalism,” we quickly learn the poignant truth of this lyric. Zuboff has spent her career exploring the question, “do we run the machine, or does it run us?"

At the heart of this book is a question around the Myth of Progress, and the Paradigm of Total Control. Is hazard part of the cosmos? Is there such thing as human freedom?

In the middle of the last century, many thought leaders concluded: no. Prominent Harvard psychologist, B. F. Skinner founded a movement called behaviorism, focused on controlling human behavior through the manipulation of their environment and external stimuli and incentives. The title of his novel, “Beyond Freedom and Dignity” aptly sums up the direction his work propelled us in.

Coming into the twenty-first century, societally we’ve realized that, no matter how extensive our data gathering, living systems are fundamentally unpredictable. Cosmologically, this is a big relief, because it leaves room for the foundational belief of ethics in the human right of free will. One way this has entered the zeitgeist is through Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s concept of the “black swan” event.

Luckily, fascism and capitalism have an answer to this unfortunate truth: hypernormalisation. Documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis, in his 2016 film of the same title, describes a world in which global powers have realized their inability to control the course of history. Rather than let go of their attachment to control, they craft a fictitious and oversimplified world for their citizenry, of which they can still be seen to be in control. Fake news is one of the vital instruments of the hypernormalisation toolkit.

And this brings us to the subject of Google and Facebook, the two companies in the crosshairs of Zuboff’s inquisition. As media theorist Douglas Rushkoff has pointed out, advertising has moved beyond simply looking to predict consumer behavior to actively shaping it. The implicit aim is squashing all unpredictability and creativity out of the populous. In other words, regardless of their belief in the veracity of human agency, the big tech companies are moving down the path of hypernormalisation.

Since Edward Snowden’s 2013 global surveillance disclosures, Silicon Valley has officially lost its innocence. And yet, every year, these companies keep expanding their reach. There have been some promising developments:

The sweeping policies contained within the 2016 European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a step in the right direction (although, to minimize compliance, companies like Facebook and Google opted to move their official headquarters back to the libertarian utopia of the United States, where meaningful legislation has yet to be enacted).

Although the blockchain movement was born in the financial collapse of 2008, it isn’t much of a reach to suggest that much of the wind in its sails comes from a desire for tech tools that put users back in control. Decentralization and distributed trust are some of the founding principles of this space—polar opposites of what corporations like Google and Facebook represent.

And then there’s proliferation of encrypted services and security-minded services: Helm (personal email server), Lavabit (next-generation encrypted email), Disconnect (VPN), Purism (secure laptop manufacturer), Signal (encrypted chat). Unfortunately, for these to be effective, they need to be deployed across someone’s entire digital life—an undertaking that only the enthusiast fringe are currently willing (and capable) of undertaking.

Despite this forward motion, we’re losing the privacy war. For this reason, Zuboff’s book could not be more timely. Her thorough treatment is required reading for anyone working in tech today. Zuboff regularly draws comparison of climate-change existentialism to the existentialism brought on by surveillance capitalism. The hype in merited, and hopefully this book will help to spur the conversations and political and economic mass action required for change.

7 of 19 people found this review helpful

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  • Todd Stephens
  • 06-03-19

One point

There was only one point just stayed over and over for 20 hours. Boring after the first 20 min

2 of 6 people found this review helpful