Note — Feb 02, 2020

You Are Now Remotely Controlled

Seen in → No.111

Source →

Opinion piece at The New York Times by Shoshana Zuboff. Definitely not the first time she threads these grounds or the first time I link to her or articles concerning the book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, but it’s good to revisit and some of the ideas most emphasized here, like the focus on “epistemic inequality,” weren’t as central in some other articles.

Excellent read giving us a serious and important overview of how Google, Facebook, and their ilk control knowledge, who has access, who knows what about whom; how they sell our data, profiles, emotions, and manufactured behavioral predictions. It’s sometimes a bit tiring to come back to these topics but it’s extremely important to gain a solid understanding of these mechanisms and Zuboff is one of the most thoughtful sources of this understanding.

[W]e enter its third decade marked by a stark new form of social inequality best understood as “epistemic inequality.” It recalls a pre-Gutenberg era of extreme asymmetries of knowledge and the power that accrues to such knowledge, as the tech giants seize control of information and learning itself. […]

Our digital century shifts society’s coordinates from a division of labor to a “division of learning,” and it follows that the struggle over access to knowledge and the power conferred by such knowledge will shape the politics of our time. […]

In the competition for scope, surveillance capitalists want your home and what you say and do within its walls. They want your car, your medical conditions, and the shows you stream; your location as well as all the streets and buildings in your path and all the behavior of all the people in your city. They want your voice and what you eat and what you buy; your children’s play time and their schooling; your brain waves and your bloodstream. Nothing is exempt. […]

In the absence of new declarations of epistemic rights and legislation, surveillance capitalism threatens to remake society as it unmakes democracy. From below, it undermines human agency, usurping privacy, diminishing autonomy and depriving individuals of the right to combat. From above, epistemic inequality and injustice are fundamentally incompatible with the aspirations of a democratic people.”