The Allure and Exploitation of Surveillance Capitalism
Some quotes from Zuboff
The following are quotes from Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (pages 467-468, 470):
Facebook, social media in general—these are environments engineered to induce and exaggerate this homing to the human herd1, particularly among the young. We are lured to the social mirror, our attention riveted by its dark charms of social comparison, social pressure, social influence. “Online all day,” “online almost all day.” As we fixate on the crowd, the technologically equipped commercial harvesters circle quietly and cast their nets….
Facebook is the crucible of this new dark science. It aims to perfect the relentless stimulation of social comparison in which natural empathy is manipulated and instrumentalized to modify behavior toward others’ ends. This synthetic hive is a devilish pact for a young person….
It is a new phenomenon to live continually in t he milieu of the gaze of others, to be followed by hundreds or thousands of eyes, augmented by Big Other’s decides, sensors, beams, and waves rendering, recording, analyzing, and actuating. The unceasing pace, density, and volume of the gaze deliver a perpetual stream of evaluative metrics that raise or lower one’s social currency with each click. In China, these rankings are public territory, shiny badges of honor and scarlet letters that open or shut every door. In the West, we have “likes,” “friends,” “followers,” and hundreds of other secret rankings that invisibly pattern our lives.
Facebook’s applied utopistics are a prototype of an instrumentarian future, showcasing feats of behavioral engineering that groom populations for the rigors of instrumentarianism’s coercive harmonies. Its operations are designed to exploit the human inclination toward empathy, belonging, and acceptance. The system tunes the pitch of our own behavior with the rewards and punishments of social pressure, herding the human heart toward confluence as a means to others’ commercial ends.
Industrial capitalism depended upon the exploitation and control of nature, with catastrophic consequences that we only now recognize. Surveillance capitalism…depends instead upon the exploitation and control of human nature.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is one of the most important books ever written about the internet. It’s worth a read.
Note from Chris: Zuboff is referencing an old practice in which humans captured messenger pigeons by paying attention to their flying patterns, which she mentions earlier in the chapter from which I pulled this excerpt.