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Pete Lawrence - 13 Feb 2019


"We are a new kind of political collective that has not yet been named." 

This may be of particular interest to users of Facebook and Google.

I was lucky enough to hear Shoshana Zuboff's talk in Cambridge last week. It was astounding in its urgency, its succinct overview of the dark twist that we find ourselves in, one that has claimed private human experience for the market dynamic, human experience as a free source of raw material to be translated into behavioural data, to be fed through its supply chains into its new production process which is labelled with words like artificial intelligence, machine intelligence, machine learning. And all for the benefit of share holders, not for the good of all.

Prediction products are then sold in a market place which trades exclusively in behavioural futures. Anyone who uses Facebook and Google is part of the raw material merry-go-round.

This is the reality of modern online advertising markets and we all owe it to ourselves to be hyper-aware of what is going on and Zuboff's speech on this podcast is a must-listen.

Her book 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism' has just been published and I would strongly recommend a read of it (it is 692 pages so hopefully you have time on your hands! I tentatively promise it will be time well spent). Some commentators are already saying that it is as destined to be as iconic as the works of Marx or Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'.

"We are a new kind of political collective that has not yet been named."   "Fear", "autonomy", "unease", "freedom" and "control" are some of the words called to mind here by her London audience, Cambridge was similar. They are profound issues that bring us together. 

This is about the science of prediction and how it has been imposed on us rapidly by the tech giants, in particular Google and Facebook. 

As Zuboff comments "If the digital future is to be our home, then it is we who must make it so"

Shoshana Zuboff joined the Harvard Business School faculty in 1981, as one of the institutions first tenured women, and in 2014 and 2015 she was a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

She is one of the world’s most provocative and prescient thinkers – and has devoted her career to studying the rise of the digital. She looks at individual, organizational, and social consequences of this new era, and its relationship to the history and future of capitalism. She has previously published two seminal works The Age of the Smart Machine and Support Economy and has been called by the Financial Times: The true prophet of the digital age.

Her new book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is already a sensation and is being compared to the world of Marx and Adam Smith's 'Wealth of Nations'. It explores the emergence of surveillance capitalism as the dominant form of information capitalism and its implications for individuals, society, and democracy in the twenty-first century. As Naomi Klein has said: “everyone needs to read this book as act of digital self-defence."




Sarah Fry

Thanks Pete for sharing the podcast from Cambridge, absolutely fascinating, I hope to get the book when next in UK.


Pete Lawrence

Some useful links to further reviews and interviews in this excellent piece from The Alternative UK


Jeremy Pearce

I just purchased a copy .



Blimey! 700 pages! That's as long as Tolstoy stuff...

Love the notion of a book club full of reads which have the power to inform and alter our mindsets.
Doughnut Economics yes my next text...maybe those of you who are reading the other suggestions could post the odd précis, so slow folks like me can glean information as we trawl slowly through the reads?

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