One of the most useful concepts Zuboff introduces is “the division of learning,” which is modeled on the foundational idea of capitalism: the division of labor.
The division of learning manifests when a robot is brought on to the factory floor, and workers have to unlearn making things and learn to operate the robot. Some can learn while the others are fucked.
The division of learning is when journalists mock these workers with “learn to code!”
The division of learning is in the fact that we have no idea what tech companies know about us and are unaware of how they purposefully modify our behavior using this knowledge.
The division of learning is that most of us are unaware that democracy is dying not because of some ridiculous Russia collusion or Barr’s testimony but because technology outpaces the slow and laborious march of the democratic institutions and makes them irrelevant.
Zuboff doesn’t say it in the part I’ve read so far, but it’s also in the formation of the cognitive elite. There was always a cognitive elite but it was formed by nature and chance. Now, on top of the differences created by nature and luck, we have consciously engineered ones.
Imaginatively and intellectually, we live in the world that is long gone. We spend tons of time bickering over the things that mattered in that dead world as if they still mattered. The division of learning is also this. Some people are aware that things have changed but most aren’t. Those who figured it out are leaving those who can’t in the dust.
And the saddest part to me is that people intuit what’s happening. The reason we keep hearing that our democratic institutions are in danger is because they are. Just from a different threat. The reason we keep obsessing about open borders is because they are already open. They are open to capital and these new surveillance giants.
We know what’s going on but we can’t articulate it correctly precisely because the division of learning is the basis of this new world.