Surveillance Capitalism, 11

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.

4 thoughts on “Surveillance Capitalism, 11”

  1. Even in Russian lJ , LIVEJOURNAL TODAY offers me :

    Немного про страшное будущее
    Большинство людей ещё живут в мире прошлого, в мире, где есть свобода для творчества. Где можно обмануть, можно выдать себя за другого человека, можно пустить пыль в глаза. Но мы сами не заметили, как оказались в страшной антиутопии.

    Сегодня ваш смартфон знает о вас всё. С кем вы переписываетесь, где вы обедаете, сколько вы спите, сколько шагов в день проходите. Ваш электронный браслет завтра будет следить за здоровьем и знать вас лучше, чем лечащий врач.


  2. Considering my profession, I am especially freaked out by this. Btw, may be universities will buy it too *my attempt to frighten-interest you 🙂 😦 * :

    Учись на пятёрки, только наручники не забудь надеть

    And then a future potential employer will demand access to those and others databases in order to be considered for a job at all.


    1. It was already done in Russia some years ago. They don’t have much money, so it wasn’t widespread. The parents were happy.

      In the US it will be done under the pretext of safety. In Russia the pretext was stopping abusive teachers and bullying. In China the pretext is academic success. Pretexts vary by culture but the methods are the same. And yes, it’s precisely what Zuboff means.

      This book is the best non-fiction stuff I’ve read since early Bauman.


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