What I Don’t Like in Zuboff’s Book

What I don’t like about Zuboff’s book is the disconnect between the opening pages and the rest. She starts out very strongly with an analysis of how surveillance capitalism helps us feel the way we really want to and we don’t question it in return.

But then she abandons this argument and adopts an easier narrative of how we are being oppressed by evil capitalists but we can change things any time we want.

The problem is that we don’t want. There are brilliant analyses of the evils neoliberalism out there but nary anybody goes in the direction of looking at its enormously seductive and huge benefits. The only person who went in this direction that I know of is Jim McGuigan.

This isn’t a situation of clearly defined victims and victimizers. The people who are most despoiled of their privacy by surveillance capitalism are the winners, not the losers, of the neoliberal economy. Do you know how much the Roomba and the Sleep Mattress cost? How many people in the world even have houses that require a Roomba vacuum or need a bunch of Echo dots for all the rooms?

There’s something more going on here than clear-cut exploitation of poor, victimized billions by a dozen of evildoers at Google. Zuboff has bought into the facile narrative of the 1% of winners against the 99% of equally victimized losers. But the story is a lot more complicated.

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4 thoughts on “What I Don’t Like in Zuboff’s Book”

  1. This is interesting to me, but not for “AUGH rise of the alt-right!” reasons (14 year olds love being edgy and pissing people off, this is the modern equivalent of teens listening to metal songs about Satan in the 80s.) It’s so easy for a regular teen to become relatively famous now. My cringy teen shenanigans are long forgotten and were only known to people I personally know, hers are being written about in Buzzfeed. She’s also been interviewed on Infowars now, and she’s tweeted about by worried journalists instead of being worried about by parents.

    https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/josephbernstein/youtubes-newest-far-right-foul-mouthed-red-pilling-star-is

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    1. I read this yesterday and it’s so sad. Just like all of these kids who spend their lives on YouTube. Their parents have farmed out parenting to tech.

      We are all destined to spend our lives in front of screens because that’s how the increasing number of people makes a living. Why start so early, you know? What are the benefits?

      I don’t know, I’d be sad if my kid spent her childhood and adolescence in front of a screen ranting about anything, even Cervantes.

      Even if she somehow avoids making herself unemployable with this, even if she doesn’t meet anybody abusive online, it’s still sad.

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    1. Thing is, they banned it for use “by the police and local government agencies.” Everybody else is still free to use it. This puts government at a disadvantage compared to capital. Yet again.

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