The most interesting chapter in Zuboff’s book is the one that talks about behavior modification through surveillance.
Here is an example. Facebook conducted its first very publicized experiment on influencing voter behavior back in 2010. It’s very easy for FB to bring tens of thousands more voters to the polls. Since Facebook knows how you vote, it can easily sway elections by targeting its campaigns that encourage people to vote to certain electoral groups. It doesn’t take that many voters to sway elections. Just ensure that the candidate you like gets a slightly higher turnout and you control the election.
As one of the engineers of these behavior modification systems said, “we write the music and they [the users] dance to it.”
In the meantime, we fret about imaginary Russians messing with the voting machines while Facebook and Co are contentedly messing with our minds.
And I know that the very human thing to do is to believe that everybody but oneself can get brainwashed. People are so invested into convincing themselves that their minds can’t be manipulated that they will disregard all evidence to the contrary.
I have been manipulated and duped and see no shame in acknowledging it. Anybody can be manipulated. It’s quite easy. And it’s the whole endgame of surveillance capitalism.