Surveillance Capitalism: Radicalization Scores

Zuboff points out that back in the closing years of the Obama era, high-ranking White House officials traveled to the Silicon Valley to exhort tech companies to create an algorithm that would calculate every individual’s “radicalization score.” It would be akin to a credit score but it would measure your ideological soundness.

Back then, “radicalized” meant “on his way to join ISIS in Syria” or “getting behind the wheel of his truck to mow down a bunch of people in the name of Allah.” Since those innocent times, though, we have all been trained to accept a very different meaning to this word. Today, it means anybody who deviates from the ruling ideology by one thousandth of a millimeter.

This is going to get worse, if the previous totalitarian regimes taught us anything. Today it’s “wrote on FB that NYTimes’ 1619 project is stupid = radicalized Nazi.” Tomorrow it will be “went two days without reading and leaving exuberantly supportive comments on the 1619 project = armed and dangerous radicalized Nazi.”

None of this is accidental. We are purposefully fed ridiculous and clearly idiotic lies about crowds of radicalized white supremacists ready to march us all into ovens. And, like trained monkeys, we jump up and down on cue, chanting the ideas that are being fed to us with the sole purpose of controlling us. The moment we start to believe that any of this ridiculousness is real, we accept and even demand radicalization scores.

As always, in order to be believed, a lie must be grandiose. And it’s working, isn’t it?

As Zuboff says, don’t believe the silly mantra that for tech companies you are the product. You are nothing as valuable as that. You are a discarded carcass.

P.S. I’d abandoned Zuboff for a while because she’s the most repetitive writer in the world, in love with sign-posting like nobody’s business. The book is fascinating in terms of content but the writing is very painful.

P.P.S. Everything under the fold comes from me, not from Zuboff. Zuboff naively believes that surveillance capitalism has no ideological stakes in the game it plays with us. But that’s very outmoded Marxism even for me. I put the fold in on purpose so that people understand that I don’t retell. It’s too boring.

2 thoughts on “Surveillance Capitalism: Radicalization Scores”

  1. What does Zuboff say the product of the tech companies is then?

    By the way, I’m reading a book about AI (AI Superpowers by Kai-Fu Lee) and the progress China is making is really scary. The book is not for programmers, it’s aimed at an average person and I highly recommend it.


    1. Oh! I was just going to write about the part on China. I’ll definitely check out this book, too.

      The real product is what’s stripped away from us: our capacity to make decisions for ourselves.


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