Jul 17, 2020
Surveillance Capitalism is the dominant economic logic in our world today. It claims private human experience for the marketplace and turns it into a commodity. Vast amounts of personal data are necessary -- often harvested without our knowledge or consent –- in order to predict future behavior. Surveillance capitalists create certainties for companies by modifying people's behavior.
Instrumentarianism seeks to modify, predict, monetize, and control human behavior through the instruments of surveillance capitalism, our digital devices. Having mined all of our data, instrumentarians can tune and herd users into specific actions through triggers and subliminal messaging. It is ultimately a political project intended to install computational governance instead of democratic governance.
A myriad of programs and apps can block tracking and scramble your location, making your behavioral data less accessible or even inaccessible. Since instrumentarians gain their power through our use of their devices, limiting internet use and working in-person reduces the power they have over you.
Shoshana Zuboff is the Charles Edward Wilson Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School and a former Faculty Associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Her masterwork, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, synthesizes years of research and thinking to reveal a world in which technology users are neither customers, employees, nor products. Instead, they are the raw material for new procedures of manufacturing and sales that define an entirely new economic order: a surveillance economy.
In the late 1980s, her decade-in-the-making book, In the Age of the Smart Machine: The Future of Work and Power, became an instant classic that foresaw how computers would revolutionize the modern workplace. At the dawn of the twenty-first century her influential The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism (with James Maxmin), written before the invention of the iPod or Uber, predicted the rise of digitally-mediated products and services tailored to the individual. It warned of the individual and societal risks if companies failed to alter their approach to capitalism.
You can follow her on Twitter @shoshanazuboff