Writing Process: Surveillance Capitalism

In October, I talked about a couple of books that I had found very inspiring for an as-yet unnamed book that I am writing about a dystopian future.

Yesterday The Observer carried a fascinating piece by John Naughton, which is an article on Shoshana Zubof’s new book The Age of Surveillance Capital and in-depth interview with her on her ideas. To give you an idea:

Viewed from this perspective, the behaviour of the digital giants looks rather different from the roseate hallucinations of Wired magazine. What one sees instead is a colonising ruthlessness of which John D Rockefeller would have been proud. First of all there was the arrogant appropriation of users’ behavioural data – viewed as a free resource, there for the taking. Then the use of patented methods to extract or infer data even when users had explicitly denied permission, followed by the use of technologies that were opaque by design and fostered user ignorance.

The piece is illuminating, worrying and a sad confirmation of the workings of the online consumer economy. As Naughton observes at the end of his article, Zuboff’s work “opens one’s eyes to things we ought to have noticed, but hadn’t”.

You can buy The Age of Surveillance Capital from The Guardian Bookshop here, and from all good retailers.