Shoshana Zuboff, April 24, 2023, 4:30-6pm
We may have democracy, or we may have Facebook, but we cannot have both.
We are living in the social and political chaos created by the digital age—what author and Harvard business professor Shoshana Zuboff predicted in her groundbreaking, epoch-defining bestseller The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Now, as we brace ourselves through pandemic-related waves of economic, social, and political instability, Zuboff presents the solution we must embrace—and soon: "We may have democracy or we may have surveillance society, but we cannot have both" (New York Times).
There's no doubt that smart devices, social networks, location services, and their ilk have made 21st-century life incredibly efficient and hyper-optimized. But as Harvard Business School emerita and scholar Shoshana Zuboff writes in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, having access to these services comes with the parceling out of our information, which is then used to both serve and manipulate us. Surveillance capitalism—a concept coined by Zuboff herself—defines the current age, in which we've all opted into the commodification of our personal information. As our individual choices become not only predicted, but controlled, we're giving companies exorbitant power over the economy and society as a whole: opting to concede our privacy in exchange for increased connection and convenience.
In her latest—a New York Times Sunday Review cover story—Zuboff breaks down exactly how social media has created the epistemic chaos we're currently living in, naming the main players and exposing the motivation behind their game. With her hallmark realism and optimism, she also outlines the three principles which will help correct course, a blueprint abound with lessons for organizations, businesses, young professionals, and students, on how to rebuild the next decade: "We are still in the early days of an information civilization … this is our opportunity to match the ingenuity and determination of our 20th-century forebears by building the foundations for a democratic digital century" (New York Times.)