The alarm beside your bed rings, triggered by an event in your calendar. The smart thermostat in your bedroom, sensing your motion, turns on the hot water and reports your movements to a central database.
Tech Giants offer the benefits of faster search results and turn-by-turn directions mask the deeper, destructive predations of what Shoshana Zuboff terms “surveillance capitalism”, a force that is as profoundly undemocratic as it is exploitative, yet remains poorly understood. As she details in her important new book, ignorance of its operation is one of the central strategies of this regime, and yet the tide is turning: more and more people express their unease about the surveillance economy and, disturbed by the fractious, alienated and trustless social sphere it generates, are seeking alternatives. It will be a long, slow and difficult process to extricate ourselves from the toxic products of both industrial and surveillance capitalism, but its cause is assisted by the weighty analysis provided by books such as this. Combining in-depth technical understanding and a broad, humanistic scope, Zuboff has written what may prove to be the first definitive account of the economic – and thus social and political – condition of our age.