The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (ASC) - "the goal is to automate us"

Just reading an interview with the author has convinced me to buy this book. The meme "surveillance capitalism" has been out there for at least four years; but this book is a 660 page philosophical tome. It identifies that digital surveillance is simply the latest trick of capitalism to commodify and monetize "nature". (A fifteen page academic paper by the author is available here.)

This book is relevant to the discussion that Cassiodorus is developing (sorry that the link is to my response to Cassiodorus), using ideas of Jason Moore, about "cheap X". Moore initially had four "cheaps". In a popularized book with Raj Patel, he extended that list to seven "cheaps": nature, money, work, care, food, energy, and lives.

But, Shoshana Zuboff, the author of ASC identifies another "cheap": cheap data.

Larry Page grasped that human experience could be Google’s virgin wood, that it could be extracted at no extra cost online and at very low cost out in the real world.

She also places SC in the long line of capitalist colonization:

“digital natives” is a tragically ironic phrase. I am fascinated by the structure of colonial conquest, especially the first Spaniards who stumbled into the Caribbean islands. Historians call it the “conquest pattern”, which unfolds in three phases: legalistic measures to provide the invasion with a gloss of justification, a declaration of territorial claims, and the founding of a town to legitimate the declaration. Back then Columbus simply declared the islands as the territory of the Spanish monarchy and the pope.

The sailors could not have imagined that they were writing the first draft of a pattern that would echo across space and time to a digital 21st century. The first surveillance capitalists also conquered by declaration. They simply declared our private experience to be theirs for the taking, for translation into data for their private ownership and their proprietary knowledge. They relied on misdirection and rhetorical camouflage, with secret declarations that we could neither understand nor contest.

Google began by unilaterally declaring that the world wide web was its to take for its search engine. Surveillance capitalism originated in a second declaration that claimed our private experience for its revenues that flow from telling and selling our fortunes to other businesses. In both cases, it took without asking. Page [Larry, Google co-founder] foresaw that surplus operations would move beyond the online milieu to the real world, where data on human experience would be free for the taking. As it turns out his vision perfectly reflected the history of capitalism, marked by taking things that live outside the market sphere and declaring their new life as market commodities.

We were caught off guard by surveillance capitalism because there was no way that we could have imagined its action, any more than the early peoples of the Caribbean could have foreseen the rivers of blood that would flow from their hospitality toward the sailors who appeared out of thin air waving the banner of the Spanish monarchs. Like the Caribbean people, we faced something truly unprecedented...

Knowledge, authority and power rest with surveillance capital, for which we are merely “human natural resources”. We are the native peoples now whose claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own experience.

I could go on with her demonstration that SC is nothing more than the latest phase of colonialism, but I think you get the picture.

One other thing, of great value, that she does is to denounce the "technical inevitablity" argument in stark terms:

Surveillance capitalism is a human-made phenomenon and it is in the realm of politics that it must be confronted. The resources of our democratic institutions must be mobilised, including our elected officials. ..Our societies have tamed the dangerous excesses of raw capitalism before, and we must do it again...We need new paradigms born of a close understanding of surveillance capitalism’s economic imperatives and foundational mechanisms.”

For example, the idea of “data ownership” is often championed as a solution. But what is the point of owning data that should not exist in the first place? All that does is further institutionalise and legitimate data capture. It’s like negotiating how many hours a day a seven-year-old should be allowed to work, rather than contesting the fundamental legitimacy of child labour.

The interview alone has me thinking. I can't wait to get the hardback book - unless TPTB have already decided to limit its production run.

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Lookout's picture

about your topic...between Chris Hedges and Bob Scheer from 2015, a discussion entitled "They know everything about you"
Text or video - 7 parts
https://therealnews.com/stories/hedges0423sheer

I'll check out the 16 page manuscript you recommend...no time for a 660 page tome at present. The zero hedge piece was interesting.

Thankfully there are heroes like Snowden and Binney that reveal the governments role.
As an off topic aside -
Speaking of Bill, I caught a clip last night of Bill discussing Julian's predicament

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d46FKzTmfNg (7 min)

Partial Transcript: I just see this whole thing as a move by the shadow government of our country and the deep state, all of those who have a vested interest in perpetual war and things of that nature trying to get rid of truth across the board so they can spin a narrative and manipulate the people of the country any way they want. If you're talking about whistleblowers, whistleblowers are required by working for the government to report fraud, waste, abuse and corruption. That's a requirement for them to have employment with the government. There's a regulation that people are ignoring and that's executive order 13526 which covers all classification of material in the US government. Section 1.7 of that says that you cannot classify, maintain classified or not de-classify material if it is evidence of a crime, fraud, waste, abuse, corruption embarrassment to a person or an agency and several other things. But the point is a lot of the material that was published from Edward Snowden and also from Manning were evidence of a crime. The Collateral Murder movie was a straightforward war crime. I mean those are crimes that people should be prosecuted for and by those regulations that governed classification for the US government they must be declassified. And so therefore there's no real violation of anybody's rights and besides all the things that have been discussed I have not seen any damage to their capability to do any kind of intelligence analysis anywhere in the world.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

arendt's picture

@Lookout

for matters related to "national security"(sic) or "domestic terrorism"(sic). But the problems of spying and propaganda are well-understood by most people. Even the idea of a Deep State is coming into the awareness of average folks.

So, I want to keep the focus of this thread on *commercial* surveillance, the incessant mining of personal preferences that is being sold to marketers to manipulate your life. Since the FAANG are an integral part of the "shadow government", doing things that would appall and frighten most citizens if the government were doing those things, highlighting commercial surveillance dodges the counterattack that this conversation is subversive and a national security threat.

The issue of the commodification of your every utterance, eye fixation, and location are a new kind of confiscation. And most people still don't understand exactly what is happening, exactly how it came to be that FAANG owns all the data about everyone's personal lives.

If we don't revive government enough to get some rope around the FAANG, they will be the government, and it will not be a nice government if Jeff Bezos is any guide to its behavior.

The importance of this book is to expose digital colonialism, yet another case of expanding the reach of the market in order to save it from its inevitable collapse (exponential growth versus finite market). Just to name it as colonialism is to start a new conversation, since the current conversation is mostly about "corporate neo-feudalism".

I suppose that feudalism was a form of internal colonialism - but the average person doesn't have the historical awareness to realize that. In fact, I wonder just exactly what "feudalism" conjures up for Joe Average. I think "colonialism" is a better label for what is happening, because people still see that in the world today, even if it is disguised by unequal economic treaties and practices - so called neo-colonialism. "Digital Panopticon" also has resonance because so much of our decrepit country has been through the brutality of the criminal "justice" system.

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Deja's picture

@arendt
If you have a smart phone, you'll get ads on Facebook or other ad funded sites based on what your phone hears in your environment. Happened to my son over the holidays, while he was here. He laughed about it. I cringed. He accused me of being like Saul's uncle, in "Better Call Saul" which I've never seen.

The electric company knows what you use your electricity for, and at what time. If you have "smart" appliances, or that uber cool and handy "smart" thermostat you can control with your phone, and a smart meter, all your info is collected. I'm sure they sell it, though I'm not sure to whom.

Do you have health insurance? Then you've probably been getting robo calls about open enrollment season. Lord knows I have! I even got one this morning. Our info has been sold. That one I find odd, though. Why would my ins co sell my contact info to other ins cos trying to take business away from them?

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arendt's picture

@Deja

However, there is a teeny bit of pushback from inside the neoliberal camp itself.

The Attention Economy Is a Malthusian Trap

Big tech companies now trade at one of the smallest premiums in history.

some of the largest tech companies have exhausted their main markets. Apple and Samsung may have reached the smartphone plateau, as phone sales seem to have peaked. Facebook and Google have grown to dominate digital advertising. But in the U.S., overall ad spending has historically averaged no more than 3 percent of GDP. How do you grow forever in a sector that isn’t growing? That’s easy: You don’t. There may be a Malthusian trap in the attention economy. Eventually, revenue growth bumps up against the natural limitations of population and waking hours.

Software ate media, and media went down pretty smoothly. Now it has to gnaw through the harder, crunchier parts of the global economy. Software eating life sciences? Software eating elderly care? Software eating household construction? Software eating money? Good luck.

But, in the Candide-like manner of neoliberal apparatchiks, the author goes on to newer, greener fields to plunder:

In the past decade of tech, it was scarcely an exaggeration to say that every tech company is a media company. Perhaps in the next decade, the rule will be: Every tech company is a mall. With Amazon Prime, Bezos sought to bundle the entire economy for an annual subscription fee. But as the NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway has argued, this bundle/subscription model is too delectable for competitors to ignore. Imagine, he says, Nike buying Equinox and merging with a healthy-food conglomerate to become a superior one-stop portal for fitness folks. Or Apple’s wearable division partnering with medical and insurance companies to build a data-doctors-and-devices business that targets health-care spending. Disney can use its streaming service to become an infinite marketing loop for Marvel, Star Wars, and animated-princess merchandise.

IMHO, this author missed the future's market and behavioral modification points of Dr. Zuboff. This author has the "horseless carraige" POV regarding the internet. He thinks its about selling products, as opposed to selling predictions about people's behavior. That's why he's so excited in a positive way about the dystopia that is forming around us.

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Daenerys's picture

@Deja @Deja It's Saul's older brother Chuck; Jimmy (that's his real name) and Chuck don't have any uncles in the show. He has electro-sensitivity, which means being around anything with an electric current causes him physical pain. Whether or not it's a real thing or just all in Chuck's head is a matter of debate. So it's not really paranoia that the government/Big Brother/the Illuminati or whoever are always listening. The show takes place in the early-mid 2000s, a little before all smartphones and all the corporate spying were a thing. Just wanted to clear that up; it's a very good show, I highly recommend it.

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This shit is bananas.

Daenerys's picture

don't mind me. Wacko

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This shit is bananas.

Deja's picture

@Daenerys
After your explanation, I'm thinking it might have been my wondering aloud to my son, about the smart meter at my house and my dog dying of a seizure that never stopped before she made it to 6 yrs that caused him to say that about me. I actually pm'd someone else on this site about the probability of the corolation. That person said it was an unlikely cause of my dog's death, and didn't call me a loon for asking, but probably thought it lol.

I just might check out the show. Thanks for the recommendation.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Deja

and during Trump's first 100 days the GOP quietly refused to allow the Obama rule of not letting our internet providers sell our browsing history. This was just one of the last minute legislation that he passed on his way out the door to make it look like he was finally becoming a progressive. Not many knew that they wouldn't go into effect for many, many months in the future.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

arendt's picture

@snoopydawg

the GOP quietly refused to allow the Obama rule of not letting our internet providers sell our browsing history.

I just don't understand. The law was passed. Did the GOP appoint people to the pertinent executive department who refused to enforce the LAW? They could do that with a RULE, but if its a LAW, there isn't much leeway when the LAW says "you can't do X".

I'm not questioning your fact; just not understanding the mechanics of it. (Not that it matters in the smoldering wreckage of our democracy.)

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snoopydawg's picture

@arendt

Presidents signs off on legislation, but leaves a disqualifier in place which states that it doesn't go into effect for a certain amount of time. I would have to look back at my comments I made just after Trump was elected to show you how it works. The GOP were very busy during that time and while the country was trying to come to grips with Trump being president.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
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CS in AZ's picture

@arendt

A short summary for you:

The FCC passed a new privacy rule (not a law, precisely; a main difference being the enforcement mechanisms of lawsuits rather than arrest/prosecution), in October 2016 and was slated to go into effect in 2017.

But in March 2017, congress voted to repeal that rule. So it never went into effect.

Consumer Broadband Privacy Protections Are Dead

Last week, the Senate voted 50-48 along party lines to kill consumer broadband privacy protections. That vote then continued today in the House, where GOP lawmakers finished the job, ...

The rules, which were supposed to take effect this month, were killed using the Congressional Review Act -- which not only eliminates the protections, but limits the agency's ability to issue similar rules down the road.

The broadband industry's effort to kill the rules is one of the uglier examples of pay-to-play government in recent memory. The protections, originally passed last October by the FCC, have been endlessly demonized by the broadband industry, despite the fact that they're relatively straight forward. The rules would have simply required that ISPs are transparent about what they collect (and who they sell it to), and provide working opt out tools. ISPs were also required to have consumers opt in for more sensitive data collection (financial, browser history data).

As you can see, this “Obama era” rule was never all that to begin with. But it was much ballyhooed at the time. However, it was adopted so late that there was time for the new republican-controlled congress to revoke it before it happened, using the Congressional Review Act. (They actually used the CRA, which has a time limit, to undo a lot of last-minute acts of the Obama administration. Most went unnoticed.)

But on this FCC Internet privacy rule, there much upset (and fundraising) when it got dumped. nothing actually changed in practice except that the relatively minor protections that “would have been” an improvement, were blocked. It’s still user beware when it comes to browser and search privacy.

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Lookout's picture

@arendt

corporate surveillance and propaganda. If you're not familiar with Bob's book by the same name the conversation is at least worth a scan.

I added gov't surveillance to suggest the pervasive and diverse nature of big brother.
FAANG = Government

“Fascism should more appropriate be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Benito Mussolini

Bezos is the cloud storage for the CIA and Pentagon and maybe the FBI and he owns the WaPo

Good topic to focus on - surveillance

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

arendt's picture

@Lookout

I will take a look at the videos, although I normally don't have time to spend listening to video. I usually only read, because it is so much quicker.

Bezos is the cloud storage for the CIA and Pentagon and maybe the FBI and he owns the WaPo

I'm not sure about cloud storage; but he sure does provide cloud computing. Amazon Web Services has over 35% of that market. It is scary how much power Bezos has over this absolutely critical strategic resource. OTOH, doesn't the Bluffdale, Utah facility, which supposedly records every internet transaction, cover the need for cloud storage for the entire MIC?

In any case, thanks for following up.

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Lookout's picture

@arendt

So you can read it here...
https://therealnews.com/stories/hedges0423sheer

To watch I would recommend Chris' episode with Bob -
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbenNvE9zwc (25 min)

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

snoopydawg's picture

@Lookout

and the Atlantic Council goons and other orgs that are putting that plan into motion. I think we are going to learn that the .Integrity Initiative has been in business for longer than we knew. Add in Obama's legislation making it legal for the government to "spin the narrative and manipulate the people' and spread government propaganda.

just see this whole thing as a move by the shadow government of our country and the deep state, all of those who have a vested interest in perpetual war and things of that nature trying to get rid of truth across the board so they can spin a narrative and manipulate the people of the country any way they want

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
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Lookout's picture

@snoopydawg

Operation mockingbird is alive and well... and it is government, NATO, Facebook, Amazon, all intertwined. Think how many people have a firetv, echo, and other listening devices in their home in addition to phones.

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

detroitmechworks's picture

Are SHOCKED that you want to do things the "Old Fashioned" way.

Cash? Why? Everything is so much easier when you have a nice monitored bank account that you can swipe your hand over to pay.

No smart phone? What if you need directions somewhere? What if you get hurt!

Don't watch the news? How can you be so IGNORANT!!! Don't you know that we're learning all the time that our old ways of doing things are sexist, racist and homophobic as well as anti-Semitic and Islamophobic! At the same time. That's why you have to watch all the time to make sure you don't offend anybody. And remember, it's your duty to call out all of those things as soon as you see them! It's also your duty to call out anybody who doesn't call out those things because they're just as bad as the people who are doing the activity.

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

@detroitmechworks Bro! You is Rollin' today with the Sarc!
I keep having to put my coffee down,
HAH!

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Ya got to be a Spirit, cain't be no Ghost. . .

detroitmechworks's picture

@Tall Bald and Ugly I remember something my Army Chaplain told me. "Anger is like a scorpion's venom. If it doesn't go SOMEWHERE it's going to kill you."

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lotlizard's picture

@detroitmechworks  
http://pbfcomics.com/comics/scorpy-the-forest-friend/

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arendt's picture

@detroitmechworks

the digital version of "primitive accumulation".

That is, digital money comes with a 3% rakeoff to the banks; and if all money goes digital, it can be confiscated for any excuse (see Civil Asset Seizure in the real world).

News consumption and phone usage (including the vital GPS location data) result in your giving away for free information that is valuable to marketers. Its an extension of the market that couldn't have existed before 20 years ago.

You get the problem.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt BY LAW. Even attempting to disable the 911 tracker on your cell phone is considered extremely suspicious. Why would you WANT to do that? What are you hiding? Even asking the question means that you're clearly up to something criminal. Besides, it "Doesn't" track you all the time, just when the government NEEDS to know where you are. And why would you object to that?

I'm just finding that more and more the media is instilling very bad habits in people. Add to those who like to gaslight and change information on the internet and in the media whenever it doesn't fit the current Pravda. It freaks me out a bit among my own age group, to be honest, and the younger generation. It's starting to feel like people have no will of their own any more, and even wanting to inquire about other methods of inquiry is considered heresy.

And random metal, because I KNOW it pisses off TPTB. Smile

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

arendt's picture

@detroitmechworks

It's starting to feel like people have no will of their own any more, and even wanting to inquire about other methods of inquiry is considered heresy.

Reminds me of the rabbits in Watership Down - the ones who were being farmed (i.e., killed and eaten). They lived their lives as if the killing didn't happen, because they didn't want to fact reality.

The speed with which the country has gone from engaged critical thinkers to braindead couch potatoes who don't understand the first thing about government and politics just astonishes me. Of course, it happened even faster in Weimar Germany; but they were reeling from the loss of WW1, hyperinflation, and the Great Depression. We have managed to lobotomize ourselves even as the country has been domestically at peace and statsitically prosperous.

It is telling that the US is the last place anyone expects Yellow Vests to turn up. We have been cowed, even the working and lower classes. They just vote for Trump and cheer as he screws them over.

I am increasingly glad I will not be around that much longer. But they will be pulling the plug on the economy again before the 2020 elections. (Unfortunately, I will still be here then.) That way they get to blame the latest systems failure on Trump, and the neoliberal assholes can continue to loot the economy.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt (As you mentioned) Is that corporate tactics strongly resemble those of Clergy and Kings in the Bad Old Days. Asserting authority that cannot be challenged. There are those who are to be respected, and if you do not bow down, you are a Heretic. The Little boy who points out the Emperor's clothes is CLEARLY mentally Ill...

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

arendt's picture

@detroitmechworks

that they are now in the position of the "natives" - non-persons, mere resources to be exploited as Western Civilization sees fit.

IMHO, today's people are worse off than peasants under royalty. At least there was some sense of noblesse oblige from royalty towards their vassals. After all, vassals were property of some worth because they farmed.

Today, people are commodities. Just use them and throw them away. Crippled by repetitive motion injury on a shit part-time job? Too bad, loser. Its your fault. We don't owe you a thing, and we are busy demolishing any government help for you because it makes you lazy.

This neoliberal/surveillance capital hellhole that is 90% constructed is going to make Stalin's Gulag look like a garden party.

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snoopydawg's picture

@arendt

IMHO, today's people are worse off than peasants under royalty. At least there was some sense of noblesse oblige from royalty towards their vassals. After all, vassals were property of some worth because they farmed.

I used medical transport today and my driver has been doing this for 16 years. When the state was in charge of it he got paid well and got benefits too. The state recently bidded it out to a private company and now he has no benefits including workers compensation benefits and on days around holidays when it's slow he doesn't work. Multiply this by 50 or even more for just one thing that states used to do and now no longer do.

Automation and robotics are going to be the death of what's left of the lower classes and if people start thinking about protesting what happened to their jobs then there's all the surveillance that has been put into place just for that. Yep. The pot of water is getting warmer faster than any time in a long time. Too many people think it's just a hot tub.

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America is a pathetic nation; a fascist state fueled by the greed, malice, and stupidity of her own people.
- strife delivery

arendt's picture

@snoopydawg

Its a horror show.

Woman sleeping in her car between jobs dies of carbon monoxide poisoning.

People encouraged to skip meals to continue working.

Time scheduling apps that arbitrarily jerk peoples' schedules around because the corps demand total labor flexibility.

They have demolished stable jobs. Its all piecework, part time hours, zero benefits. Clearly they realize they are destroying society. They just don't care. They think everyone who can't get a 10% job is a "loser" and that the world will be better off when they all just die.

Zuboff's invocation of colonialism is the most apt description for the treatment meted out to the former middle class in the West.

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arendt's picture

@arendt

are about the clearest take on where we are being driven.

You can learn all you nead by reading the plot summary for The Marching Morons.

The MM is probably the earliest scifi version of "The Cull" conspiracy theory.

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arendt's picture

Big Other: Surveillance Capitalism and the Prospects of an Information Civilization

Mass production was interdependent with its populations who were its consumers and employees. In contrast, surveillance capitalism preys on dependent populations who are neither its consumers nor its employees and are largely ignorant of its procedures.

this new market exchange was not an exchange with users but rather with other companies who understood how to make money from bets on users’ future behavior. In this new context, users were no longer an end-in-themselves. Instead they became a means to profits in a new kind of marketplace in which users are neither buyers nor sellers nor products. Users are the source of free raw material that feeds a new kind of manufacturing process.

We are the native peoples now whose tacit claims to self-determination have vanished from the maps of our own behavior. They are erased in an astonishing and audacious act of dispossession by surveillance that claims its right to ignore every boundary in its thirst for knowledge of and influence over the most detailed nuances of our behavior. For those who wondered about the logical completion of the global processes of commodification, the answer is that they complete themselves in the dispossession of our intimate quotidian reality, now reborn as behavior to be monitored and modified, bought and sold.

The process that began in cyberspace mirrors the nineteenth century capitalist expansions that preceded the age of imperialism. Back then, as Hannah Arendt described it in The Origins of Totalitarianism, “the so-called laws of capitalism were actually allowed to create realities” as they traveled to less developed regions where law did not follow. “The secret of the new happy fulfillment,” she wrote, “was precisely that economic laws no longer stood in the way of the greed of the owning classes.” There, “money could finally beget money,” without having to go “the long way of investment in production…”

“The original sin of simple robbery”

For Arendt, these foreign adventures of capital clarified an essential mechanism of capitalism. Marx had developed the idea of “primitive accumulation” as a big-bang theory –– Arendt called it “the original sin of simple robbery” –– in which the taking of lands and natural resources was the foundational event that enabled capital accumulation and the rise of the market system. The capitalist expansions of the 1860s and 1870s demonstrated, Arendt wrote, that this sort of original sin had to be repeated over and over, “lest the motor of capital accumulation suddenly die down.”

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ggersh's picture

today's amerika and Germany of yesteryear, all
that seems to be missing is the camps.

"THE NAZI MOVEMENT WAS NOT A UNIQUELY GERMAN EVENT; IT IS A UNIQUELY HUMAN EVENT. AND SUCH A DARK MOVEMENT REMAINS IN OUR HARDENED HEARTS TO THIS DAY. WHEN HUMAN BEINGS, FOR WHATEVER REASON AND RATIONALE, DECIDE THAT IT IS NECESSARY AND EXPEDIENT TO CAST ASIDE THEIR MORAL PRINCIPLES AND THEIR CONSCIENCE, AND IN THE PAIN OF THEIR HUMANITY MAKE THEMSELVES INTO BEASTS, THEN THE WILL TO POWER AND ITS MADNESS IS UNLEASHED UPON THEM. NO ONE, NO PEOPLE, IS SAFE FROM THIS AWFUL TRAGEDY." JESSE

https://jessescrossroadscafe.blogspot.com/

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." William Casey, CIA Director 1st staff meeting, 1981

“USA will export two things soon, jack and squat. no planes, no cars soon.”

detroitmechworks's picture

@ggersh We have Camps

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I do not pretend I know what I do not know.

ggersh's picture

@detroitmechworks home teams crowd, actually hadn't thought
of those. I did remember the jails where we go
for smoking pot, collecting debt etc.etc. guess
we could call some if not most of those camps also.

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3 users have voted.

"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." William Casey, CIA Director 1st staff meeting, 1981

“USA will export two things soon, jack and squat. no planes, no cars soon.”

arendt's picture

@ggersh

I would quote Mark Twain

History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes.

America, and most of the Western World are now an internet-surveilled, open air panopticon. We don't need to send anyone to a camp (unless folks form into a group that actually begins to accomplish things). We just monitor them, make their lives difficult, make it hard to get jobs or necessary medicines cheaply. Censor the news they are able to get from our consolidated media propaganda networks. For the most capable troublemakers, we have electronic ankle monitors. Jails are just too low-tech for anything other than providing school-to-prison ghetto slave labor to the corporations.

Here's the big difference for me:

The Nazis were overt, Messianic zealots. The internet gangsters are arrogant, adolescent mercenaries in the pay of TPTB.
(No one honestly thinks Zuckerberg could have organized Facebook by himself, do they? Wall St. handed him billions in a private offering so insiders could make a killing on a sure thing. Z-berg is an asset owned by the CIA.) Zuckerberg is an uninspiring, creepy nonentity as a public speaker. Jeff Bezos has graduated from nerd to TPTB player. He is a driven, scary Robber Baron - but nobody is swooning over his speeches, if he even gives any.

Having gotten sick of it myself, I don't track how much of the sheeple are still slack jawed and in awe over spyware crap like Alexa, Hey Google, etc, or the latest, infintesmally improved smartphone, or the internet of things that spy on you. Perhaps today really might be an echo of the feverish ideology of Naziism; but I just see a bunch of overweight wankers playing video games and eating pizza.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt can't get laid, or EVERYTHING is about people trying to sleep with them, depending on whether the jerk on the couch is male or female. (Or any of the other million or so identities that will make them feel special.)

Sorry, but Losing 50 lbs really helped my self esteem. As did doing Judo, crafting, and everything else that involved getting AWAY from video games.

See here's the thing on that stuff. (Personal Theory, feel free to ignore)

Humans Strive for Eudaimonia. Human Flourishing. The feeling of success and achievement. Video games offer that in an extremely quick and addictive form. It allows you to live the experience of success without having to do anything other than fork over some money. Most games these days even offer "Pay to win" so folks who have no skills at video games can WIN at video games. Add in the slot machine mechanics that almost all AAA games use these days, and what you have is the electronic version of Crack.

It fills the human need for success, which is vital for well being. However, the virtual achievements bear no fruit in the real world, so all of those efforts are essentially wasted. We've wasted the drive and energy of an entire generation on electronic Dreams.

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ggersh's picture

@arendt

The Nazis were overt, Messianic zealots. The internet gangsters are arrogant, adolescent mercenaries in the pay of TPTB.

the overlords haven't a clue in so many ways, that they've
climbed their glorious mountains to the promised land, they
never ever really appreciate that promised land, nor know the
top of the mountain.

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"We'll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false." William Casey, CIA Director 1st staff meeting, 1981

“USA will export two things soon, jack and squat. no planes, no cars soon.”

arendt's picture

for the players, and how cynically profitable for the companies.

Most games these days even offer "Pay to win" so folks who have no skills at video games can WIN at video games. Add in the slot machine mechanics that almost all AAA games use these days, and what you have is the electronic version of Crack.

Yeah 50 somethings killing themselves with opioids, and 20 somethings wasting their lives with e-crack. Two generations of "natives" wandering the hellscape in the newly colonized "advanced countries".

----

This pay to win is even worse than the ?treasure packs? scam. IIRC, these ?packs? contain tools, hints, easter eggs, magic spells, etc. that make it easier for the player/sucker to win the game. In addition to being "pay to improve odds", these "packs" are like packs of bubble gum cards: a few useful items and a lot of second-rate trash.

Back in the 70s, I played strategy board games - things that actually taught you some history and some military tactics. But, the fantasy role playing stuff destroyed that community. I never got the fascination with role playing in fantasy worlds with completely arbitrary rules, ala Dungeons and Dragons. It seems to me that video games just crank up the role playing meme to intense levels via immersion. As you say, it is a form of addiction.

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt I still play a few Strategy/Simulation games from time to time, but I avoid almost all AAA games. (My personal favorite right now has ZERO pay to win, which is extremely rare. It's also an old school Strategy game, (XCOM 2) which requires players to think several turns in advance at the higher difficulties or be completely routed. There are even mods that make the game HARDER, and I use them. (I believe in "Losing is Fun", if you learn something from the experience.)

Pay to Win is extremely common in "Free To Play" games where the developers are looking for "Whales". (Usually a 12 year old with access to Mom's Bank account.) They charge for a "Premium" membership, which usually offers a pay only currency which is not available to free players, and which offers stuff that makes anyone trying to deal with one of those players at a severe disadvantage, if not outclassed completely.

Unfortunately, they actually BAN historical Military games these days if the Nazis or the Confederacy is portrayed as anything other than baby killing cannibalistic monsters who spend every waking moment plotting to destroy minorities. (Love those "Hate Symbol" laws...)

I admit that I got into gaming in the late 80s, but even then I was disturbed by the "Power Creep" that I saw all over the landscape. The fantasies became more and more grandiose until nearly every game involved "Saving The World" with grandiose power fantasies, up to and including "Getting the Girl/Guy"

We're only a few steps away from this...

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arendt's picture

they actually BAN historical Military games these days if the Nazis or the Confederacy is portrayed as anything other than baby killing cannibalistic monsters

Is there no historical fact that cannot be censored because now is different than then? When you can't tell the true facts about how it was, you will never understand how it was changed. Gee, where have I seen that game played before? Oh, yeah:

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

- G. Orwell

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt In the mid 90's about Adolph Galland and Douglas Bader.

Specifically about how somebody can have their dreams and hopes twisted by an evil regime into something they never intended.

I know for a fact that If I had written that these days...

It would not have been pretty, considering I took Galland at his word, especially considering the guy was never tried or even accused of war crimes due to the fact he repeatedly publicly told Hitler and Goering to go fuck themselves with regards to the conduct of Fighter Pilots.

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arendt's picture

The fantasies became more and more grandiose until nearly every game involved "Saving The World" with grandiose power fantasies,

Its the same with movies. I scan the lists on Netflix, and all I see are these "one man saves the world from X" fantasies. If its any kind of action or adventure, its always the fate of the world, never anything less. The grandiosity is pathological. (Once in a while its well done - Tom Cruise's "The Day After Tomorrow" is really solid scifi. OTOH, Transformers doesn't even rise to the level of a comic book.)

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detroitmechworks's picture

@arendt The creep at least as far as Games go...

The Elder Scrolls: (Main Character)

First Game: Little known member of the imperial court, overlooked by a mad wizard who has usurped the imperial throne.

Second Game: Associate of the Imperial court, charged by the Emperor to uncover a mysterious evil artifact.

Third Game: Resurrected Dark Elf legendary Avatar Unaware of their destiny, sent by emperor to fulfill an ancient prophecy, and yet be loyal to the empire.

Fourth Game: Hero chosen by Emperor to save world from Invasion from Hell.

Fifth Game: Legendary Hero who must kill dragons and absorb their souls in order to defeat Ultra dragon to save the world. Later DLC allows you to control every other character in the game with magic, ride dragons, etc... Final Villain is a more powerful version of you.

At a certain point I need a crane to suspend my disbelief.

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Daenerys's picture

@detroitmechworks Have we really not moved beyond blaming video games for all of society's ills?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is probably my favorite game of all time. (It's the only Elder Scrolls game I've played, but that's neither here nor there.) It's fantasy. What's better than getting to basically be a superhero? You don't have to control other characters with the magic in the Dragonborn DLC; you have the choice of what you do with your powers. Personally I don't like the assassins, Thieves' Guild, vampires and werewolf stuff; I usually play good characters.

There's a big difference between someone who plays these games to escape from reality for a while (and let's be honest, reality sucks ass right now), and someone who has to buy their way to victory because they suck that much at the games.

I don't think it's fair to expect people to be engaged with politics and current events 24/7. It's not good for your mental health. It is possible to do both, however.
I do appreciate the GPS feature on my smartphone, so I can go somewhere without getting lost. Sure I can navigate without it if I have to though. But I don't have a smart tv, Alexa or Google home or any of that other stuff.

Propaganda is powerful. I think the issues we're facing are more inherently human problems than inherent with technology. It's a matter of how one uses the technology.

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This shit is bananas.

arendt's picture

@Daenerys

Have we really not moved beyond blaming video games for all of society's ills?

I don't think that's what he said. I think he said that videogames reflect the society's pathology, not that they cause it. I said the same thing about TV/movies. We are immersed in a Deep Sociological Propaganda (DSP) environment, where even kids' toys spout the party line about good little warmongers. That's my take. YMMV.

I'll leave you two to sort out the particular videogame in question. I personally find them all to be inane and overly violent.

I don't think it's fair to expect people to be engaged with politics and current events 24/7. It's not good for your mental health.

I agree with you there. The trick is to find some hobby that isn't part of the DSP environment. My hobbies are science and history.

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Daenerys's picture

@arendt

even kids' toys spout the party line about good little warmongers.

Yep, I'm pretty sure G.I. Joe has been around longer than any video games. I could be wrong though.

I still enjoy bird watching, and getting out in nature. Pretty hard to do that though when it's 0* outside with 15mph wind, as it has been here as of late.

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This shit is bananas.

detroitmechworks's picture

@Daenerys And the funny thing was that the more I got out into the real world the less I needed to escape from it.

Yes, games can take you a beautiful fantasy land that many people need after drudgery and horrible things that they have to do in order to just get by. Lots of people need their escapes, and they are welcome to them.

But it's not for me any more. These perfect realities where I can only interact with what the designers have programmed (And who wants to do the same thing for seven years with no payoff but fantasy... but to each their own) is quite frankly incredibly less interesting to me than stuff I do in meatspace.

However, to speak about games Published these days:
To put it in video game terms... I feel that games these days have become nearly the equivalent of the "BTL" (Better Than Life) chips in Shadowrun. They are addictive as hell, preying on every psychological trick to get you coming back for more, and they always want more money.

Every bad trick of awful mobile games has been imported.

Yes, There are still companies making good, fun games that are nice alternate realities that don't do those tricks. But that's the equivalent of getting a good dealer who doesn't spike your product. Opium can be good, to kill pain. Games can be good, to dull drudgery. But our society is WELL past the point where it has a responsible use for any painkiller.

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