The False Mirror, René Magritte. Museum of Modern Art of New York (1929)

Shoshana Zuboff gave us an astonishing yet frightening review of the system in which our world is now built. From the perspective of power and influence which digital information holds, to the multimillionaire financial structure there is around social media, big data, and technology.

Although capitalism is technically in jeopardy, to me it is foolish to deny that our human relations are based on the dynamics this system took advantage of, in order to construct a way of living, a political scheme, and institutional frameworks with guidelines to follow, alongside with gazillions of laws, international treaties, binding agreements, and a judiciary system propense to sustain and endorse this model. This world is built upon those foundations, notwithstanding the fact that its own nature is to be dynamic. What used to be understood as industrial capitalism is now diminished by surveillance capitalism.

This daunting new system has to do with a lot of things, naturally. To say the least, in these pithy lines, technology is intrinsic to the nature of surveillance capitalism, as well as data chucked by our social media activity, and the behaviour patterns determined by the redundancy of our digital actions which — eventually turn into the jackpot for marketing inputs, ergo, campaigns which are so certain that we all believe this superpowerful creature is listening to us, because we find amidst our friends’ instagram stories, the exact product we were talking about at the table.

Shoshana Zuboff, in her latest and — certainly voguish work, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2018) we can come across the reality of a blooming yet haunting and rogue system, in which consumers are more than providers of hard cash, but more as a source of product development, which to me, this statement is a promising announcement of what the future clasps, though it has to be developed in a virtuous fashion. Imagine a world in which our consume is related to our own specific needs, and preferences. Not only in our goods and services, but our very own public and private demands and desires. An ethical, political, and legal dilemma.

If an opinion had to be poured, I’d crumble things into two main axis. First, a despicable and mischevious one, perfectly referenced in the acknowledged documentary “The Great Hack” (2019) by Noujaim, and Amer, in which Carole Cadwalladr, Brittany Kaiser, and David Carroll uncover the rotten practices made by Cambridge Analytica in the Trump election in 2016, which led to the lionized trial and deposition of Mark Zuckerberg in the Senate two years ago, thus the espionage and misusage from facebook to the users, through our data, in order to dragoon the voters in favor of the nefarious Republican nominee. To me, this is a perfect example for what Surveillance Capitalism stands for, in terms of the nightmarish downfalls it can cause, not without mentioning the billion dollar industry this now is.

As Zuboff would compare, what used to be understood as what Ford and General Electric once did and had, all of its power, resources, influence, and teeth within the last millennium’s world, this is now swapped for Amazon, Facebook, Alphabet, and all the leviathanic companies which are now ruling the way we interact, and consume in terms of the modern — capitalist world. Of course the outcomes of misusing our information, leave us users, consumers, and voters in a profound asymmetry and crooked status upon these gigantic companies. China is now developing these practices for a governance model, as referred in the last essay Byung-Chul Han averred in El País this year. Biopolitcs was just an abstract concept developed by Foucault, and retaken by Agamben in the last years; now it is a reality in the developed countries in Asia. Data-driven governments oriented to shape the way life is understood to the minimal detail. Is this to be feared or applauded? Such a debate. With this precise item, I’d like to state the next axis.

On the second axis, I believe there is a white area — and a beneficent and bounteous scope in terms of the use of data and technology to cast the not-so-future economic and political system. AI is used nowadays to help businesses automatize and boost ROI, also can be applied to public security matters and revamp the way law enforcement agencies fathom their issues. A lot of different processes can be shortened by developing virtuous algorythms in the services spectrums: for example, the new way banks are vanquishing the ventures of the new world. Through data, users are shortening their time inside the branches, and banks are reducing processes in order to ace the situations users may have.

Thing is, reality is changing and there are new radical ways to overcome the gauntlets of everyday life: phasing boring politics in order to achieve social rights, fighting consumerism yet having to procure yourself with a whole lotta stuff, dodging social media despite the fact that nowadays it’s impossible to work or develop any project without it; humankind is looking after new solutions —and dealing with new problems they come along with. Surveillance capitalism in terms of Zuboff’s book is one of them. We might be concerned about the embezzlement of our most important asset: our information, but we’re still thriving for the succesful encounters of the latest technology.

Let’s think about solutions for these new frameworks, and systems. Legislation, public policies, social understanding, and protesting, in order to shape a better future. Taking advantage of what we’re finding, and fighting against lousy tricks made by malfeasants. Debating and talking about it helps a lot to find certain answers which will not be found leaving this topic just to the developers.

There’s certain beauty in the unstoppable. Let’s embrace it.

Emilio Guerra-Estévez
@emilioguerraes on twitter.

Aquí es.