Surveillance capitalism 1

Trillions of data points, clickbait, an advertising arms race, and BF Skinner’s pigeons

Every tap, swipe and click we make on our phones, tablets and laptops is being recorded by big tech firms. This is often called surveillance capitalism – a network of products and services we use every day which sucks up large quantities of data about us and then sells it on to advertisers at huge profits. It’s garnering increasing concern from citizens and regulators around the world, but should we care as Christians? What impact is this system having on once flourishing industries such as journalism or bookselling, let alone on us as human beings? And why have tech companies made their products so addictively hard to put down and stop tapping, swiping and clicking?

Resources and links

“A new economic order build around aggregating human experience as raw material for hidden commercial practices of prediction, behavioural manipulation and sales, resulting in unprecedented concentrations of wealth, knowledge and power in the hands of private companies.”

Surveillance capitalism: the hidden costs of the digital revolution, Jonathan Ebsworth, Samuel Johns, Michael Dodson, Cambridge Papers June 2021

The Question of Surveillance Capitalism, Nathan Mladin and Stephen Williams, in The Robot will see you Now: Artificial Intelligence and the Christian Faith, ed John Wyatt and Stephen Williams, SPCK, 2021

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, Shoshana Zuboff, Profile Books, 2019

Atlas of AI: Power politics and the planetary costs of artificial intelligence, Kate Crawford, Yale University Press, 2021

Irresistible: The rise of addictive technology and the business of keeping us hooked, Adam Alter, Penguin, 2017

Hooked: how to build habit forming products, Nir Eyal, Penguin, 2019

Weapons of Math Destruction, Cathy O’Neil, Penguin, 2017

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