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  • The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

  • The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
  • Written by: Shoshana Zuboff
  • Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella
  • Length: 24 hrs and 16 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (119 ratings)
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The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Written by: Shoshana Zuboff
Narrated by: Nicol Zanzarella
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Publisher's Summary

The challenges to humanity posed by the digital future, the first detailed examination of the unprecedented form of power called "surveillance capitalism", and the quest by powerful corporations to predict and control our behavior.

In this masterwork of original thinking and research, Shoshana Zuboff provides startling insights into the phenomenon that she has named surveillance capitalism. The stakes could not be higher: a global architecture of behavior modification threatens human nature in the 21st century just as industrial capitalism disfigured the natural world in the 20th. Zuboff vividly brings to life the consequences as surveillance capitalism advances from Silicon Valley into every economic sector. Vast wealth and power are accumulated in ominous new "behavioral futures markets", where predictions about our behavior are bought and sold, and the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new "means of behavioral modification". The threat has shifted from a totalitarian Big Brother state to a ubiquitous digital architecture: a "Big Other" operating in the interests of surveillance capital. Here is the crucible of an unprecedented form of power marked by extreme concentrations of knowledge and free from democratic oversight. Zuboff's comprehensive and moving analysis lays bare the threats to 21st-century society: a controlled "hive" of total connection that seduces with promises of total certainty for maximum profit—at the expense of democracy, freedom, and our human future. With little resistance from law or society, surveillance capitalism is on the verge of dominating the social order and shaping the digital future—if we let it.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2019 Shoshana Zuboff (P)2019 Hachette Audio

What the critics say

An International Bestseller

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year

A Financial Times Best Book of the Year

A Sunday Times (UK) Best Business Book of the Year

Selected by Barack Obama, Zadie Smith (in the Wall Street Journal), Jia Tolentino (in the New Yorker), Elif Shafak (in the Guardian), and Ana Botin (in Bloomberg) as one of the best books of 2019

Finalist for the Financial Times/McKinsey Best Book of the Year Award

"If a book's importance is gauged by how effectively it describes the world we're in, and how much potential it has to change said world, then in my view it's easily the most important book to be published this century... Zuboff is concerned with the largest act of capitalist colonisation ever attempted, but the colonisation is of our minds, our behaviour, our free will, our very selves. Yet it's not an anti-tech book. It's anti unregulated capitalism, red in tooth and claw. It's really this generation's Das Kapital."—Zadie Smith

"Extraordinarily intelligent... Absorbing Zuboff's methodical determination, the way she pieces together sundry examples into this comprehensive work of scholarship and synthesis, requires patience, but the rewards are considerable - a heightened sense of awareness, and a deeper appreciation of what's at stake. A business model that seeks growth by cataloging our 'every move, emotion, utterance and desire' is too radical to be taken for granted. As Zuboff repeatedly says near the end of the book, 'It is not O.K.'"—Jennifer Szalai, NEW YORK TIMES

"The rare volume that puts a name on a problem just as it becomes critical... This book's major contribution is to give a name to what's happening, to put it in cultural and historical perspective, and to ask us to pause long enough to think about the future and how it might be different from today."—Frank Rose, WALL STREET JOURNAL

What listeners say about The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

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Excellent message but very hard to consume

Quick review: The message is excellent and the subject matter important, but it is very repetitive and the narration is monotone. This made it impossible for me to get past the 5hr mark. When I realized I had 18hrs left I just couldn’t do it.

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Verbose and pretentious

What could easily be communicated in simple terms in an entertaining way instead is a mental exercise in verbal comprehension that only a fraction of the population will be capable of mining for insights. At times there are some aha moments but they're quickly overshadowed by the authors attempt to sound smart.

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A must read. This will be textbook material in thirty years.

Did you know that google street view cars logged on to unencrypted wifi networks and downloaded all available data?

Did you know that roomba vacuum cleaners map your floor then sell your floor plan data?

Did you know that google Homes offer free telephone service so that your audio can be recorded and transcribed and fed to machine learning so google can better predict your behaviour?

Did you know that Machine learning AIs can calculate your personality score as accurately as psychologists, track your mood and predict your behaviour in order to target tailored adds to you when you are most permissible? Facebook bragged about their ability to identify vulnerable high school students to potential investors in Australia.

Did you know that Facebook tracked over 700 million reads of factually false "fake news" articles during the 2016 US elections? They had the capacity to identify and remove these, but they operate under what Zuboff calls "radical indifference" where driving traffic and collecting data are more important than preventing Anti-democratic actions even if taken by foreign governments.

Did you know that Facebook performed experiments demonstrating that they can actively change users moods by manipulating their news and instagram feeds? This allows them to not only target advertising but also manipulate users into a more permissive state.

This book is what would happen if Naomi Kline wrote about Facebook and Google. Fascinating, horrifying and chock full of important information. Zuboff Writes in a style similar to Kline, but with less self reflection and a more explicit structure while crafting a fluid synthesis of philosophical considerations and historical facts starting from the inception of data mining at the origins of Google covering everything from developmental psychology to the origins of totalitarianism to a treatise on BF Skinner's work and projections on the future.

I'm going to buy a paper copy of this book so I can read it more carefully.

Nicol Zanzarella is one of my favourite narrators for non-fiction. Excellent performance and pacing.

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Intense and detailed analysis

Zuboff presents an intense and detailed analysis of the ability of tech companies like google and facebook to extract surplus behavioural value through their all encompassing systems of surveillance capitalism. They make massive profits by exploiting the effective legal-free zone that currently exists in terms of digital world. Throughout Zuboff asks "who knows, who decides, and who decides who decides". The answers are pretty disheartening, but also still unknown. This is the beginning of this story, as she tells us at the end of this long and sometimes overwhelming book. There are some tips on how we can be the friction in this story of the seemingly untrammeled power and free reign of the tech giants, but overall I felt a bit overwhelmed and powerless at the end of this read. I would recommend it though for anyone who wants to know how this unchecked power is threatening our autonomy, freedom and ability to make our own futures.

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This one’s for the academics

This book brings up some really fascinating and important points! However I think it’s important to point out that the author is a long standing Harvard professor and the book reads as one extremely long academic article. If you have experience with or enjoy consuming academic styles of writing or have a background in this subject matter I would definitely recommend this book! Unfortunately I don’t think the general masses will find the information in this book easy to consume which is sad as there are many important points for the public to consider.

The audio recording also has a bit of a robotic vibrato to it. It was easy to get over eventually but distracting at first.

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Compelling and insightful

For anyone with questions about the place of capitalism in society. Definitely recommended as a compliment to Thomas Piketty’s writings. Read this if you want to shape our future, rather than gamble with it.

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Lengthy, detailed, repetitive

While a thorough demonstration of the mechanisms and effects of surveillance capitalism, the author could have essentially said the same thing and conveyed the same urgency with half the words. It’s interesting, but a more succinct argument would have been more convincing

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A heavy read (listen), but worthwhile.

The author effectively develops a complex, multi-part thesis. it is not always easy to follow; and, the language tends to the dramatic. However, it is worth the effort.

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Required reading

If we all read this book we could have real and meaningful dialogue on the subject. It provides a framework, vocabulary, context and the heat to thaw the numbest of misunderstandings of what your clicks really mean.

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Excellent

This is a must read if you want to understand the present and the future. I put it on 1.25x speed and it went more smoothly that way. This book is so well researched and it's honestly a masterpiece.

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  • Todd B
  • 2019-07-14

Book Editors failed to trim the word count

A great topic, with a author that can explain it well ....making a convincing argument for regulation of corporate and goverment use of citizens personal data. However, the book editors were asleep at the wheel esecially in the second half of the book where the editors must have just thrown in the towel and moved on to the next book ..... I can not imagine how excesssively wordy this book was before the final edit?? ..... this is a 6 hour story .... that wanders aimlessely between excess and irrelevant details while trying to make a very concise point.

It reads like the book was written by an author who has spent a career in academia and government, written like she felt that she was preaching from a pulpit of what she believes will be the legistlative bible on consumer data of the modern economy ..... she even invents some of her own proprietary phrases ....with little regard for reader's time, not many business readers will finish this 24 hour sermon ..... 18 hours of dramatic soap box preaching and excess detail around its 6 hours of unbiased actionable information.

By the end of book you will want to strangle Shoshana each time you hear the narrator drone on with:

1. ubiquitous
2. modernity
3. instrumentarian
4. conceptual
5. who decides-who decides
6. unprecendented
7. dispossession
8. personal autonomy
9. inalienable right to the future tense
10. survelliance capitalists
11. neoliberal
12. collectivist orientation
13. facsist
14. any and all
15. human freedom
16. hierarchical complexities
17. radical indifference
18 organism among organisms
19. radical indifference
20. data surplus
21. existential
22. equivalance without equality

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  • Steve
  • 2019-04-28

One of the most important books of the decade

I don't think it's hyperbole to say that this is one of the most important books in recent years. It lays out the case for a brand new type of capitalism that we are simply not equipped to grasp the short term, and long term, consequences of, and that affects us all in profound ways. And that's why I gave it 5 stars. However, that recommendation comes with a huge caveat. The author seems to take joy in writing in a style that seems more apt for a doctoral thesis in psychology. A book written by an Ivy League professor for other Ivy League professors. This verbiage is wholly unnecessary and borders on obnoxious.

Take for example a sentence like this: "This mental and emotional milieu appears to produce a virus of insecurity and anxiety that drives a young person deeper into this closed loop of escalating compulsion as he or she chases relief in longed-for signals of valorization."

Or how about this sentence: "It is a form of observation without witness that yields the obverse of an intimate violent political religion and bears an utterly different signature of havoc: the remote and abstracted contempt of impenetrably complex systems and the interests that author them, carrying individuals on a fast-moving current to the fulfillment of others’ ends."

Make no mistake. This book is remarkably researched and thorough. The points it makes are exceedingly compelling and it contains information that everyone in this age needs to know. However, this book needs a complete re-write by someone more capable of communicating with a more broad audience. One shouldn't have to fight thought the unnecessarily complex sentence structures and pedantic language in order to digest the amazingly necessary message this book tells.

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  • Brad
  • 2019-02-08

A MUST, NOT TO BE MISSED

Something wicked indeed has come this way, and is upon us now. Dubbed early on "The Information Age"; the appellation is woefully insufficient. For it is glaringly clear that we are well into the transition from occupying nation states (in which our social contracts as governed populations had long been between civil governments -- varied in kind, but with the one common feature of thriving entirely on human agency) to occupying corporate states. That is, it is not too soon to say we no longer populate nations but vast ruling corporations.

The singular, most curious and even frightening thing to consider is that to the degree we arrived at this predicament, we did so willingly. We did so under no other pressure than our own acquiescence. We did so not from ignorance of what was happening -- for this book is proof of that -- but from, if anything, a mass gaslighting. Thus, with all the facts before us, we chose the road called convenience rather than the road called liberty; and that, as the poet once wrote, made all the difference.

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  • pk
  • 2019-04-04

The intersection of ethics, capitalism, and tech

First, I love to read about ethics issues in technology; so, it may not be immediately apparent that one would be getting a good dose within this title. I was enamored from the beginning of how colorful this author was in producing a tangible and practical view of surveillance capitalism. This is a concept I've heard very little about outside of the security sector. To have the correlation made with other sociological concepts that I hadn't really thought about stretched me! This book was fantastic at opening up and investigating the implications of surveillance with the majority of consumers not truly comprehending and understanding the cost.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that the author goes on, repeatedly and at length, to address the same points multiple times. It was really hard to extract the take-away points at the mid-point of this book because of how often the author hits the same points, using the same language, and the same frustration toward the abuses. If you are not a reader that likes to "work" to obtain the gold nuggets of wisdom, then this is not the book for you. At times, I found myself cursing in traffic because the author repeats herself too much. I have the impression that this author created this book intending that each chapter should be able to stand on it's own. The unifying themes are very evident; so, repeatedly hitting the drum of disdain became painful after the first 8hrs. The editor should have reigned it in!

The last point I should make is that there are probably more than 30 important topics for consideration in this book. All of them are worthy of your clock cycles to consider, understand, and discuss with your friends and family. When coupled with some of the other topics I like to read, such as artificial intelligence, I am at no shortage of discussion points to appreciate with a mint julep, a cigar, and a friend on the porch for at least 2 summers....but, I'll do it without my phone, or sensors of any type, nearby.

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  • Amy B.
  • 2019-04-22

Good information - way too verbose

This book has so much good information, but it really needs a good editor. There was way too much repetition and the episodic flowery prose was distracting. This book is good, but it needs to be shorter and less of a burden to listen to.

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  • Al
  • 2019-05-28

Horrendously Rhetorical

The basic ideas in this are interesting, but the author writes with such thick rhetoric from a specific ideological position that she makes those ideas unnecessarily overcomplicated. It comes across as an author writing more for herself and glorification of her own intellectualism than as someone attempting to communicate an idea. Terrible.

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  • spores
  • 2019-07-13

Very important topic but poorly constructed

This book discusses an incredibly important but often under-discussed topic. However, the importance of the topic and the message itself gets lost by the seeming insecurity of the writer. This book seems to be intently written to make the author sound overly intelligent and erudite. Instead of using common language and prose the author drones on with long-winded sentences and obscure phrases that are highly unnecessary. I would love to see this book rewritten by someone who is interested in conveying a reasonable message and not interested in overcompensating...

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  • D. Sooley
  • 2019-04-22

Another tech book 3X longer than it needs to be

I don't get why these tech writers keep pumping out these insanely redundant and long-winded, repetitive tomes.

I am guessing the words "ubiquitous" and "ubiquity" are used a FEW THOUSAND times in this painfully long and redundant (book?)

The information in this book could have been condensed to a handful of chapters. Instead, you get this inane, redundant, drawn out horse-beating of the data. I mean, c'mon...after hitting the point once or twice, there is no need to hit it another dozen times.

There is also a strained (IMJ) effort to use a vocabulary well beyond that of probably most of the listeners.I happen to have a strong vocab, so I didn't have to hit a dictionary....but I wonder how many people heard the language and just went, huh?

As an English teacher I once had said: An extraordinarily futile effort to expostulate on the profundities of euphoria in a piecemeal vernacular which can only be characterized as rhinestone rhetoric.

The other takeaway? We are all just hapless rhesus monkeys, clicking on our screen while big brother trains us to "behave" exactly like they want us to. WTF? The whole "behavior modification" treatise is just downright ridiculous. We are a collective of mindless consumers, with our behaviors being driven by dancing pixels? Now, where is that banana?

I would personally pass on this one if you are considering. Something that could have been done in a meme will take you 25 hours of deeply painful listening. Department of redundancy department.

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  • KYLE KNOLL
  • 2019-03-15

Takes too much time to communicate simple points

I really tried hard hard to get into this book, but the author uses way too many words to communicate somewhat simple points. If you are looking to kill some time and like hearing an author ramble on using as many big words as possible, then this book is for you. I couldn't take it anymore and returned it.

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  • Eric
  • 2019-04-18

This should be required reading

While this book seems almost excessively long, I feel the information is soo important for the times we live in. The way data is being collected and sold with no one held accountable is disheartening to say the least. If we do nothing to stop it we are basically giving up our freedom to choose and even our rights as we become a sum of data collected defining who we are to the powers that be. They can then use the data to manipulate our behavior or deny certain privileges. I don't like living in fear but this book can cause paranoia knowing the current truth. I hope enough people learn this information and we can turn technology into a positive tool instead of a tool used to spy and manipulate.

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  • claisse
  • 2023-04-09

Fundationnal book

This book is a fundation on surveillance capitalism, communication system, social medias, google, facebook, amazon, etc. It covers so many topics in so many details, there is so much into it. I can only recommend it.
However, the book is technical and dense, it takes a lot of time and effort to finish it. Therefore, you need to be experienced and motivated :)
I think will book will constitute in the near future a reference and is clearly a big millestone on the topics. The work of Shoshana Zuboff is very impressive. Congrstulation !
On the downside, I think Shoshana Zuboff is employing a very elaborated vocabulary which was making sentences hard to understand at first. The topic is already complex, convoluted sentences are not helping. I had this feeling particularly at the beginning of the book, where I struggled a bit. However, it eased with the rest of the book, or perhaps I just got used to it and improved my English, and the rest went well.
I still think she should produce a short version, to make it more accessible to people with the most concrete ideas.
I bought the paper version and start to read it with the audio, but the task is quite massive so I only read half of it. However I am able to go throigh thanks to the audiobook (reading part 3 now). Thanks a lot to the author and to the reader for their contribution.

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  • David
  • 2020-10-29

text to speech ?

I can't listen to it... I have the feeling that Nicol
Zanzarella is a robot, so disappointed really wanted to listen to it.

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  • Kerem
  • 2019-04-08

An essential read for everyone who owns a smartphone

With a level of certainty and clarity of a masterpiece, this book takes aim at the omnipresent surveillance capitalist that boldly claims our daily lives and liberty in pursuit of unlimited power and profits. Based on impressive theoretical groundwork, this book shows the philosophical urgency and practical ways of resisting this new breed of exploitative capitalist.

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