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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
5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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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.

Shoshana Zuboff's interdisciplinary breadth and depth enable her to come to grips with the social, political, business, and technological meaning of the changes taking place in our time. We are at a critical juncture in the confrontation between the vast power of giant high-tech companies and government, the hidden economic logic of surveillance capitalism, and the propaganda of machine supremacy that threaten to shape and control human life. Will the brazen new methods of social engineering and behavior modification threaten individual autonomy and democratic rights and introduce extreme new forms of social inequality? Or will the promise of the digital age be one of individual empowerment and democratization?

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is neither a hand-wringing narrative of danger and decline nor a digital fairy tale. Rather, it offers a deeply reasoned and evocative examination of the contests over the next chapter of capitalism that will decide the meaning of information civilization in the 21st century. The stark issue at hand is whether we will be the masters of information and machines or its slaves. 

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

Critic Reviews

"I will make a guarantee: Assuming we survive to tell the tale, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism has a high probability of joining the likes Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations and Max Weber's Economy and Society as defining social-economics texts of modern times. It is not a 'quick read'; it is to be savored and re-read and discussed with colleagues and friends. No zippy one-liners from me, except to almost literally beg you to read/ingest this book." (Tom Peters, coauthor of In Search of Excellence)

"My mind is blown on every page by the depth of Shoshana's research, the breadth of her knowledge, the rigor of her intellect, and finally by the power of her arguments. I'm not sure we can end the age of surveillance capitalism without her help, and that's why I believe this is the most important book of our time." (Doc Searls, author of The Intention Economy, editor in chief, Linux Journal)

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    5 out of 5 stars

every social media user should read this

This is a book that every social media user or non users should read. This books just makes you realised that you are being watched all the time. this is a wonderful book. A book both for academics and general public.

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  • Brad
  • 08-02-19

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.

35 people found this helpful

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  • pk
  • 04-04-19

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.

16 people found this helpful

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  • South Florida MBA
  • 14-07-19

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

30 people found this helpful

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  • Eric
  • 18-04-19

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Erik Kobayashi-solomon
  • 20-04-19

Erudite and important

I had originally expected much more mechanical account of the way in which Google and Facebook, and later Microsoft, learned to use data to craft advertising messages. Instead, the book turned out to be a thoughtful and philosophical work that reminded me in ambition to Thomas Pikkety's work and in content to the writing of Hannah Arendt. This is an important work that I desperately hope will catch the attention of policy makers and prompt an international framework of privacy and personal rights laws.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Steve
  • 28-04-19

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.

7 people found this helpful

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  • Amy B.
  • 22-04-19

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.

19 people found this helpful

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  • KYLE KNOLL
  • 15-03-19

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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • Al
  • 28-05-19

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • spores
  • 13-07-19

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...

6 people found this helpful

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  • Apple Smith
  • 26-04-19

Had so badly wanted to like it

My being fresh from lapping up Yuval Noah Harari’s gripping trilogy (read by the engaging Derek Perkins), I was keen to dig deeper into similar writings on the seeming inevitability of capitalism and its effect on modern society.

Following the recommendations of friends, the London Review of Books, and Audible itself, I searched for Zuboff’s book. The audio sample sounded good and I was confident of a rewarding purchase.

Regrettably the writing is much heavier going than the sample suggests (peppered with hifalutin terms & unhelpfully pretentious metaphors) and, each time I try to pick it up again, Zanzarella’s vocal performance leaves me *exhausted* after just ten minutes. Finishing it has been a labour of love: the overall presentation feels oppressively self-conscious, thanks to a combination of overly earnest Writing with overly earnest Reading.

Meticulously researched & timed, but sadly scuppered by its poor delivery as compared with that of similar productions like Harari-Perkins & Piketty-Ganser, or some of my favourite readers (Joanna David, Ruth Golding, etc).

12 people found this helpful

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  • Mr E.
  • 25-10-19

Great, important and meticulously crafted book.

I nearly didn’t read/listen to this because reviews suggested it was too long, poorly narrated and overly wordy and dense..... However I am glad that I ignored the negative reviews which I believe are totally unfounded (apart from the narration - but see final paragraph below re this). It is an extraordinary work and v timely.

From amid the fog of a new and sinisterly intangible assault on human values Zuboff calls out the villains and their activities and challenges us to wake up to what is at stake. I think this is a must read and a call to action for anyone who cares about the freedom of the individual and the fundamental sanctity of lived experience uncollated by ‘big other’.

One small but significant detail ..... I listened to it on 2x speed which simultaneously halved the listening time and solved the excessively ponderous narration. Normally I do 1.75x but in this case 2x was perfect. (Hence 3 stars for performance).

2 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-10-19

Good, but not great for audiobook

while an interesting book, it doesn't do well as an audiobook. it's much too heavy to read, and doesn't easily carry between listening sessions.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Vic
  • 30-06-19

Fascinating and terrifying, but robotic performance and very long.

Very thorough, and thought provoking, it changed my view of how and why we use the internet. It uses complex language at times, I felt I couldn’t be distracted while listening to it. Performance is very dry.

1 person found this helpful

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  • ayman
  • 14-05-19

Good points but sooooo long book

I understand the point the author wants to make and the effort made but the book could be summarized and shorten to half

2 people found this helpful

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  • Fipzee
  • 28-03-20

Misses the point by being overly one sided

A book that should be important, with important points and information but one whose generalisations and failure to properly examine the counter arguments weakened the strength of the argument ultimately leaving me frustrated. That’s a pity because I have concerns about data privacy and misuse.

Some examples of issues with the book:

- The author criticises the shift from privacy to security but doesn’t assess the merits of that choice or necessity of that path
- In criticising share structures that in the end allow founders to simply maximise return while staying in control but fails to acknowledge shareholders don’t simply have to trust the likes of Zuckerberg. They can invest elsewhere. Different share classes are not new.
- In the case of Google the author pretty much acknowledges they stumbled across a way to avoid going out of business. If the central point of this book is that companies are using our own behaviour to manipulate us then shouldn’t the tobacco, gambling and pizza delivery businesses all be shut down tomorrow? Businesses will always service a need and good government will ensure regulation is in place to ensure that the ability and manner of that delivery is in the interests of society. A challenge with surveillance capitalism is that a lot of it works really well. Most of us wish to avoid ads that aren’t relevant and welcome those that draw our attention to something we really want/need (and sometimes didn’t know)
- Dismisses claims of economic benefits by Google as wishful thinking without investigation.
- Points out the degree of lobbying and resistance to comply with authorities without contextualising that with historical behaviour of other firms that could strengthen the arguments e.g. tobacco companies.
- Labelling SaaS as surveillance as a service. In my experience with business related software this is simply untrue. Does it mean there are not bad players out there? No, but making these generalisations and not backing them up weakens the author’s credibility and argument.

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  • Simon Rowse
  • 23-01-20

Convert

I have always been a little sceptical of those that go after big tech. Zuboff elevates the conversation to the appropriate level of economics & moral philosophy. If we are not careful will will surrender our hard won freedom in the name of convenience & ignorance.

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  • J. Flood
  • 19-01-20

Mixed bag

Some great ideas and useful information but the book is twice as long as it has to be. Philosophical excuses are not rewarding.

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  • Andrew P.
  • 18-12-19

A must-read!

An excellent look into how Google, in particular, invented and refined the concept of Surveillance Capitalism. Unfaulted scholarship by Shoshana Zuboff. Listen to/read it now!

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  • M. Smee
  • 04-12-19

Fascinating but hard going

I found this book a little hard to follow at times. Occasionally a sentence would pass me by and I would realize that all of the words in that sentence were meaningless to me. The author also defines new terms throughout the book and uses them frequently. So if you miss a definition or forget then you are basically screwed.
That aside I could mostly follow along and there is some recapping for people like me who tend to forget stuff.
I thought this book was fascinating, shocking in parts. I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in why big corporations would want our data so bad.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 20-04-20

Really hard listening

This book was a lost opportunity to get an important message communicated effectively. Written by an academic it was heavy on obtuse terminology. Not a book for anyone wanting surveillance capital reported in layman’s terms. Invest your time wisely and do some research before purchasing this book.

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  • Petra Bueskens
  • 21-02-20

Brilliant

Sociological analysis of this depth and magnitude is unheard of for precisely the reasons Zuboff lays out: surveillance capitalism captures our attention and robs us of the privacy necessary for deep contemplation and reflection. With the confluence of surveillance and neoliberalism, very few academics have the time (or attention span) for work of this calibre or depth. It’s is a profound, multi-levelled analysis of the largely invisible social and economic structure of digital capitalism.

The stand out finding that human life has become a new frontier of raw material to be mined and sold, and our actions — from the individual through to the societal — are being captured, recorded, nudged, herded, conditioned and sold as “behavioural surplus” is brilliant, comprehensive and deeply disturbing.

This book is not simply an illumination of the status quo but a call to arms. It’s impossible to not be moved by it. We should all be grateful for this book. It is a feat of the very “will to will” Zuboff so clearly shows to be under threat.

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  • Geoffrey R. Folland
  • 18-02-20

Clear & compelling

Zuboff does a great job of recounting the history that led to the rise of Google & Facebook, etc. she clearly identifies the underlying issues & threats related to this new form of power using simple examples that illustrate the point. Her use of newly coined (or self coined) terms makes it important to pay attention to their early definition, but new experiences demand new terms. I was somewhat surprised by her pervasive use of theological terms (eg God-view, free will, sanctuary, utopia etc.) but realised that she does not have a theological view in mind. In fact, I would say that this is the weakness in her work - she has an understanding of human nature that fails to grasp the richness & power of Christian anthropology (biblical view of personhood). Her argument would be enriched by comparing her concepts of, for example, policy & human contract with the biblical tension between law & grace. Still, this excellent book sounds a clear warning and provides enough insight to suggest a clear way forward in the resistance against unrestrained forces of power.

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  • Milorad Mrvic
  • 13-09-19

Ferociously intelligent and eloquent

Could this book be more relevant in our times? The path towards instrumentarism, read totalitarianism, revealed and forwarned. Brilliant dismantling of the capitalism we live in. The only criticism is of the underlying belief in democracy propped by state intervention which would reign in the existing capitalism. No it wouldn't. Capitalism needs to be replaced by an egalitarian, just, equitable, and compassionate social order if the organised human existence is to sustain.

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  • Rainer
  • 01-09-19

Great listen

Very profound analysis of the depth in which internet firms and social networks profit from our data , undermine democracy and manipulate our lives. The narration is also great. I enjoyed the book, eagerly awaiting each new chapter.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 26-05-19

Important, must read!

Very disconcerting, a call to action not resignation. Well written and clearly articulated. Will listen again and recommend to friends

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  • Professor Neville Rochow SC
  • 19-05-19

This is essential reading.

This is the modern digital equivalent of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. Beautiful writing combined with careful research it outlines all that needs to be known regarding threats to our humanity posed by the digital age masters.

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  • Mr. S. D. Bourges
  • 06-05-19

Really amazing book but...

Really amazing book but there's a lack of understanding of a Marxist materialist point of view of the problem. Lot of quotes to post modern cafe intellectuals like Hanna Harendt and people that live on academia more than real life.
The conclusions are just wrong. 99% of the book is a master piece.
Thanks to the writer for starting the process.
I admire her work deeply

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  • Bob Doss
  • 11-04-19

important book

great research and synthesis. we need to regain control of our minds from the data lords hive