Surveillance Capitalism in the Age of the Unprecedented | Shoshana Zuboff


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In Episode 79 of Hidden Forces, Demetri Kofinas speaks with Shoshana Zuboff, about the rise of “Surveillance Capitalism,” a pernicious new economic logic, which robs us of our experiences, dispossess us of our sanctuaries and makes our lives increasingly unlivable.

In 1609, while in search of a rumored, northeast passage to Asia on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, the English explorer and navigator Henry Hudson, landed on what is modern day New York City.

Though written accounts exist of Hudson’s encounters with local tribes, native accounts have been handed down to us through oral tradition, often transcribed much later by missionaries and settlers. In 1765, a Moravian missionary who lived for many years among the Delaware and Mohican tribes recorded a native account of the first meeting:

“A long time ago, some Indians who had been out fishing, where the sea widens, spied at a great distance something remarkably large swimming or floating on the water. It was agreed among those who were spectators, that as this phenomenon moved towards the land, it would be well to inform all the Indians on the inhabited islands. Chiefs, from scattered tribes who arrived in numbers, concluded the strange appearance to be a large canoe or house, in which the great Supreme Being himself was coming to visit them.“

Such descriptions by native peoples of their first encounters with white settlers were common throughout the Americas. The first man to bring news to the great Aztec King Montezuma of Spanish ships described what he saw from the Gulf coast as “towers or small mountains floating on the waves of the sea.” In other accounts, natives looked from the shore and thought the awesome, approaching ships were giant, white seabirds or floating islands. There are even theories that the Arawak - the first tribe to encounter Columbus’ ships off the coast of Hispaniola - could at first, see only their ripples across the horizon. They were unable to picture what was for them, unprecedented. Unimagined. Alien.

What all these people had in common was that they were unable to name, let alone recognize a force of creative destruction so vast and boundless that it would make their worlds unrecognizable, their homes uninhabitable, and their lives unlivable. They were unable to see the ships and their crew for what they were – the vessels of conquerors, pillagers, and looters of unsullied lands. Unable to name them, they welcomed them, agents of their own annihilation.

This week, on Hidden Forces, we explore the unprecedented force of surveillance capitalism – how it threatens to dispossess us of our experiences, our sanctuaries, and our very lives.

Producer & Host: Demetri Kofinas

Editor & Engineer: Stylianos Nicolaou

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133 episodes