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Shoshana Zuboff

“Surveillance capitalism” touches us all—and has consequences for the very pillars of democracy.

Sociologist | Author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Contact Shoshana For Booking
Shoshana Zuboff | Sociologist | Author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

As we attempt to grasp the consequences of our digital era, Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism “shines a searing light on how this latest revolution is transforming our economy, politics, society—and lives” (Financial Times). Surveillance capitalism—a concept coined by Zuboff herself—defines the current age in which we’ve all opted into the commodification of our personal information. Drawing from her landmark book—wildly acclaimed by The Wall Street Journal, and praised in the New York Times in three separate features—she outlines the costof putting a price on private data, and urges leaders to pay attention, resist habituation, and come up with novel responses to a new era.

“Zuboff’s book is the information industry’s Silent Spring.”

— Chris Hoofnagle, University of California, Berkeley

There’s no doubt that smart devices, social networks, location services, and their ilk have made 21st century life incredibly efficient, connected, and hyper-optimized. But as Harvard Business School emerita and scholar Shoshana Zuboff writes in The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, having access to these products and services comes with the parceling out of our information, which is then used to both serve and manipulate us. As our decisions are predicted and shaped, we are also giving companies exorbitant power over us, the economy, and society as a whole. As consumers and citizens demand more from corporations, they in turn will change their efforts to control and utilize our information. The appetite and the leverage is here, Zuboff argues—and it’s in the companies’ best interests to change. Optimistic but realistic, Zuboff shows us that “there’s a lot of work to be done, if we are to build bridges to the kind of future that we can call ‘home.’” This is not just about our individual lives and minds. The new economic order of surveillance capitalism is shaping democracy anew—in ways that threaten our hard-fought freedoms like never before. 

 

Zuboff’s theorems have struck a cultural chord, with major publications of record hailing Surveillance Capitalism as “a landmark new book” (The Observer) vital to the current conversation. The New York Times called it an “extraordinarily intelligent … comprehensive work of scholarship and synthesis” that sets forth a “substantial new argument against the intrusions of Big Tech.” The Wall Street Journal  described it as “a rare volume that puts a name on the problem just as it becomes critical,” and the Financial Times called the book an “unmissable classic that everyone should read.”  

“Everyone needs to read this book as an act of digital self-defense. With tremendous lucidity and moral courage, Zuboff demonstrates not only how our minds are being mined for data but also how they are being rapidly and radically changed in the process.”

— Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and No Logo

Zuboff was one of the first tenured women in  Harvard Business School’s faculty, where she was the Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration. Previously, she was a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School. Zuboff has also been a frequent contributor to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. In the early 2000s, she shared her ideas on the future of business and society in her popular Fast Company column, “Evolving.” She has also been a featured columnist for BusinessWeek.com, with her work showcased on CNBC, Reuters International, the Today Show as well as in Fortune, Inc., Business Week, The New York Times, The Financial Times, and many other news outlets. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the top ten titles in Business & Economics of the season. 

Speech Topics

Politics & Society
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
In her book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, scholar and sociologist Shoshana Zuboff posits a detailed examination of the unprecedented power of surveillance capitalism, by which our personal information, monetized and exploited by big tech companies, is then used to predict and shape our behaviors. In this frank and necessarily lucid talk, Zuboff defines the terms of surveillance capitalism as a new economic system, pioneered at Google and later Facebook, in much the same way that mass-production and managerial capitalism were pioneered at Ford and General Motors a century before. Zuboff speaks urgently to our need to protect ourselves in this unprecedented age, and not try to resist or strike in the ways we did a century ago. Google, Amazon and now fallen behemoths like Cambridge-Analytica aren’t going anywhere, but as Zuboff expansively demonstrates, we can create countermeasures to stave off the monopolistic workings of these companies. We have the power to  demand more from these seemingly all-powerful corporations. If they want what we provide (data), they in turn will have to change their usage tactics. The citizen desire and the leverage is here, Zuboff argues—and it’s in the companies’ best interests to change. Rather than facing the subject with worry or paranoia, Zuboff argues for us to pay attention, resist habituation, and come up with novel, innovative responses to the issue of surveillance capitalism, as novel a system as we are likely to know.