The Age of Surveillance Capitalism
The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power
As we attempt to grasp the consequences of our digital era, Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is “an epoch-defining international bestseller” (Guardian) that “shines a searing light on how this latest revolution is transforming our economy, politics, society—and lives” (Financial Times). In talks drawing from her landmark book—named one of TIME’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019, and one of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2019—she outlines the cost of 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 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 services comes with the parceling out of our information, which is then used to both serve and manipulate us. 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. As our individual choices become not only predicted, but controlled, we’re giving companies exorbitant power over the economy and society as a whole: opting to concede our privacy in exchange for increased connection and convenience. Optimistic but realistic, Zuboff shows us exactly how allowing surveillance capitalism to flourish is sapping the strength of democracy and freedom. 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 ultimately in companies’ best interests to change. It’s about more than our individual lives and minds—the new economic order of surveillance capitalism is reshaping democracy 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. In 2019, she won the prestigious Axel Springer Award, given to "outstanding personalities who are particularly innovative, and who generate and change markets, influence culture and at the same time face up to their responsibility to society." It has only been awarded four times—its other receipients being none other than Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Tim Berners-Lee. Surveillance Capitalism was named one of TIME’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2019, one of both the New Yorker’s and Bloomberg’s Best Books of 2019, and one of the New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2019, who 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 it an “unmissable classic that everyone should read,” also naming it to their list of Best Books 2019: Technology. Surveillance Capitalism was also chosen by The Guardian as one of their Best Science, Nature and Ideas books of 2019, and by the Sunday Times as one of the Best Business Books of 2019. As well, Fast Company named it one of the books on tech you should read in 2020.
“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. 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.