What is Surveillance Capitalism?

As China creates the biggest surveillance capitalism state in the world augmented with CCTV, facial recognition, 5G, IoT and a sophisticated social credit system, the roots of Surveillance Capitalism began in Silicon Valley with the data harvesting of ad-firms like Google and Facebook.

It didn’t take long for the internet to become a system where data would become the new oil. Since Ad-firms are so lucrative, data harvesting took off in the mobile revolution of smart phones.

In a world of approaching technological automation, we’ve already been automated with algorithms that not only train our online behaviour but harvest our data for advertising, state databases and for growing profit of large tech firms that are beginning to dominate global capitalism.

At the Last Futurist, we’ve been writing about surveillance capitalism since at least 2015. Now with the Silicon Six coming under fire, the connection between wealth inequality, surveillance capitalism and the growth of information control is becoming more clear.

Surveillance Capitalism is at the root of the race and weaponization of artificial intelligence of the largest market cap companies in the world in the 2020s such as Microsoft, Amazon, Huawei, Apple, Alibaba and ByteDance and so forth.

Surveillance Capitalism is the New Normal

Just as the Billionaire class keep gaining more power, so too do the global corporations that are best positioned in the emerging realm of Surveillance Capitalism. Surveillance capitalism is the technological continuation of unlimited growth with unlimited data, and is already busy undermining democracy, autonomy, freedom, wealth inequality and human rights online and in areas such as Western China, against minorities.

When data and artificial intelligence become the key in business and technological competition global surveillance capitalism results. Since China is leading this domain, it puts the United States under a lot of pressure to keep up in the 2020s and 2030s.

The Internet Has Been Hijacked By Wealth Inequality And Technological Capitalism

In its nascent form, Surveillance capitalism describes a market driven process where the commodity for sale is your personal data, and the capture and production of this data relies on mass surveillance of the internet.

However recently, it has begun also to mean a new cybersecurity area of an AI-arms race, propaganda machines, and how algorithms are used to alter human behaviour. Surveillance capitalism is more efficient with full-out behavior modification. The emergence of a social credit architecture in China with pervasive rewards and punishments is such an example.

Surveillance capitalism manifests when a species’ economic greed meets a technological means of data harvesting so pervasive that it becomes normative and the new business rule of the century and this in the 21st century is where we find ourselves.

Google, the Chinese Government, Microsoft or Facebook – all essentially working to the same end. All seeking to monetize data and use it to control human behaviour for increased revenue and economic growth.

If Silicon Valley invented surveillance capitalism for primarily business means, China is investing in a state-led surveillance capitalism that will likely be a global police state of sorts, not unlike a Black Mirror episode or the 1984 book.

China Becomes the Leader of Surveillance Capitalism by 2022

As China begins to dominate digital transformation, the Cloud and IoT – becoming the sole leader of the 4th industrial revolution mid-century, it fundamentally changes the ethics of the world, the direction of the internet and how the Cloud operates.

The manifestation of surveillance capitalism is one of the key stages of becoming a technologically mature society. It’s not therefore to be shunned but a natural business state, an functional result of a materialistic individualistic ideology. It’s also a very efficient means of state-control in that totalitarian socialist sense.

You can playfully say at the dinner table that Surveillance Capitalism might be the most profound transformation in our information environment since Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of printing in circa 1439. It also takes many decades to manifest, in 2020 we are currently just at its beginning.

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