Surveillance Capitalism

Creato: 03 Maggio 2021 Ultima modifica: 03 Maggio 2021
Scritto da Antonio Noviello Visite: 200

From D-M-D' N°16   [IT][FR] [This text has been automatically translated by deepl.com]

Welcome to the machine

Welcome my son
Welcome to the machine
Where have you been?
It's alright we know where you've been

You've been in the pipeline
Filling in time
Provided with toys and scouting for boys
You brought a guitar to punish your ma

And you didn't like school
And you know you're nobody's fool
So welcome to the machine

Pink Floyd[i]

Abstract: In this short essay we will discuss the book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Professor Shoshana Zuboff[ii] , a researcher at Harvard Business School. The book has the subtitle: the future of humanity in the age of new powers. The author sets out to investigate in depth the scenario of the new economic order, resulting from the exploitation of data produced consciously and unconsciously by human practices associated with new technologies. Indeed, in spite of the emphasis on defining a new economic order of capitalism, we will observe how in the practices of production and massive exploitation of technology and data and the undoubted inequalities and concentrations of power, we will get nothing but the capitalism of all time, that is, the exploitation of man on man, the atomisation of the individual and the appropriation and maximum concentration of surplus value produced.

The foundations of surveillance capitalism

Let us start with a definition Zuboff uses in introducing the paradigm of surveillance capitalism. In reality she provides several[iii], but the first two seem significant:

  • A 'new economic order' that uses human experience as raw material for secret commercial practices of extraction, prediction and sale;
  • A 'parasitic economic logic' in which the production of goods and services is subordinated to a new global architecture for changing (human) behaviour.

A combination of accumulations of technological knowledge, cutting-edge technology and research groups, all combined with a new market whose product is total information on the person, his tastes, his manias, his habits, his business practices, and all this is made available to these neo-capitalists who grew up at the end of the last century, namely the CEOs, the top executives, of the new multinationals of globalised knowledge: Google, Facebook, Samsung, Apple, Tik Tok, Alibaba, etc...

In capitalism in general, the commodity form means that social relations necessarily manifest themselves as relations between things produced. Production is the task of the workers who offer labour power in exchange for wages. The capitalist buys the commodity labour power and applies it in his factories in a manner and at a time determined by him. Theoretically, therefore, the capitalist's exploitation would be resolved in the working time that the worker has to give by contract. With surveillance capitalism, on the other hand, it is people themselves, without distinction, who are both the raw material and the target market to be reached.

It is said: 'we spend more and more time connected to the Internet'. Today's human practices provide for[iv]24/7 valorisation of capital, regardless of whether it is derived from commodity production, parasitic or financial, or from the new paradigms of surveillance capitalism as Zuboff suggests in great detail. Even if we are not directly employed on the assembly line, we are always connected to the world, even during the hours of rest: at three o'clock in the morning we might easily have to answer a work email, or an urgent WhatsApp message about work-related issues, or we might leave a comment on Facebook or consult an electronic map. In short, a virtual assembly line that extends beyond the usual working hours. Zuboff says:

We are witnessing a new version of Faust's pact... The internet has become essential for living a social life, but the internet is also saturated with advertising, and advertising is subordinated to surveillance capitalism[v].

But it is not just a question of how best to place goods in the real world. We cannot reduce the Internet to a new and expanded commercial TV. We are faced with giants that have been formed in the last twenty years, giants such as Google, which stores our histories and catalogues them in huge databases. Data collected through the daily use of search pages or other services offered. All of us, without distinction, use the engine to find anything. And this practice then becomes a chain of data glued to our person, which is 'profiled' with labels that talk about our tastes, trends, etc. All information-value in the hands of the search engine. All information-value in the hands of multinationals.

Technology is not a divine entity, it is a human product, and capitalists have total control over it, direct it, organise its 'right' functioning. The objective: the continuous and obsessive search for shares of surplus value. The DNA of technology is therefore marked at the origin, its star is profit orientation. Zuboff supports us in this hypothesis:

Surveillance capitalism employs many technologies, but cannot be equated with any technology. Its operations use platforms, but its platforms do not coincide. It uses artificial intelligence, but cannot be reduced to such machines. It produces and exploits algorithms, but does not coincide with them. The economic imperatives of surveillance capitalism are the puppet masters behind the scenes[vi].

Having said that, let's move on to the book, trying to highlight its key concepts. Zuboff spends many pages describing the parabolas of multinationals, such as Apple, Google, Facebook, etc., a history which we will avoid going over here. Let us basically highlight the common starting point: the boom of the Internet since the mid-1990s, which is the fundamental infrastructural support, without which no search engine or social network has a chance of existing. Clearly, each multinational company has had its own successive history, its own numbers, its own revenues, but as we shall see, all of them have the classic process of capitalist accumulation in common. Zuboff has the merit of going in depth with her research and synthesising the concepts that come out of her investigation from time to time. The researcher's reference to Henry Ford's paradigms regarding mass consumption and automobile production in Detroit seems worthy of note: by paying his workers higher wages than anyone could have imagined, he demonstrated that mass production needed a thriving population of mass consumers[vii]. These basic concepts are a corollary to the writer's investigation. Also interesting is the reference to the historical crises of capitalism, especially two of them: that of the 1970s, the starting point for the neoliberal and financial metamorphosis of the market that was about to become global, and the subsequent crisis of the 1910s (2007) of the new century. The latter gave a decisive push to the search for Artificial Intelligence, and above all for a technology that could massively replace workers in the production of goods.

The striking similarity in the book is between the Ford Motor Company and Google. The most used search engine in the world is the pioneer of what will become the mass production of collected data and the global profiling - the assignment to each user of an identifier and a set of characteristics - of every connected person. In strict technical jargon, the profile is the User Profile Information: UPI. In the beginning, Google was perceived, especially by insiders, as a 'liberating force' able to please anyone approaching the new world outlined by the WWW (World Wide Web).

In fact, the founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin came from the academic world of computing. The development of early platforms involved the production of additional data to accompany the brutal search, such as punctuation in the query, spelling, search terms, occurrences, etc., data that were saved but had no predefined utility yet. Already in the early version of the search engine, feedback loops returned additional information that was soon chewed up by the algorithm, to incrementally refine itself and refine the results more and more. An exponential and powerful growth that allowed Google to impose itself on its competitors. In 1999, the original laboratory moved to Silicon Valley for a market value of 25 million dollars. The Google platform handled seven million requests. But as Zuboff well said, the decisive leap came with user profiling and the use of behavioural data to anticipate searches with suggested words, and the entry of advertising, for instance through banners: the 'ads'.

This is advertising that is increasingly tailored to the user. All of a sudden, all the additional behavioural data became valuable and were thus collected in ever greater quantities, submitted as input to ever more sophisticated algorithms, processed and then attached again to the user when using the platform's products. This was the decisive step in predicting the user's interests, in order to present him with well-packaged ads that best fit his profile, in short, the right ads for everyone.

In the oven, biscuits ('little biscuits' of data) were baked in. To achieve this, additional services are created that are essential for collecting information, such as emails, maps, geolocations, etc.; of course services that require access with specially created profiles.

Just as in the industrial wars between capitalists, cut-throat competition and secrets of production techniques are grounds for dispute, in surveillance capitalism the same thing happens, but with data and algorithms. Eric Emerson Schmidt - a Google executive - imposed a curfew on what were the algorithms for extracting data from users' behavioural surplus: these surpluses had to be covered up, and the practices for obtaining them secreted away.

Google was imposing itself in the vanguard, compared to other multinationals in the sector, no concept of privacy of personal information could stand up to the extractive power of Google: it arbitrarily decided how to dispose of sensitive data, i.e. with the brutal expropriation of information. The concept, dear to Marx, of the 'original sin of robbery', expressed in the first book of Capital[viii] concerning original accumulation, can be found equally applicable in the practices of the most widely used search engine. A process, that of robbery, inherent in the nature of capitalism, no doubt. Zuboff therefore rightly summarises:

industrial capitalism transformed raw materials into products; in the same way, surveillance capitalism appropriates human nature to produce its goods[ix].

This accumulation of massive information allowed Google to reach a market value of 650 billion dollars in 2017[x], with a daily worldwide usage of 3 trillion searches! Eighty-nine per cent of this revenue comes from ADS, i.e. advertising. This growth has been possible thanks to algorithms retroactively perfected from everyday human practice, an IT process that has outperformed all the competition and allowed Google to occupy new spaces and ever different areas, and not only in classic 'search'.

Google then took over, still ahead of its time, the sector of telephony and wireless devices in general. It provided an operating system free of charge, so that Android was installed in millions of devices. And it was thanks to this painless and silent colonisation that an avalanche of new data leaked into the secret caverns of Google's databases. As in the case of previous apps, Android apps were launching in the background (i.e. without the user's knowledge) other apps to track and gather information, which was obviously not officially obtainable. Indeed, also in 2017, a French non-profit organisation, Exodus Privacy, recorded the proliferation of massive tracking apps. Exodus identified 44 tracker apps in more than 300 Android apps, all with the (unwitting) consent given by users who were evidently using those apps for other purposes.

One example out of many, also dear to Zuboff's heart, is the Street View app. The purpose of the app, at least officially, is to virtually represent the world around us through Google Maps[xi], and the person in charge of the project is John Hanke, founder of the CIA-funded satellite mapping company Keyhole. With a very ordinary car with a nice harness and a camera on the roof, all the images captured were transmitted to huge databases and then processed to populate the contents of the app. But the information was not just images. In 2010, Germany's Federal Data Protection Commission ruled that Google's Street View operations were secretly collecting unencrypted data from private Wi-Fi. After the initial outcry from the innocuous civilised world, Google shifted the blame to its chief engineer, but the data remained well-preserved, and above all continued to be collected, including Wi-Fi data! Here is just one example of how privacy is a tenuous concept compared to the massive interests of the multinationals.

Alongside Google, other surveillance corporations had certainly not been idle, and among them we find Facebook, which adds several levels of tracking and prying into users' data. The Like button was of explosive importance as it gave Zuckerberg material to approach the secrets of computer data expropriation. The access of third-party apps to user data, the leaking of any information, bogus 'verified' software modules where nothing was verified, the permission of advertisers to access data of any kind, and even the fictitious deletion of user accounts, which were in fact kept active and well. This, and more, allowed Facebook to quickly earn gold medals in the circles of surveillance capitalists. The revenues for the young Zuckerberg were, as for Google, stellar: in 2017, the Financial Times praised the growth of the social network with a value reached of 500 billion dollars, with an average of two billion(!) active users per month[xii]. And the Guardian claimed that Google and Facebook absorbed one fifth of world advertising[xiii].

Surveillance capitalists have entered the boundless forests of information, enclosed with fences and electrified barbed wire everything that used to belong to everyone. Since then they have been forcing the forests themselves to pay for the oxygen they produce!

The advance of surveillance capitalism

 

The beginning of the parable of Google, or that of Facebook, or Microsoft, or others, and even more so their development, are not similar: some have been rapid and sudden, others slower but steady. The computer multinationals have followed their own internal path, they have had their own projects, their own applications, software, algorithms, their own interpretations of the world. But once they had grown up and become adults, these worlds - which had previously been airtight - began to overlap, to share, to share market shares and to exchange data. In short, surveillance capitalism began to function as a coherent and synchronous whole. Capitalists are now not interested in having obedient and compliant users, but in imposing reliable behaviour that produces fairly certain results. And to achieve these results they needed tools that could modify or direct user behaviour. The first complex tool the capitalists equipped themselves with was artificial intelligence. The need to look at 360-degree scenarios and thus to reconstruct the future in order to predict it, gave rise to the concept of pervasive computing: 'Pervasive computing stems from the idea of technology designed to be literally everywhere (ubiquitous),' Khai Truong, professor of computer science at the University of Toronto, told a conference. Thus, systems and objects are being developed, even for everyday use, that can envelop us and assist us in every movement, need and thought. An oven, for example, is no longer just an object for cooking chickens, but a hyper-connected technological complex, sensorially equipped, capable of interacting with the context and above all of taking initiatives according to our desires. An enveloping intelligent technology, programmed to project the user at every moment into the world of his more or less unconsciously induced desires.

These new tools redirect all situations and actions in the world into a behavioural flow, and above all produce data, data, and more data. Information that encapsulates our lives, without leaving a second of our existence uncatalogued. Zuboff describes this process excellently:

For the capitalism of surveillance and its economic imperatives, the self and the body are reduced to the permanent status of objects, and disappear into the flow of a new totalitarian conception of the market. The washing machine, the pedal, the intestinal flora, everything is crushed into a single dimension where everything is equated in the form of information goods that can be broken down, reconstructed, indexed, navigated, manipulated, analysed, predicted, sold, packaged, bought: anywhere, anytime[xiv].

As with the mantra of neo-liberalism, surveillance capitalists - members of the ruling class - produce their own dominant ideology. The leaders of Google, Schmidt and Cohen, in their 2013 book "The New Digital Age" talk about their idea of technological inevitability in these terms: "the collective benefit of knowledge sharing and creativity is growing at an exponential rate. In the future, information technology will be everywhere, like electricity... Many of the changes we are talking about are inevitable. And they are coming.

Digital omniscience is taken for granted, a paradise dropped from above, endowed with its own power and, above all, certain in that humans will and must be increasingly connected. We know very well that knowledge and technology are in the hands of the ruling class and they make use of it in the way that best suits their dominant interests. There is no technology in nature. It is the result of the development that the - bourgeois - class has imposed on mankind from time to time by appropriating discoveries, or by funding research groups in their own laboratories. This is why the future is not mapped out, it has to be built. Those who take it for granted a priori are the same ones who have an interest in ensuring that it is imagined that way. In surveillance capitalism, technology is designed to accumulate the user's behavioural data. As soon as one approaches a digital interface, unilateral, shameless, ravenous tracking immediately begins. Current technology is also designed for these purposes. So much for inevitable! Our body is reinterpreted as an object with behaviours to be tracked and processed. Just think of the mobile phone and all the apps that require geolocation even when it is not necessary, but only because this type of data is extremely profitable. These are highly evolved systems, and their first design was almost always stimulated by military purposes. Still Google is at the forefront, for instance, of geolocation-based tracking. In fact, Google's operating system for mobile phones/palmtops combines data from antennas, Wi-Fi, photos, videos, and more, so that it can determine our true position to the nearest few metres. It is not only Google apps that track and capture data of all kinds.

Samsung's smart TV has gone even further. Installing voice-recognition devices inside the latest generation of TVs (which are also connected to the Internet), all speech in the vicinity of the device is recorded: please pass me the salt; we've run out of detergent; I'm pregnant; let's buy a new car; let's go to the cinema; I want to get divorced; I love you... and after a few seconds a flurry of beeps announcing business proposals such as cars, wedding lawyers, flowers, multiplexes, detergent, etc. appear on the mobile phone or Facebook profile. Mattel, the multinational toy company, has come up with innovative products to regain market share: the new interactive Barbie dolls with built-in voice recognition are all well and good, but these cute toys are nothing more than a massive recorder and illegal surveillance tool. [xv]

The billions of Facebook profiles are an inexhaustible mine of behavioural surplus for surveillance capitalism. In 2010, after careful research, a fixed point was reached: Facebook profiles are not ideal profiles or, in any case, embellished self-portraits, but reflect the true characteristics of the user; in other words, they are reliable and real, and can therefore be used, or rather, plundered. The nuggets par excellence are the metadata, aggregates of all-round information on the data itself. And it is from this boundless free wealth that Facebook has built its fortress, and not only. Many IT companies with teams of very aggressive researchers and programmers have drawn heavily on these surplus stocks for aggressive political targeting. The most striking example, which has made headlines, is that of Cambridge Analytica[xvi], a company capable of influencing political choices through the study of the personality of specific Facebook profiles, especially of the 'undecided', and thus of directing them towards target choices such as the election of Trump or the vote in favour of Brexit, and more, in a small way but following the same pattern, the affirmation of Salvini in Italy. This case can be considered 'textbook' for understanding not only how far the surveillance capitalists have gone, but above all the level of sophistication they have reached in controlling the deepest aspects of users' personalities.

Instrumentalising power for the third modernity

 

People, as a group, keep making the same mistakes. The result is that hundreds of thousands of people around the world die in road accidents every year. When an autonomous car makes a mistake, all similar vehicles can use it to learn. These new cars are already born with all the skills of their predecessors and their peers. Collectively, these cars are therefore able to learn faster than people. That's why it won't be long before autonomous cars will soon be able to complement human-driven cars, continuing to learn from the mistakes of the group [...] Sophisticated artificial intelligence tools will allow us to learn from the experiences of others. [xvii]

At the end of the 1910s, the gurus of the multinationals of surveillance capitalism defined new leaps forward, moving from a world based on cloud-based mobile technologies[xviii] to a world, also in the cloud, but based on the new paradigms of artificial intelligence. AI allows machines, with sophisticated algorithms capable of self-mutating in an incremental and retroactive process (improving step by step according to the response obtained), to learn autonomously and to interact with the physical world. The scale of the leap is insane! If we relate it to the wider concept of the network, we are defining an automatic world brain, where every neuron is a machine and the synapses are the network connections at planetary level. A power no longer just of mere calculation, but a real mind defined by Zuboff as a[xix]hive mind capable of evolving and working in unison: 25 billion devices can be mobilised to feed this mind. In the surveillance capitalism now based on AI, people and their relationships in their entirety become objects, food for the hive mind. If before, behind the data, as we have seen, there were human beings who catalogued, entered, filtered, etc.; now the process is defined according to the paradigms of artificial intelligence: it is the machines themselves that gather the information, and then process it according to obscure incremental algorithms. Nadella, the Microsoft CEO, has carved out a specific aura of his own in this field, as a priest of AI. But this new level represents the natural evolution towards the total subjugation of the human being and not his liberation, as the clergy of surveillance falsely preaches.

Zuboff borrows Pentland's theory of the instrumentalised society through her 2014 work[xx]Social Physics. The cardinal principle of this theory asserts: "social phenomena are just aggregations of billions of small transactions between individuals [...] Big data gives us the possibility to see the full complexity of society, through millions of networks of interchanges between individuals. If we could have God's omnipresent gaze, we could theoretically come to a real understanding of society and work to solve its problems.[xxi] As can be seen, this theory feeds the precursors of artificial intelligence. The reduction of the human being to a pulsating centre of generic transactions, and this network of self-learning machines capable of replacing any human experience, takes its ideological basis precisely from Pentland's theory. Indeed, for the instrumentalised society, individuality is a threat, a problematic obstacle that saps the energy of 'collaboration', 'harmony', 'integration'. Pentland expresses the concept even more clearly: 'our society is governed by a collective intelligence derived from surrounding streams of examples and ideas, and not by individual rationality [...] It is time to get rid of the false idea that individuals are the unity of rationality, and recognise that rationality is primarily determined by the social fabric'[xxii]. All these concepts were passionately reiterated at a conference organised by Google, where Pentland, to thunderous applause, reiterated that the digital world is strongly inclined to accept the obsolescence of the individual. Just as in the past, when the new means of industrial production also shaped society as a whole, surveillance capitalism defines new models of social behaviour, all through means of modifying collective and individual behaviour controlled by a small oligarchy of surveillance specialists. According to Pentland, Facebook is the ideal prototype in which his recent social theories take shape.

Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other social media exert a magnetic attraction on young people, driving them to mechanical and involuntary behaviour. Many even engage in compulsive behaviour. The model that actually inspired Facebook's creators is the casino game. The modelling of new slot machines, with attractive designs and advanced ergonomics, has made the gaming industry a billion-dollar business. Slot machines designed for the total immersion of the player, and for his complete involvement. The results were soon seen with manifestations of addiction or widespread gaming pathologies. Facebook was modelled to be similar to the latest generation of slot machines. In fact, the social media had to be addictive, immediately stimulating, alienating and automating, and, as one of its founders, Sean Parker, put it: "Facebook was designed to divert its users as much time as possible, above all it has to provide a little dopamine rush every now and then, so as to keep users glued"[xxiii] .

The most concrete manifestation of this principle is the appearance of the LIKE button, the like button has become one of the best vectors for deriving predictive, behavioural and user profiling information. The social reach of this simple button has been overwhelming. Living always under the gaze of others, being followed by hundreds of thousands of eyes, empowered by sensors, beams, waves recording everything, is a completely new phenomenon. The incessant rhythm, intensity and range of these gazes create a continuous flow of evaluations that raise and lower a person's social value at the click of a button! Facebook, in addition to being a major multinational of surveillance capitalism, is the biggest social experiment designed to modify and direct mass behaviour, to the extent of conditioning the behaviour of individuals in real life according to the likes they receive. Behind all this is an intelligent algorithm called FBLearnerFlow, a predictive engine capable of processing and cataloguing billions of behavioural data and outlining the subsequent behaviour of millions, billions of users.

Entire trade policies, even long-term programmes of states like China, are defined on behavioural information processed by artificial intelligence with self-learning algorithms. The Chinese government's vision seems animated by an impossible ambition, but in reality well achieved, especially now, in the Covid19 era: the grand dream of total knowledge and impeccable certainty mediated by algorithms that filter a perpetual flow of data, from public and private sources, such as online, offline and all kinds of experiences, then bounced back into the everyday lives of billions of people, through the automation of social behaviour managed by algorithms. Even in international relations, especially when the protagonists are blocs such as China and the United States of America, multinational surveillance companies can become a source of friction. And it is certainly not a question of data copyright. The Chinese platform TikTok, a social networking site with a strong focus on photo and video content and millions of users worldwide, has been accused by Trump of spying and hoarding sensitive American data. But behind this lies a war to control the data, and more generally the information, of millions of American users, and clearly the same would apply to Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, etc. operating on Chinese soil. In short, new frontiers of imperialist wars are being defined through data. The same goes for the 5G network, the fifth generation of data transmission systems; fundamental equipment for the evolution of artificial intelligence, and it is no coincidence that the Chinese company Huawei, which produces these systems, has been banned by Trump. It is clear that those who control the data transmission routes have a decisive advantage over all others, and Huawei's equipment is taking over all the nerve centres of mobile network transmission. Huawei is ahead of all other multinationals in the sector, such as Nokia or Ericsson. And many states are equipping themselves with this type of technological infrastructure. In short, yet another new trench in the war between China and the US.

 

 

Conclusions (binary)

Books often have their seeds in the conclusions. Zuboff's work does not escape this unwritten rule. So what kind of conclusions does it come to after some 600 pages? We find them clear, sure, implacable in the paragraph: 'Surveillance capitalism and democracy'. Indeed, we read:

instrumentalising power has derived its strength by ignoring all humanity as much as democracy. There is no law that can protect us from the unprecedented, and democratic societies are defenceless against this new power [...] democracy may be under siege, but we cannot allow its wounds to distract us from our duties to it. It is precisely in response to this dilemma that Piketty refuses to admit defeat, arguing that even the 'most anomalous' power accumulation dynamics have been and can still be mitigated by democratic institutions capable of devising durable and effective countermeasures... [xxiv]

Shoshana Zuboff often quotes Thomas Piketty in her work, because for both of them it is capitalism (industrial, financial, surveillance) that is sinking democracy. The last considerations of the book are based on these concepts. The American writer is indignant because the very essence of surveillance capitalism debases human dignity, so humanity (in general) should rediscover its indignation and sense of mourning for what capitalism is "stealing" from us. Before putting an end to it, he thunders:

The Berlin Wall fell for many reasons, but mainly because the citizens of East Berlin said 'enough'. We too can bring about great and beautiful innovations that allow us to claim the digital future as a home for humanity. Enough! That must be our declaration. [xxv]

And with this last exhortation, the book closes.

It often happens that we read well-developed works that objectively bring interesting information and considerations. Unfortunately, many of these works, in the face of precise analyses of the many faults of capitalism denounced, retreat into the act of indicating a possible alternative path to follow behind concepts that have become obsolete and unrealistic such as "democracy", or generic concepts such as "freedom". Zuboff's book does not escape this rule. The very nature of surveillance capitalism demonstrates - plastically - the unreliability of 'wounded' and colluding democratic institutions. The current capitalist context, where the synergy between the industrial, speculative financial and surveillance branches represent three leech heads of the same body, that of Capital and its laws. The development of technology follows impulses antagonistic to the fall in the profit rate. And their development, in the form known up to now, is not a random fact, or even a divine one, it takes this form because the capitalist class (and the bourgeoisie of surveillance) decides its direction, maintaining control of the means of production, of technological knowledge, and of the imposition of the dominant ideology on the world proletariat. If the instruments of surveillance, as well described by Zuboff, have become so sophisticated and totalising in controlling society, it is because the proletariat has become a globally extended mass, and its control in the smallest interstices is fundamental to the bourgeois class. One only has to look at the current conditions of the Chinese workers, who have become "fodder for the machines"[xxvi] on the assembly line, and the conditions under which the rest of the Chinese proletariat works. We know that the aim of the book is not to analyse capitalism in its entirety, but to focus on one head of the monster, that of surveillance, but for us revolutionary communists, who historically make aspects of capital as a whole a reason for study and investigation, we cannot for this reason consider surveillance capitalism a process in its own right and divorced from the more general process of accumulation. It matters little that Mr Zuckerberg started out with a small amount of initial capital and set up a platform from nothing - many nineteenth- and twentieth-century capitalists followed this initial path - but what matters to us is the general dynamic in which Facebook is embedded and how this tool is needed by the bourgeois class in precisely the forms and substance described by Zuboff. The atomisation of the individual and his isolation are an economic necessity and a necessity for social control. The general reorganisation of work, on a global scale, breaking down tasks, distributed and robotized, requires infrastructures that are strongly connected and able to work in synergy from one end of the globe to the other. What is more, with Artificial Intelligence we have machines that can make decisions and think: from the assembly line to Amazon warehouses, from the supermarket cashier to driverless driving. A lot of work has also been reorganised in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, with many people working from home[xxvii] through teleworking or 'smart working'[xxviii]. So all these surveillance tools are part of a broader context that is the continuous and global reorganisation of work. But also the exploited in the sector of goods circulation, delivery, parcel or food deliveries, are controlled by machines with artificial intelligence, by algorithms that decide to the hundredth of a second the times and places of delivery.

Surveillance capitalism" represents the last step in a process that certainly began in England at the end of the 18th century and will continue indefinitely for a long time, degrading mankind even further, unless the one who historically should make humanity leap forward, namely the proletariat with the communist revolution, intervenes. We are aware that the path is becoming increasingly difficult and at the same time compelling and necessary, but we see no other way.

[i]              Welcome to the Machine is a song by Pink Floyd, included in the 1975 LP Wish You Were Here.

[ii]            Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (2019), from the Italian translation: Luiss University Press edition, Translator Paolo Bassotti, Pages: 622 p., Paperback.

[iii]           Zuboff suggests eight definitions of surveillance capitalism. They are stated at the beginning of the book, before the introduction.

[iv]           Jonathan Crary, 24/7 Capitalism on the Assault of Sleep, Year 2013, from the Italian tanslation: Einaudi edition "I Maverick".

[v]             Reference cit. book page 21

[vi]           Book reference p. 26

[vii]          Reference cit. book p. 42

[viii]         The capitalist relationship presupposes the separation between workers and ownership of the conditions under which work is carried out. Once autonomous, capitalist production not only maintains that separation, but reproduces it on an ever-increasing scale. The process that creates the capitalist relation can therefore be nothing other than the process of separation from the ownership of one's own labour conditions, a process that on the one hand transforms the social means of subsistence and production into capital, and on the other transforms direct producers into wage labourers. Thus, the so-called original accumulation is nothing but the historical process of separation of the producer from the means of production. It appears 'original' because it constitutes the prehistory of capital and the mode of production corresponding to it. K. Marx, Capital, I, Section VII, Chapter 24, published by Editori Riuniti, October 1997.

[ix]           Reference cit. book p.105.

[x]                           "Largest Companies by Cop Market Today", Dogs of the Dow 2017.

[xi]                         "What is Street View?", www.google.it/streetview/ .

[xii]          Hunter, Zaman, Liu, "Global top 100 companies by Market Capitalization", Financial Times.

[xiii]         Julia Kollewe, "Google e Facebook Bring in One-Fifth of Global ad Revenue", The Guardian.

[xiv]         Book reference page 226.

[xv]          In Germany in 2017, the Federal Network Agency banned the sale of the doll and urged parents in possession of it to destroy it!

[xvi]         In this regard, the episode of 'Presa Diretta' by the RAI journalist Riccardo Iacona, aired on 10 February 2020, entitled Tutti spiati? (All spied on?) goes into great detail on the matter. Another documentary broadcast on the Netflix pay-TV platform, entitled The Great Hack - Privacy Violated (The Great Hack) 2019, discusses the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal in greater detail.

[xvii]        Eric Schmidt e Sebastian Thrun, "Let's stop Freaking Out About Artificial Intelligence" Fortune, 28 giugno 2016.

[xviii]                     Cloud is an extended aggregate of data and services that is always active and accessible from anywhere. With clouds, many companies can use services and programmes via connections, and benefit from applications that would otherwise cost huge amounts of money. These services, data and programmes are distributed on servers, and the power of these servers in the network is mainly used for large-scale, high-capacity applications. Clouds are the basis for the development of artificial intelligence.

[xix]         Reference from the book in chapter 14.

[xx]          Pentland, Social Physics.

[xxi]         Ibid, cit., pp 10-11, 12

[xxii]        Pentland, "The Death of Individuality", cit.

[xxiii]                     Alex Hern, "Why Social Media Bosses Dont'Use Social Media", The Guardian 23 January 2018

[xxiv]                      Book reference p. 531, 533.

[xxv]        Book reference page 539.

[xxvi]                      Machine feed, Onorato Damen Institute.

[xxvii]                    Laura Ruocco, Who is smarter, the worker or the capital? DMD' Special Issue No. 15 'The crisis is not viral, it is capital'.

[xxviii]                   Smart working, literally agile working. Mode of employment relationship characterised by the absence of time constraints, pre-established cycles, work locations, and permanent or indefinite contracts.