The Surveillance Paradigm: Be the friction - Our Response to the New Lords of the Ring
Von Shoshana Zuboff
„A lot of people think they know what’s coming, but they have no clue,” says Dave Evans, Cisco’s chief futurist. „It’s the world waking up,” explained Alex Hawkinson, one of the conference speakers. Facebook’s Vice-President of mobile engineering tried looking ahead “...you have 200 sensors in your home...you then have that data stream going up...if you share it, now you get into the very complex question of...are you sharing data in a way that you have some ability to … indicate that you don’t want it to be around anymore? But of course, once you’ve shared the data, that becomes a pretty complicated question.”
The real star of the event was computer scientist Gordon Bell, described as a legendary great man of technology who had invented or participated in much of the Web’s development. Bell is a pioneer in the „Quantified Self” movement, and a researcher at Microsoft’s Silicon Valley Laboratory. He voiced pessimism about the pace of change, complaining that this vital new phase of Internet development was encountering...friction. But how? “You talk about we want to get rid of friction. Where is friction? People. People do not want to be disrupted...that’s really the thing that’s going to limit us...That’s what bothers me.”
The Key to the Master Lock
I say, do not despair. The indifference of the Lords of Silicon Valley is not a harbinger of the end times, but rather a wake up call to remind us that we must undertake the work of every age. Do not forget that we summoned the Internet into our lives with our questions and our needs. But there is more to be done –– a new world to be forged. It too can be summoned with our effort. All that is digital can have a profound role to play in humanizing life on earth. Our job is not to labor for our over-seers, but to invent new ways for them to work on our behalf so that we all might flourish.
Here is the key to the master lock: friction. It may be an irritant to the companies driving the next escalation of metadata, but it is also the future of democratic aspirations and commercial renewal. This friction is a new era of democratic expression in legislation, oversight, and regulation that enshrines our freedoms in terms relevant to our new age: transparency, voice, informed choice, respect for the individual. Friction must be as vigilant and steadfast as the power of the old dream. It is our insistence on a new commercial model that refuses to externalize our well being, our freedom, our privacy, and our rights to live our lives and manage our data as we choose. It is a demand for companies to take responsibility and accept accountability to end users as the ultimate source of value and wealth. Finally, friction is you and me. It is our willingness to exercise judgement, to say what is right and was is wrong even when we are at odds with power and opinion. That 8% of Americans who trust social media is very good news. It means there are 92% for whom, despite years of exposure to the information panopticon, routine violations of personal sovereignty outside the workplace have not been normalized. It means that the new Lords can not hold sway if we all stand up and say “no.”
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