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Re: <nettime> Shoshana Zuboff > The Secrets of Surveillance
Brian Holmes on Tue, 15 Mar 2016 12:42:42 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Shoshana Zuboff > The Secrets of Surveillance


On 03/13/2016 12:39 AM, Patrice Riemens wrote:

"here's to that future" indeed, Brian, but I wonder how deeper we must
sink before things get better.

To answer your questions, Patrice, for sure, both North America and the EU are sunk in governmental gridlock, and that is the essence of the crisis: an inability to collectively respond. In the US, the classic sequence of a long downswing is unfolding: inventions pile up while the economy stagnates, so the inventions are not brought to market. They pile up: electric cars, vastly more efficient batteries, driverless cars, digital manufacturing, smart grids, solar power, Internet of things, to list just a few. Some of this research is crucially sponsored by the federal governments (batteries and digital manufacturing are the US ones I happen to know about). So all the entrepreneurs know full well that if the governmental blockage could be overcome, then investors would provide capital for all these new inventions, and they would go into production. This leads to a very palpable mood that you feel in the US: the entrepreneurs are chafing at the bit. They want to get on with changing the world. But there is no coherent institutional framework in which to do so, so everyone is afraid and no one makes risky investments.

Can government do it? Can entrepreneurs do it without government?

It would be crucial to have a better understanding of what is going on in China, but in North America and Europe the answer to both questions at present is no. There is still no grand strategy to deal with the triple crisis of unemployment/precarity, breakdown of the global monetary and military order, and climate chaos. And disorganized private capital cannot by definition come up with any such grand strategy. The situation is much worse in the EU than in North America, and it's probably worse in China as well, given that they are facing mortal ecological threats as well as a huge transition away from the previous paradigm of export-led growth. Nonetheless, in all three major blocs there are forces that are ready to go ahead with new projects, and I think the most widespread consensus in all three blocs points (like it or not, I don't) to a kind of eco-securitarian use of Big Data to manage complex populations at the limits of territorial sustainability.

From her text, I am not sure Shoshana Zuboff "gets it" about the depth of the crisis. For sure, Google thinks it can develop and sell the organizational technologies to overcome the crisis and make superprofits in the 21st century. No doubt (although she doesn't say this) Google thinks it can partner with the Federal government and redouble its own softcore consumer surveillance with the real hardcore military surveillance of the NSA and friends (this is suggested by Eric Schmidt's recent "defection" to the Pentagon). "Consume & secure" is the neoliberal paradigm of optimization and control that I outlined ten years ago in my text "Future Map." However, just wishing for the realization of this goal does not necessarily make it happen! Neoliberalism is notably lacking in any positive concept of the State, and sorry guys, there is no resolution of the triple crisis without the national state, and even more importantly, without serious collaboration between continental scale state-formations. Only some kind of coherent transnational government can restore enough predictability, security and general interoperability to allow capitalism (that damn plague of humanity) to go on forward in a smooth and normalized way. So the "dirty little secret of surveillance" (apparently also a secret to Mme Zuboff) is that such collaboration is presently absent, the state is missing in action. Without it, imho, the famous "surveillance capitalism" is pretty much dead in the water.

How much worse it's gonna get? Well, y'all in Europe are apparently not going to solve the problem. There is no clear bottom to the European plunge. Over here, if the USians elect Hillary, I believe we will have some new ugly wars (that's her thing) and maybe some kind of negative, business-as-usual form of resolution to the crisis via a new assertion of full-spectrum American arrogance. If Bernie is elected (funny how we now have to call them by their first names) then we either get more gridlock, or oh, miracle of miracles, maybe the huge number of people in this country who want a different development path would actually be called upon to create one (obviously I am voting Bernie, April 15, in Chicago). If "the Donald" is elected, frankly, I can't imagine it, but then we would trade places with the EU to become the most abject continental-scale power.... Were that to happen, well, maybe I would finally take some interest in Alexander Bard's ideas after all!

best, Brian

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