Part Two of Surveillance Capitalism at the Limits to Economic Growth – social controls through digital infrastructures have bio-physical limits
For Shoshana Zuboff, to be human involves using one’s will to shape one’s own future. In this respect she draws on the philosopher Hannah Arendt. Arendt analysed the totalitarianism of Nazi Germany and saw the frustration of the will of each person to shape their future as crucial to her analysis of totalitarianism. For Arendt the will is “the organ for the future.” In Chapter Eleven Zuboff uses the writing of her book – or her commitment to write it – as an example of what it means “to have a claim to the future tense”.
“Just as the past always presents itself to the mind in the guise of certainty, the future’s main characteristic is its basic uncertainty, no matter how high a degree of probability prediction may attain.”….with freedom of will we undertake action that is entirely contingent on our determination to see our project through. These are acts that we could have left undone but for our commitment. “A will that is not free”, Arendt concludes, “is a contradiction in terms.”.
Zuboff adds: “The freedom of will is the existential bone structure that carries the moral flesh of every promise and my insistence on its integrity is not an indulgence in nostalgia or a random privileging of the pre digital human story as somehow more truly human. This is the only kind of freedom that we can guarantee ourselves, no matter what the weight of entropy or inertia….These bones are the necessary condition for the possibility of civilisation as a ‘moral milieu’ that favours the dignity of the individual and respects the distinctively human capacities for dialogue and problem solving. Any person, idea or practice that breaks these bones and tears this flesh robs us of a self authored and we-authored future” (p331)
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