The Cyberfascism Bulletin #2: April Fool’s Edition

I wish I was foolin’. All this stuff’s real, so the joke’s on us.

BIG BIZ

AmazonHAL

BIG STATE

BIG ED

  • Smart speakers may snoop on family conversations. More than 4 in 10 parents of 6- to 8-year olds say their children use the assistants for homework help. OK, letting your kids be raised by robots may actually be a step up from having them raised by wolves their peers.

ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

Smartphones and their ilk are the ultimate tools for pooling our ignorance. And pettiness. And intolerance.

GOING DARK

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The Cyberfascism Bulletin #1: Spring Break Edition

This is the first in a continuing series of “callouts” detailing the onslaught of the ubiquitous surveillance and behavioral influence state. Remember, whether the state seizes industry, or industry seizes the state, the result is still fascism.

BIG BIZ

BIG STATE

BIG ED

BIG MED

ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media is pretty much a blight on society, a timewasting temptation to reveal way too much information that should be kept private. The rise of cyberbullying and online outrage mobs are symptoms of what I call the Cyber Sturmabteilung, the Internet incarnations of san-coulottes, lynch mobs, Red Guards, Khmer Rouge. The only way to win that game is to not play.

GOING DARK

 

The War Against Big Brother

Today I begin a series of posts of observations and comments about what I call cyber fascism, the harnessing of ubiquitous information technology to impose political, commercial, and social control over much of the developed and developing world.

My first real inkling of the enormity of our situation came as I prepared material for a course I teach in statistical methods, where we discuss the ethics of experiments with human subjects, informed consent, and data protection and privacy.  I quickly learned that despite well-intentioned efforts like The Belmont Report or the ASA’s Ethical Guidelines, the world of data privacy is pretty much the Wild West, rife with confidence men, bandits, snake-oil dealers, and robber barons.  But this was just the tip of the iceberg; privacy encroachments linked to a worldwide cultural affliction.  Witness

  • the Chinese “social credit” system
  • viral “outrage mobs” on Twitter
  • tabloid “tell all” behavior and cyber-bullying on Facebook
  • creepy “recommendation systems” on Amazon
  • third party data mining of user data from Google and Facebook
  • Google’s evolution of “sucker lists” into “behavioral prediction markets”
  • and more…

All of these are manifestations of small groups (I hesitate to use the term “elites”) to exploit and control societies for their own purposes, without concern for the privacy or welfare of the individual.

My current reading and “go to” resource is Shoshanna Zuboff’s startling new book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism  (good recommendation from Fortune‘s Robert Hackett here).

ZuboffBook

Zuboff  focuses on one aspect of cyberfascism, the industrial exploitation of personal data in market economies (with Google the primary mover).  As Hackett notes, the phenomenon is much larger than this, and raises the spectre of a new totalitarianism around the world.

I’m certainly not the first to see this situation. Like a fish, I spent most of my life unaware of the water.  But the water has changed, and now it wants to change ME.  It’s time to sound the alarm.

After all, whether the state captures industry, or industry captures the state, don’t they all become fascists in the end?