@roblucas My critique of Zuboff’s SurveillanceCapitalism is in the new NLR A book torn between a Polanyian critique of the marketisation of the new realm of surveillance data and a business school celebration of the market as the basis of democracy and freedom.
@stalfel This is find, actually, one of the weakest points of the review. While ads used to be (and still are) the dominant source of income, it’s not hard to see that Google’s push into smart cities, health care, driverless cars etc, are about turning itself into a general provider of AI infrastructure. Next time you get an x-ray, Google will get a percentage of your fee for powering the analytics engine that reads the x-ray. No ads needed.
@roblucas Sure, well the crucial thing is that as long as caveat. There are certainly forays into things beyond advertising, and it is imaginable that the whole industry could shift towards different kinds of revenue. But we are still a long way from there being any core revenue source..
@stalfel You’re right. As far as I can see, Google cloud computing still less than 10% of its overall revenue. Yet it is growing considerably faster than ad revenue. Still, for now, it’s relatively small. Amazon is different, though. Most of its profits come from there.
@roblucas Right, but in Zuboff’s terms Amazon has never been a “surveillance capitalist” firm anyway, other than at the margins. Indeed, as a retailer it always had a very different sort of revenue source, beyond the “faux frais”; likewise as a utility provider.
@roblucas It seems to me that in political-economic terms, one should probably group Amazon with things like Walmart on the one hand, and with things like hosting companies on the other, while Google and Facebook belong with advertising firms…
@stalfel That’s the question. Historically, you’re certainly right, but I think are heading in a similar direction: infrastructure provider, partly complementary, partly competing. In many schools and universities, for example, IT staff is gutted and Google takes over.
@roblucas Sure, and that is important. But it’s possible to converge in a technical sense on this level without doing so on a political-economic level. It’s surprising how the drive towards data-hoarding even in smart city stuff is often rationalized on the basis of ad revenues but one can also provide infrastructure as a rentier. Where there is some important positive convergence is in the simple fact that this major build-out of infrastructures is massively empowering a very narrow set of people, whether by ads or other sources of revenue.
@stalfel that’s certainly true!