tl; dr read the last paragraph.
I will try to focus on what seems to be the subject of this thread - that there are negative consequences to surveillance capitalism.
I believe there are two of them:
- economic (growing inequality)
- political (asymmetry of power)
1. tackling the economic consequences
Technological advances => our behavior is becoming more transparent => ability to build accurate personal profiles is increased => products and services can be more accurately tailored to the needs of particular individuals => increased ability to extract economic value from the profiles
What is old: the described scenario has been playing in the biological evolution since its onset. Example: an animal with a suddenly acquired (mutation?) superior ability to see, gains advantage in gathering information about potential prey. It can then create a more accurate mental representation of its behavior. Consequently the prey is easier to catch and other predators outcompeted.
What is new(ish): the ability for “human animals” to follow/take advantage of the individual steps in the above chain of events is unequal, because not all people have the same access to resources (capital, social connections…) to:
- acquire the necessary technology
- collect data
- process the data into realistic representations of individual behavior
- monetize the behavioral profiles
What can be done?
The asymmetry in human or economic capital endowment is real and to change it is impossible, or extremely difficult. I see the most effective way in minimizing the negative economic consequence of surveillance capitalism by changing the way the benefits gained from economic activities are distributed. The goal is equal economic distribution that would not negatively affect the economic efficiency.
Taxes? A look around us suggests that this is not a very successful approach. The likely main reson is that addressing income inequality by taking away earned resources from the producers lowers their willingness to supply labor. Efficient distribution of those resources is also challenging.
A better way might exist in a novel approach. It builds on a notion that work reward has two different functions. It provides economic value (one that the rent can be paid with), but directly or indirectly, it also serves as a powerful psychological signal about the recipient’s competence. There are many reasons to believe that this psychological signal is the salient factor in motivation to supply labor. A bunch of research supports this idea, but a more palpable evidence is at hand. I already mentioned the by-the-economists mostly ignored massive volunteer economy. It’s very existence should be sufficient to prove the point that people are willing to work even if they receive no economic reward, if they feel their higher level psychological needs are addressed.
Awareness of existence of the “merit signal” - as I call the salient psychological motivation factor - allows us to imagine a new reward mechanism, with two separate components. One is a non-trade-able “merit” reward that reflects the market value of one’s effort (granted according to merit), while the “economic” reward that can be exchanged for goods and services reflects the actual effort as measured in labor time.
A careful reader who made it all the way here will notice, that if the merit reward is granted according to desert (actual skills, or value for the society), the rewarded workers’ motivation to supply labor should not be negatively affected, even if the economic reward they receive is commensurate with the number of hours worked (proof? the volunteers work for equal pay, which is “nothing”). Instituting this reward mechanism should therefore be a Pareto improvement vis a vis to what we have today. Consequently, such mechanism leads to a situation, where everybody earns more-less the same and the negative economic impact factor of surveillance capitalism is thus eliminated.
2. tackling the political consequences
The above outlined remuneration mechanism establishes a virtual economic equality. Over time therefore, individuals loose the ability to dictate public policy from the position of economic power, resulting in stronger democracy. Moreover, if a provision was added to our new system that any actually performed work must be rewarded regardless of their immediate value (artists, scientists and teachers would welcome this), then economic concerns would stop becoming a constrain in an individual’s deliberations about public policy, further strengthening democracy.
These ideas exist not only in the “noosphere,” but were implemented in code. Some promising real-world tests were also performed. A pilot implementation of the proposed economic engine is at https://rovas.merit.world. An example how a web site could implement monetization using that engine can be seen at cyklonaut.sk - an outdoor portal for sharing info about bike trips. Posts are in Slovak, but the interface is in English, which should suffice for testing the functionality. I can write more about how the practical implementation works if there is interest, but this article could be a good intro into the idea.