Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This is a discussion of Shoshana Zuboff's book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. In it, Audrey Watters reaches back into B.F. Skinner's behaviourism quite a bit. Now as a philosophy student in the 1980s I learned (as did all others) that behaviourism is wrong. But I'm sensing a bit of a turn here in Watters's work: is behaviourism wrong because it doesn't work? Or is it wrong because it does work, and it's not ethical? Here's Watters: "increasingly, Zuboff contends, these companies are now using our data for much more than that: to shape and modify and predict our behavior." That sounds a lot like Zuboff is saying Skinner got it right. If we can be programmed even a little, what does that say about the relation between education, ethics and propaganda?

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Last Updated: Nov 27, 2020 09:49 a.m.