Social Credit – Time to Get Your Head Out of the Sand

Alright, so apparently I’ve had my head buried in the sands of “Faith in Humanity” pretty deep. The Epoch team had to explain to me what a Social Credit System was when we were discussing our next topic – and even then I didn’t believe them – that this was an actual thing, already being implemented in China. Shut the front door. And lock it.

If you haven’t already read through the rest of the team’s articles about this topic, or your head is just now emerging from the sand like mine, here’s the long and short of the concept:

Each Citizen, in select test villages (this is expected to be countrywide by 2020) starts out with 1,000 points – if they do a good deed and happen to be observed by one of the official – tattletales? I’m not sure what their actual title is – they are awarded more points. If they get caught doing something shady or unsavory, they get docked points. And then, these scores get posted publicly. Like, full-on billboard in town square type drama. Nothing builds a healthy community like public shaming, right? Now we all know that Carl is a Litter-Bug and can judge him accordingly. Finally, justice.

public shaming kat reece quote

To what end, you ask? Well, citizens with super swanky scores are rewarded with lower interest rates on loans, free water, and cheaper rent and utilities – with more prizes to be added as we sink deeper into this dystopia. Mmmm. However, the flipside of that disturbing coin is when some unfortunate/unruly human slips below 1,000 points – even just a little – their lower score can actually keep them from purchasing airline and train tickets, or traveling out of the country altogether. So far this system has thwarted the procurement of 4 million train tickets and 11 million airline tickets since this trial run started in 2014.

If this all sounds like a crazy episode of Black Mirror – “Nosedive” Season 3 Episode 1 is the one you’re thinking of. But don’t worry, people can raise their scores by going above and beyond for their communities and by donating money to “charity” (the Chinese Government). Between that and the fact that these scores are being rated and maintained by other humans, there’s no room at all for corruption! What could possibly go wrong?

One citizen finally got his Social Credit Score back up to an acceptable level after dipping below the standard because the friend he cosigned a loan for bailed on him (it was probably Carl – littering is a slippery slope, kids.) exclaimed: “I am finally a normal person!” …. heartwarming.

A poor score can even keep their kids from attending better schools. What kind of pit could this start digging for future generations? Are those kids who, “sins of the father” style, get segregated into “lesser” schools, receive a sub-par education, and therefore possibly become predisposed to a life of “crime”? If only we had some other large group of people that this has been happening to for decades wherein we could see the possible repercussions of this type of reality. *cough*

What’s the motivation behind this whole system?

One citizen explained it as a way to “help discipline those who have a hard time disciplining themselves.” Neat. In my research this week I found that a big part of China’s culture is actually Dishonesty. Lying on resumes and college applications, bribing officials, completely false dating profiles and social media personas, even the rental of a “boyfriend” to trick your family into leaving you alone about still being single, are all entirely acceptable social norms and hardly ever elicit being turned into a Rom-Com movie. I’ve also heard that if you see someone get in an accident on the road, you shouldn’t stop to help because it’s common for the victim to blame you for the crash and then sue you. So, it seems like they are trying to turn things around and guide their people towards “Good”. But how long before it goes bad?

I bet by this point you’re wondering why the people would let this happen – why they’re not up in arms about this type of invasion of self and privacy. Well, China isn’t a land of liberty. This isn’t something they can even fight against, as the Chinese government has every legal right to do this. *a Bald Eagle’s eye twitches* Because they haven’t really had the level of “freedom” we’re accustomed to here in the U.S. – it seems as though no one over there is really batting an eye at this. A large part of that is likely due to China being a Surveillance State. Their people are already used to cameras recording them from every angle, wherever they go and whatever they do – so ranking those activities probably just seems like the logical next step.

Before we don the red, white, and blue warpaint – we’re essentially already doing a version of this here in the states. *collective gasp* China doesn’t have any sort of credit score ranking for their citizens, but we definitely do. And that score can limit a lot of our options – like applying for a loan, interest rates, car rentals, buying a house, etc – sound familiar?- and that list is growing and becoming more invasive and insidious as we go (dig into Ultimate FICO). However, private Banking and Financial entities withholding their own funds from people is one thing, but an entire government forcing a ranking system on the entirety of their population, is obviously another.

To wrap up: One of the test villages reports that everyone gets along really well since this began. There are no fights at all. People worry about their image now and want to be seen and recorded doing good. And it is at this point I recommend you watch that episode of Black Mirror if you haven’t already.

social credit head in the sand
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