Can the Humans of the Future escape the Orwellian nightmare?

The Chinese government’s Social Credit System (SCS), first announced in 2014, is supposed to be fully operational by 2020. The pilot program has been in effect for years and already affected millions of Chinese citizens. And yes, the program will be mandatory. If you haven’t heard of SCS then read this, this, and this.

The SCS is a living / digitally-implemented / secretive government run program meant to rate the “credit” or “reputation” of all citizens and businesses. It vows to “make trustworthy people benefit everywhere and untrustworthy people restricted everywhere”. The Chinese government will (already does) use this “credit” score to make a plethora of personal, financial, and social judgments on their citizens and sanction them when it chooses. With Big Data Analysis Technology at the roots of the program, it is an undeniable form of mass surveillance with exceptional power to humiliate, embarrass, and in many cases destroy the lives of citizens while benefiting the lives of those the regime chooses. The system is currently being managed by regional and local governments or by private firms holding massive amounts of personal data.

Those citizens who don’t pay bills on time or default on loans are dead in the water. Which shouldn’t be a big surprise. But what should surprise you is the government will be watching all sorts of other behavior and misdeeds to rate it’s citizens too. Those who are observed loitering, smoking in non-smoking designated areas, playing too much video games (yes, I’m serious), spending frivulously, walking a dog without a leash, or posting “Fake news” on social media will have their credit scores negatively affected.

Checkout this Twitter video (2018) of a government message played to passengers on a Beijing high speed train:

Negative Social credit scores can have all kinds of impacts on daily Chinese life, such as losing privileges to purchase airline tickets or hotel rooms, auto denial to apply for credit cards, lower internet speeds (yes, serious, again), and auto denial to apply for higher education like college for you or your children.

Jinan, a city in eastern China, has been enforcing a social credit system for dog owners since 2017. It is compulsory for owners to register, and they are given a license with 12 points. Actions such as walking dogs with no leash or excessive barking get your points taken away. If your points are exhausted then your dog(s) is taken away and courses and tests are required to reapply for a new license.

Given how bold the launch of this program has been, it isn’t far fetched to envision the Chinese government exploring facial recognition or eye scanning tech to patrol the landscape. Even simple misdemeanors like jaywalking could “automatically” reduce your credit score. OR, Big Data watching your spending habits and increasing your score when you buy things the regime likes, such as diapers, and reduces your score when you purchase video games or alcohol….the things the regime doesn’t like.

It is undeniable that Americans are also being divided and categorized into billions of data sets by our own Big Data in the United States. While we can hope that our government doesn’t have sinister intent like China, only time will tell what direction we take.

China may be a lost cause at this point….. But what do you think…..will the Future Human feel a similar sense of natural freedom like we feel today or will their reality be affected by the constant, underlying judgment of the digital State?


One thought on “Can the Humans of the Future escape the Orwellian nightmare?

  1. This was such an eye-opening blog post; thank you, Mike! I never knew about the extent of China’s law enforcement, especially as it relates to the development of Big Data and mass surveillance made easy with rapidly advancing technology. I agree with the idea that the American government is probably doing practicing similar types of surveillance on its citizens, but, as a result of the core American cultural value of independent thought, I’d hope that our government surveillance will not reach the same manifestation as China’s. However, is it scarier to have a government that is covertly analyzing your personal data or openly demonstrating their use of your data? This is an ethical question that will likely become increasingly critical as the lines between technological privacy breaches and security measures blurs in the future.

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