Thursday, September 20, 2018

Digital Dictatorship Has Arrived

Here's a rarity-- I don't have a lot to add to this article, but you really need to see it. This is what the triumph of the data overlords looks like.

What may sound like a dystopian vision of the future is already happening in China. And it’s making and breaking lives.

The Communist Party calls it “social credit” and says it will be fully operational by 2020.

Within years, an official Party outline claims, it will “allow the trustworthy to roam freely under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step”.

A social credit score. Constant video monitoring of all citizens, complete with facial recognition. All behavior, choices, actions recorded and mined for data as part of your personal record, boiled down to a simple score. Smartphone and online actions monitored and recorded. Your shopping habits tracked. And of course your school, medical and employment records included as well. As the article puts it, "no dark corner in which to hide." All included in your social credit score, which will determine how you get to live your life.

Oh, and the scores of the people you associate with-- that will factor in as well.

Possibly scariest part? The woman who is profiled in the article is cool with all of this. It makes her feel safe. And, truth be told, she expects to be a winner in this game-- the old "only people who are doing bad things worry about surveillance and law enforcement"-- which only works if you think the people running the system share your values and priorities. But someone has to decide what characteristics are displayed by a Good Citizen.

Read this. If you don't read anything else today, read this. Big Brother was a slacker.


  1. Wired broke this story about nine months ago: Still, it's good to know that it hasn't completely disappeared into the ether and that some people are still concerned about it.

    1. Yes, I saw that piece as well. This one I find extra compelling just by the use of the multimedia approach. Just to watch it happening is even creepier.

    2. Agreed. What concerns me about both articles is the sort of "those crazy Chinese" tone, as if it's all about the Party. We Americans, of course, would never go for such a system. We're too individualistic, doncha know?

      But already we Americans are begging Fakebook and other media giants to censor "fake" news and keep out the "bad" people. Already we're submitting our kids to data-mining platforms practically from infancy (Wrench in the Gear's work is enough to keep a awake indefinitely). And, of course, we already have financial credit scores that could easily be adapted to include educational, medical, social and other factors. So maybe we shouldn't be poo-poohing those crazy Chinese.

  2. I’ve written about this in blog posts and in the book we recently published, and shared warnings on social media for a few years since I came across this video comparing the social credit system to the push for gamification in education. It is horrifying.