China's "social credit" system is coming in two years

Last winter I wrote about China’s plans to implement a “social credit system” which would rate all citizens based on their interactions with others and how the government viewed them in terms of being “good citizens.” Rather than simply informing the public about the person’s supposed value to society, the government would be using these scores to determine everything from how free you are to travel to what sort of job or home you could have. It’s a system that leaves George Orwell looking like an amateur.

But could they really implement something that complicated for a country with literally billions of people to keep track of? Turns out they’re pretty sure they can. In fact, it’s going to be going fully online in the next couple of years. (Bloomberg)

China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.

The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.

This is beyond chilling. If you manage to qualify for the “green channel” benefits you’ll probably be in an enviable position. But if you are blacklisted for having a low score, the government promises that you will be “unable to move even a single step.” And what do you need to do to earn a low score? Something like treason? Nope. Your score can be lowered for getting a traffic ticket. But you don’t even have to break the law. You can take a hit to your score just for being deemed unpleasant by your cab driver or the person serving you your morning coffee. Didn’t mow your lawn? Your neighbor can lower your score.

In my previous article (linked at the top) I described the “Nosedive” episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror. Here’s the trailer for that show, just to give you a taste of what the future has in store for you.

For everyone arguing in favor of more government control over “dangerous speech” or unacceptable, insufficiently progressive behavior, take a good look. We’re already seeing the results of social media boycotts and smear campaigns and how that affects people in their real life. And that’s without the iron fist of the government getting involved, at least for the most part. Be careful what you wish for. You might just wind up in a nosedive.

David Strom 6:41 PM on September 26, 2022