The title had to be senselessly long. There wasn’t an easy way around it. Trust me, I thought a while and decided to take the longer obscure road.
The crux is an insight into current events. To connect the dots, the prerequisites include Black Mirror : Episode Nose Dive. China’s beloved Social Credit ID, a little Roman History, a world of religion, Gods appeased and finally Money that absolves all evil.
That’s a long ask. Lets dig right in. Black Mirror is a smart , slick, TechnoPsychological series of sorts. It offers a view of how the current state of technology has the potential to shape up the human and social behaviour. Nose dive is a special episode in many ways. Personally, I do think the protagonist is wicked gorgeous. That’s beside the point though. Nose dive is about a society that integrates the life with a social credit score of sorts. Timidly put, the better your score in the digital world of pretend avatars, the better is your living condition in the real world of blood and flesh. The protagonist starts on a pretty decent score and has a means to bump her social standing to a whole new league. Bada boom, things go south. As the social popularity and score plummets, her life starts to take a beating. She’s denied access to public services, she’s blacklisted from using the airlines. She gets a beat down car at the rental agency. While hell breaks loose, the protagonist comes to realise that her life , so far, had been a silly futile façade. The episode ends with her locked up in jail and she finally manages to taste freedom through her imprisonment.
China, being China, decided to go nuts with the concept. I believe I had spoke about this when I came across the news where China had announced that it had plans of implementing such a social scoring system. It’s been less than a year and on an average, it takes me longer than that to even decide upon a routine, China went ahead and implemented the scheme. I caught up on a news snippet which explained the implemented scoring system. Apparently, blokes start on a score of 1000. That’s rather modest of the Chinese to limit themselves to a 1000.
Each good deed is awarded by a score. Each rude , unruly, undesired public behaviour results in deductions and public shaming. The score has a direct impact on travel and other aspects of daily living. The news showed that a bloke being blacklisted from a train because of a poor social standing. His mode of transport was downgraded from a super fast express train to a bus ride. 3 hours versus 10, to be precise.
The implementation is nothing short of an epic endeavour. 3D face scanning cameras installed everywhere. Social tracking through diligent use of the big brother infrastructure. And for a good measure, throw in ‘Social Inspectors’ whose only job is to monitor people and scribe down events and scores. Do you remember the good old days from School. The times when teachers were either absent or stuck in a hang over, the class pupil monitor would rise to the occasion of noting down names. Three strikes later, the usual punishment was a simple means of public shaming. The means of imparting such swift justice was through the teacher beating the bejeebus off you in front of the class.
Yeah. Good times. I learnt a very valuable lesson growing up. I knew I couldn’t stop making trouble. I knew I was slick enough to pocket the pupil leader too. I’d always have dirt of on the bloke or strings to pull. A criminal with an exit road. Professionally speaking, I had my exit covered. It’s a skill that helps and help it does plenty.
That was a good detour. So China does that. A steadfast way to climb up the social standing is by being good, staying good. OR, start making hefty donations to the Community.
Money, once again, was a means to atone for the sins of the past. I do know that this aint something new or shocking or even surprising. Where have I seen this social phenomenon. And then it dawned. Charity always begins at home.
Bribing. When you bribe mortal men, it’s corruption. When you bribe the gods, it’s devotion. Most humans try to equate their sins with tangible trinket or sizeable donation to compensate for their comeuppance. It’s not as sinister as I call it but the general idea still remains true. From coconuts to promises to travel far to visit the houses of many gods, this practice of offering to compensate the blessing bestowed has always been a legitimate trade. Most of us do not harbour sinister motives. Our lies are white and crimes are usually victimless. The bribe feels justified and normal.
Not so long ago, a certain pope tried this barter system in the ancient roman empire. Not a long while later, the Vatican is possibly one of the richest conglomerate known to mankind. Religion, ever since or better still forever always, has been a profitable venture. Before technology evolved, humanity had attempted this social credit score by exercising moralities and codes of conduct. I’d like to believe that the system failed. Maybe it didn’t. The general idea is that if the big brother does not remind the folks that he’s watching and keeping tabs, most folks would volunteer and welcome the oppression.
Decades later, humanity is ready for it and doing it. Volunteer disclosure and surrender of every angle and aspect of life is prevalent. All works fine unless someone assumes the role of the big brother and makes a declaration. Then, all hell breaks loose. We don’t have a problem with staying oppressed. We have a problem when someone rubs our egos with it.
So back to China, While the intent is there, the technology is relevant , the schemes in play, the Chinese have a herculean task ahead of them. It’s called Logistics. Handling such vast data is impractical and given the current means of shoddy implementation, it is unsustainable. Cant have humans police humans. The technology isn’t mature where the Skynet can fully take over. This ushers us right into a page from the cyber punk dystopia that the future is. China sets the example of how social manipulation can be done through use of cognitive assessment of psychological expression. To simplify that statement, it means, in time, algorithms will try to predict what we’d possibly end up doing. Pre Crime , hello Minority Report. Smart algorithms will enforce control over humanity by constantly policing and monitoring. In time, most of us will adapt and play along. As long as no body tells us that we’d then be reduced to being a herd of sheep. We are probably a century away from such a fate. Or maybe just a few decades away really. The ground work has been done today. Rest is inevitable organic progression. Fear mongering will ensure that some state will be smart enough to render its citizens dumb. Oh, Patriot Act anyone? Or Demonitisation ? History on a constant perpetual loop mode.
It is funny that no matter what we do, we are still doing the same things over again. While the technology has changed, the human element behind the technology has remained unchanged. Maybe the human trait is a constant and fair enough, humanity has remained doomed , only we refuse to accept that.