China Social Credit

Something big was set in motion in China. It’s called the Social Credit System^. It leverages the latest in technology in order to build something akin to a criminal record, except that it’s updated much more frequently (possibly even real-time in certain cases). It doesn’t only cover crime, but pretty much any action that the government can track, online and offline:^

As we know, China has an extremely well-developed tracking & censorship apparatus. Through the Social Credit System, even minor social offenses such as jaywalking or smoking outside designated areas can be turned into punishments that can seriously affect one’s life. In the article below you can find a rather shocking video (well, not entirely shocking to me since I suspected this was coming^) about the country’s highly developed video surveillance system:^

The punishments that the Chinese have come up with for citizens who stumble into a low social credit are deviously inventive. They can ban people from getting transport tickets, throttle internet speeds or even prevent them from getting certain jobs or education. The question is, how long until similar systems are deployed all over the planet?^

As usual with such schemes, there are advantages. It’s safe to assume that such a system can improve social accountability and online behavior (for example, cyberbullying can be tackled more effectively). Unfortunately, since it’s China we’re talking about, the rules for having a good social credit are set by a government that suppresses criticism through any available means.

What’s worse is that most judgements regarding a person’s social credit will be done by software. And since these programs aren’t even remotely intelligent yet^, there will be many mistakes made. I wonder if the Chinese authorities will allocate the appropriate manpower to address appeals by citizens against the decisions made by these algorithms.

This is a risky path that the Chinese are taking. It is also setting a very dangerous precedent for our civilization. It tempts governments today to increasingly rely on surveillance and punishment rather than educating and supporting a person’s healthy development. Free societies will always have an advantage when it comes to innovation. And in the Information Age^, innovation is what creates winning nations.

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