November 24, 2018

Black Mirror, Season 3 Episode 1, "Nosedive"

This episode from the dystopian anthology series "Black Mirror" immediately came to mind when reading this article from 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.

The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan. Xinhua reported on the proposal Tuesday, while the report posted on the municipal government’s website is dated July 18.

Nothing could possibly go wrong with this plan, amirite? No possible avenues of abuse?

It's unclear from the article exactly how this will be enforced and what violations will merit more stringent punishment. Will internet dissidents be treated more harshly than environment violations? How bad is jay-walking? Is it entirely dependent on social media presence? Or are they monitoring all communications and movements via one's cellphone? If one does not have either, is that an automatic point deduction?

Ultimately, will Chinese citizens find themselves hostage to not making corporations or politicians upset, as Bill Browder points out is the case in Russia?

Let's just hope that Mark Zuckerberg doesn't get any ideas...

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