If you have seen the popular Netflix show Black Mirror and its Nosedive episode, you might have interpreted it as an exaggerated critique of a social media obsessed culture. Constant rankings that affect not only how others interact with you, but which services you have access to - too far-fetched, right? Not for China, which is making the dystopian vision a reality.
The Chinese social credit system has already been implemented in a number of the country's regions. Earlier this year, the city of Hangzhou adopted a version of it, which rewarded positive behavior, such as volunteer work and punished traffic violations and other behavior deemed as negative.
As a result, millions in Hangzhou and other cities have already been affected by their negative personal score. According to Bloomberg, citing the National Development and Reform Commission, "people with bad credit in China have been blocked from booking more than 11 million flights and 4 million high-speed train trips".
What is more frightening is that China's plan for its capital city is even more ambitious. The social credit system is expected to roll out in Beijing by 2020. It is a lifelong points program, which citizens must enroll in and it aims to outdo the Nosedive Black Mirror episode. While a low score in the dystopian show allowed you rent an old rundown car, the untrustworthy in Beijing will be "unable to move a single step", according to the new government plan. Other restrictions include the ability to start a business, take out a bank loan and even access to public services.
Furthermore, citizens' social profiles will be based on data from government and other agencies - surveillance and data collection are encouraged in the new Beijing proposal. It calls for tourism services, businesses and even transport authorities to cooperate. Smartphones will likely play a role too, considering SIM cards are registered with a government issued ID.
It is not hard to see how the social credit system can be rampantly abused to silence government critics or to make life extremely hard for the already underprivileged. China is steadily on its way to becoming a truly Orwellian state.
What do you think? Are you afraid your country might adopt a version of the social credit system in the future? Let us know in the comments.