China: The Social Credit Score

Numbers, in the modern world, give us privilege. They matter to you, and they matter to me.

– Tim Knight

For instance, I have a lengthy financial history whose data is measured by various credit bureaus. With my strong credit, I can be assured of having access to any cash I might need. My past behavior has demonstrated that I am financially responsible and can be trusted.

When I or other of my family members go to the airport, we can breeze through the security line or customs since we all have Pre-TSA authorization as well as Global Entry. The reason we have these is that we went through a lengthy process of scrutiny and interviews that demonstrated we aren’t criminals, we aren’t terrorists, and our behavior has been peaceful toward society at large. Numbers make this trust possible.

And when I’m driving a car across one of the bridges here in the Bay Area, my FastTrak assures the device at the tool entrance that I’m legit. I don’t have to pause. I don’t have to fumble for change. The data associated with me – – more specifically, the FasTrak device with me – – make it possible.

These are all elements of the modern world, in which convenience has become king.

However, I have recently learned about a far more ominous development in China known as the Social Credit Score which, upon hearing of it, I instantly found shocking, offensive, and reprehensible. (At first I thought it was just a hypothetical concept, or even a joke, but it’s real). It takes the entire notion of using numbers associated with humans to a level that makes my libertarian instincts quake with anger.

As China’s elite State Council explains it, this so-called social credit will “forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious“, warning that the “new system will reward those who report acts of breach of trust“. …

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