Justin's note: Imagine not being able to board a plane because you forgot to pay your water bill… or being denied access to a train because you jaywalked.
It sounds like something ripped from the pages of George Orwell's 1984. But this will soon become reality for people living in China. That's because the Chinese government is getting ready to roll out a social credit system.
Basically, the Chinese government will soon prevent people from accessing everyday services if they aren't deemed "good citizens."
It's one of the most disturbing things I've ever read. Still, most readers won't care about this. That's because "this sort of thing could never happen in America!"
Unfortunately, that couldn't be further from the truth. As you're about to see, the United States could soon adopt its own social credit system. So be sure to read today's interview closely…
Justin: Doug, I have a lot of questions I want to ask you today. But can you first tell me what a social credit system is?
Doug: Well, Americans are familiar with credit ratings that they get from companies like Experian. These ratings judge one's ability to get credit, pay bills and such.
China is rolling out something similar, but vastly more comprehensive, and on a national scale. They'll judge much more than your financial capabilities. It rates people based on where they live, what kind of car they drive, what they say or do on social media, their educational background, their political views, their friends. You name it. Social engineers are quite devious about these things.
And it's fiendishly clever for the Chinese government to do this. A high social score gives a citizen lots of benefits and privileges. A low score penalizes you in many ways. People will start competing to be good little lambs. It gives them complete control over who can do what.
Justin: How can people defend themselves from this? Is there any way to opt out?
Doug: You could decide to not have an electronic presence, of course. You could disconnect, or go off the grid as they say. But that's the equivalent of becoming a non-person. You'd be branded as antisocial, suspicious, and a possible enemy of the state. It might bring all sorts of disadvantages, like not being able to get a passport or even a driver's license.
Justin: Yeah, not being able to board a plane or train due to a bad social credit rating is already terrifying. But I'm wondering how far China's government will take this.
Doug: Well, I haven't been to China in several years. So, I'm relying on press reports. But they're saying that there are already millions of people involved in China's social credit system, and it's quite believable. This is happening already—it's not science fiction.
And neither is it surprising. China's very computerized; most people now use their smartphones, not credit cards or—god forbid, cash—to pay for things. Just as in the US, where many people Google others to find out about them, so do the Chinese.
This is a computer-driven phenomenon, and therefore advancing at the rate of Moore's Law. The phenomenon will get much bigger. And not just in China.
It will impact whether people get jobs or promotions. It will quickly find its way into online dating. People with low social credit ratings will be looked upon as deadbeats. Others will disconnect from them, because having a link with someone of low rank will reduce your own rank.
In brief, this is a very big deal. I recommend the episode "Nosedive" on the series Black Mirror, where we see what happens to a woman who gets caught in a downward spiral for her social credit score.
Justin: Will other countries adopt their own social credit systems?