by Eta Onrish
I see quite frequently, people warning that the US is becoming an 'Orwellian
nightmare,' or that we're living in a country that's fast
becoming a new 1984.
I think they're wrong. It's worse...
We here in the US look at what China's doing as if they're on a
reality TV show. Seeing what they're doing with surveillance and
their social credit system as if we're watching some kind of
dystopian entertainment series fashioned after the George Orwell
Our burgeoning dystopia
isn't as overtly dystopian as Orwell warned against, and that's the
If you haven't read 1984, you really should. I'm not really a
fan of the storyline since it's pretty crappy but the message still
comes through, and it'll give you an idea of why people reference it
so much when talking about governments gone awry.
Then, get yourself a copy
of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave
New World' and you'll start to see the problem.
The story's a little
better, but not much.
The message is more
1984 was about a
government that would ban information and rule with a leather boot
on your throat, whereas Brave New World was about a system
that would slowly seep into our life like a drug.
In other words,
The US (and many
countries around the world) isn't becoming
Orwellian, it's becoming Huxleyan...
systems are coming
In 2013, China started its
social credit system, coordinated
by the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission.
What they're planning to
do by next year is to have a comprehensive credit system under one
roof that will cover pretty much everything in the lives of its
citizens. It's already well on its way.
In that system, your life is measured based on how well your actions
align with the Party's vision of what you should be doing, and how
often. It's a little like the credit score your mortgage broker
pulls up when you buy a home but instead of deciding if you're
allowed to borrow money, this system increasingly decides if you can
Good social credit...?
You'll be able to
travel freely around the country and get into jobs that you want
and live in better neighborhoods, and your kids will attend
Bad social credit?
increasingly limited in where you can go and how comfortable
your life is until you finally get yourself back in line with
Sounds like a good plan,
The 'biggest' problem is that these freedoms that you enjoy will be
infringed without due process. The social credit system is a very
nebulous and fuzzy system that lacks any sort of transparency.
Also, if you happen to
speak out against the government or are somehow considered a threat,
you could easily find yourself without a job or money and unable to
travel - and not only could this be done without any proof that
you've done anything illegal - this could happen completely behind
Because there is no legal
proceeding, you have no recourse other than to fall back in line and
hope they give you your life back.
We don't have social
credit here in the US and we wouldn't allow such a thing,
China's system of
government allows them to pull from the 1984 rule book but our
system is worse. In this case, it isn't directly the government
that's the problem, it's Big Tech.
The Brave New
World of Big Tech
Our lives are now steeped in social media and corporations that
leverage user-created content to make money.
Instead of getting our
news from trusted news agencies, we now get it from our echo
Facebook. If we do want to explore
past that, we get on
Google and "fact-check."
Now part of the problem here is that mass media news stations long
ago stopped being news, and threw out their ethics in exchange for
advertising revenue. It's big business.
However, it gets worse...
Both Facebook and Google have been caught censoring information that
they deem not to their liking. Now, they're both private companies
and we don't HAVE to use them, but they're essentially monopolies
that are allowed to exist.
By dropping certain
viewpoints lower down in the algorithm or even outright blocking
them altogether, you now no longer get any sort of balanced view of
the world. You start seeing things the way they want you to.
Social Credit System
For quite a while now, we've gotten used to user-created credit
systems such as Yelp and Amazon reviews. They're very helpful with
deciding what product to buy or service to use.
They're also very
This idea of reviews is being expanded to other systems.
Uber allows you to
review your driver so others can have a better ride experience
or avoid someone who's smelly or annoying.
Airbnb lets you read
about locations and owners to give you a better idea about what
the stay will be like.
Did you know that you're
also being evaluated when you use these services?
Uber allows drivers
to rate their passengers. If your score drops to a certain
Uber will ban you from using
Airbnb is even worse,
stating with regard to banned accounts:
"This decision is
irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future
accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to
provide an explanation for the action taken against your
They can ban you for
life, with no explanation, and you have no recourse.
So what? Read on...
Earlier this year, New York's Department of Financial Services
stated in its guidelines that it will
allow insurance companies to use
non-traditional (which could potentially, and may even already
include both social media posts and information from such places as
Uber or Airbnb) to determine your risk and cost and the only
stipulation is that they can't use it specifically to target
An insurer should not
use an external data source, algorithm or predictive model for
underwriting or rating purposes unless the insurer can establish
that the data source does not use and is not based in any way
creed, national origin, status as a victim of domestic
violence, past lawful travel, or sexual orientation in any
manner, or any other protected class.
They added to that in a
press release, stating:
…insurers' use of
external data sources has the potential to benefit insurers and
consumers alike by simplifying and expediting life insurance
sales and underwriting processes.
External data sources
also have the potential to result in more accurate underwriting
and pricing of life insurance.
As these rating systems continue to be more pervasive, and as
companies, agencies, and governments increasingly refer to these
scores, they will continue to erode your freedoms and those freedoms
could easily be constrained by someone with an agenda, purposely
manipulating your score.
Because these systems aren't regulated with any sort of effective
oversight, they're ripe for misuse and manipulation.
No longer will you have
protections against punishment for living the life you currently
live or speaking out. Our laws that protect you against such
invasions do not apply to this new de facto system of
government that we're allowing.
As we become more accustomed to this increasingly-aggregate score
being allowed to affect our lives and our freedoms, we will be more
willing to follow whatever guidelines are put in place to achieve
higher scores, whether that be buying the right things, saying the
right things, or even worse - not saying the wrong things...
As we see more value in
these systems, we'll not only stop fighting against them affecting
our lives, we'll soon 'beg for them'...
We may not be living in 1984 but have no doubt, a Brave
New World is on the horizon...