GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS SURVEILLANCE
It is impossible to speak of government surveillance and Social Credit systems without citing China. Back in 2014 the Chinese authorities had set out their plan to implement the social credit system which had the objective of “raising the honest mentality and credit levels of the entire society”. The “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System” (2014-2020) was published in 2014 and was implemented only a year later.
Touted as an important component part of the Socialist market economy system and the social governance system, China’s social credit system combines government and business surveillance giving citizens a “score” that can potentially restrict their ability to take actions, such as purchasing plane tickets, acquiring property or taking loans all due to their behaviours. This may seem to be focused solely on financial creditworthiness, which is where it began, but the credit system advanced to include compliance and legal violations and now encompasses a broader notion of “trust”
The eventual ‘end-state’ of the system is a unified record for people, businesses, and the government, which can be monitored in real-time.
By Patricia Harrity
A SINCERITY CULTURE
Nevertheless, it is not solely all about the financial behaviours, the inherent requirements of the social credit system (SCS) are to establish a “sincerity culture”. A common theme within the policy goals is three distinct but interconnected terms: xinyong, zhengxin, and chengxin. Zhengxin refers to credit reporting, evaluating individuals and businesses creditworthiness. Chengxin, said to be one of the Xi administration’s “core socialist values”, has various translations: trustworthiness, honesty, integrity, or sincerity all desirable behaviours within society. The term Xinyong, carries connotations of both zhengxin and chengxin referring to not only financial creditworthiness but also the quality of an individual or an organization for being trustworthy and contract-abiding. With an aim to carry forward the “ethical norms, citizens morals and trust-keeping traditional culture of the nation”, the authorities “fully give rein to the propaganda and guiding roles of television, radio, newspapers” drive home and shape the behaviour”.
ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE AND FACIAL RECOGNITION
Artificial Intelligence (AI) facial recognition software is said to be currently utilized in tandem with over 200 million surveillance cameras in China , giving officials the ability to track every facet of the citizens lives.
Mass surveillance in turn provides masses of data to easier determine individuals are acting in a trustworthy way or worthy of being blacklisted. Blacklisting opportunities can also be found online where the Chinese government continues to track behaviours of its citizens and evidence of writing and sharing anti-government messages. Then there is the AI software which is advanced enough to be able to alert authorities when violations occur and can identify protests towards government policies and block them.
Points can be lost from a social credit score for numerous offenses, some are as trivial as not visiting parents on a regular basis, walking a dog without a lead, smoking in a no smoking zone, jaywalking… Blacklisting occurs for more serious violations and has a negative impact on the privileges afforded to individuals. Thousands have had their rights to buy plane tickets and travel either domestically or abroad taken away from them.
THE HISTORICAL PRECURSORS
Although the introduction of a unified SCS was announced in a formal fashion in 2014 they have not gone from A-Z in a few short years. China has operated with precursors to this system for centuries with the philosophy behind it arguably being traced back to the ‘warring states’ era and the varying schools of thought: Confucianism – individual well-being was connected to good character, and the proper functioning of society as a whole. Mohism – humans should care for each other equally and advocated a society where all were treated impartially. And Legalism emphasized the importance of laws, strictly enforced from above, to preserve social order, this has remained the most dominant. (Source). The Chinese way of life therefore would allow us to believe that they are more malleable and accepting of the SCS scheme which is only expanding and automatising the existing bureaucratic control by adding technology and formality.
BLACK MIRROR – NOSEDIVE
But could this work in a westernised nation? A Netflix series Black Mirror written by Charlie Brooker observed, albeit in an exaggerated, satirical fashion, how accepting of a social media credit system much of society is. Nosedive, released in 2016 looked at the relationship between people, their mobile phones and social media and the obsession with being judged well in a system that enabled ranking of each other’s behaviours judged well in a system that enabled ranking of each other’s behaviours.
NOSEDIVE AIRPORT CLIP
THE SCS HAS NOT BEEN IMPLEMENTED EVERYWHERE IN CHINA
However, this is not how the SCS works in China, in the places where it has been implemented it can be much worse. It is also not up and running everywhere in China as we have been led to believe, it has been implemented in certain areas and has not always been successfully continued.
THE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE TO THE UK
Why, then would it be assumed that we, in the UK, who unlike the Chinese have not had very long to be prepared for such a system, will accept it?
The “window of opportunity”, created by Klaus Schwab was an opportunity for leaders of nation states to catapult the citizens into a fascist, dictatorial Fourth Industrial Revolution . According to the World Economic Forum (WEF this is a “fundamental Change in the way we live, work and relate to one another. It is a new chapter in human development, enabled by extraordinary technology advances” The crisis that is COVID primed and prepared society by demanding unquestioning compliance to nonsensical rules, extra surveillance, outrageous media propaganda, stripping away our Human Rights and censorship. Cancel Culture too has been rife forcing people to restrain from voicing opinions opposing the government and masses, or risk being ostracized from certain online communities and also social and professional circles.
A SOCIAL CREDIT SYSTEM PILOT SCHEME
The demands made on the British people throughout the crisis do not align with the norms and values of our society, yet we are about to be thrust further into a dictatorial governance aided by advances in technology and AI. This will begin with a softer approach (think Boiling frog), in a government pilot scheme announced in July 2021 to run what they termed their “Healthy Incentives Programme”.
NEW YEAR – NEW ME
Focusing on those living in England with excess weight and obesity the scheme aims to incentivise healthier choices and behaviours with rewards such as vouchers, merchandise, discounts, and gift cards. Partnering with the government is a company called HeadUp who have created an app using “wearable technology” with “recent advances in AI” will launch in January 2022. Clearly the government are using the fact that the New Year resolutions are still in people’s conscious minds and the topic “weight loss” is the most popular in online searches. Therefore by “giving the people what they want” they are lulling us into a false sense of security but the next addition to the surveillance is ready to be implemented.
ONLY ROUND PEGS ALLOWED
A company named Finalyse have already created a system, Machine Learning which will use behavioural scoring. Soon this technology will be scoring our fitness levels, eating habits, and credit scores, shopping preferences, social media posts, or how nice we have been to next doors cat.
What is to be a good citizen or display “good behaviour” will be in accordance with what the government deems it to be . There will be no difference in outward views, no individuality, just a society of obedient submissive round pegs that fit into the round holes created for them. Are the British people going to be content with this fundamental change? Surely, if the SCS has not been overly successful in China, there should be no chance of it working in the UK? It looks like we’re about to find out…
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