A few years ago, in a book called, The Game’s Afoot, I wrote that the Chinese Government was giving people marks according to behaviour. The social engineering, citizens being ranked and rated according to their behaviour, began just over a decade ago.
`The Government,’ I wrote, `will measure people’s behaviour in order to decide what services they are entitled to. Anyone who incurs black marks for traffic offences, fare dodging or jay walking will find that they are no longer entitled to the full range of public services and rights.
Moreover, internet activity will also be used to assess behaviour. Individuals who do bad things on the internet (or whose searches are considered questionable) will find themselves ‘black marked’. Individuals who have ‘responsible’ jobs will be subjected to enhanced scrutiny.’
It was called a social credit score and I wrote then that it was likely that Western Governments would soon follow suit.
And they are doing so with great enthusiasm. It might not have obviously reached your town just yet – but it will, oh it will.
China has led the way because the Chinese system is more efficient than anything the West can offer. The Chinese government has more control over everything and the people don’t have much control over anything.
It works very easily. Everyone starts off with so many points, and a smart app on every phone measures behaviour and helps the authorities decide whether or not you are good citizen.
There are, of course, video cameras absolutely everywhere watching to see whether you cross the road at the wrong time, smoke in public, throw down litter or do anything considered anti-social or inappropriate. If you talk to the wrong sort of people you’ll find your credit rating goes down. Stand and talk to me and you’ll get black marks.
China has one camera for every two people and they’re equipped with facial recognition technology that can pick an individual out of a football crowd in less time than it takes to say `surely they can’t do that!’
Supermarket computers watch to see how much you spend on alcohol, cigarettes, sweets and fatty foods. You’ll lose points if you spend too much on the wrong sort of food.
Local authorities measure how much recycling you put out, and cameras in the bins will tell computers how much food you’ve thrown away and how much excess packaging you’ve had to discard.
Of course, social credit scores are already here in the West, and they have been introduced slowly.
In the UK, for example, drivers of more expensive motor cars have to pay a special, massively increased tax to use a motor car on the roads. That’s a blatant punishment for spending a lot on a car.
On the other hand, citizens who drive electric cars do not have to pay anything towards the building, maintenance and repair of roads. They are exempt from the tax because they are `good’ citizens. Their cars use the roads just as much as cars which are powered with petrol or diesel but they are exempt.
Drivers of petrol or diesel powered cars are punished for being `bad’ citizens and must pay ever-rising annual taxes to pay for the roads. The system ignores the fact that electric cars have been proven to be no better for the environment than petrol or diesel powered cars. And drive your car into a city and you’ll have to pay a special penalty.
If you live in a house that is bigger than you need then you will be marked down and your taxes will rise. If you have spare rooms you’ll be punished. If you do a useful job and give money to charity you’ll get extra points. If you criticise the Government then you’ll lose points.
When you’re away from home, the authorities will, of course, know where you are all the time.Indeed, if you behave badly you won’t be allowed to go far from home. If you haven’t obeyed all the health regulations you won’t be allowed to travel on public transport, fly anywhere or go abroad.
If your social credit rating goes down you won’t be able to borrow money, buy a house or book a decent room in a hotel.
If your rating goes down too far you won’t be allowed to go into hospital and if you get in by accident they’ll slam a Do Not Rescusitate notice around your neck before you can say `what’s that for?’
You’ll receive bonus points if you live in a tiny, modern, poorly built flat with thin walls and absolutely no privacy but you’ll lose those points if you keep a pet or complain about absolutely anything.
If you spend too much on clothes or shoes your rating will go down, and saving money will mark you out as guilty of something or other and you won’t be able to hire a car, get a promotion at work, use a gym or get your children into a school with textbooks.
If you are a lot of trouble you’ll find that your internet speeds will slow to a crawl and if you have your own business and talk back to council officials you won’t get any help with planning problems or be able to obtain any official government contracts.
If you don’t dress appropriately when out in public or are spotted crossing the road when the lights are against you then you’ll be photographed and your picture displayed. If you have a row with a neighbour then your pictures will be put on a billboard near your home and you’ll be shamed.
If you are late with your taxes you’ll be marked down for regular audits, your business will be inspected once a week and your picture will appear on a shame board on the internet. You’ll find it imposible to obtain licences, permits and loans you might need.
In restaurants the cameras will study your manners and your eating habits and the amount of food you leave on the plate – all likely to damage your social credit rating. Snitches, sneaks, police officers and over-compliant government employees will mark you down for any sin of commission or omission.
And by now you probably think I’m making this up and I wish I were but I’m not. We’re not talking about the far distant future. We’re talking about the very new future.
You’ll receive points if you give blood, lose points if you associate with people with low scores, be punished if you spend frivolously or don’t praise the Government on social media.
Eating meat or indulging in unsuitable activities will result in a severe points loss as will putting too much refuse into public bins. Facial recognition cameras in bins will see and punish you and reduce food credit.
Not having the correct number of children, being overweight and owning land will result in a loss of social credit points. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics has already claimed that childless women will be a burden on the State because they’ll have no one to look after them).
Not having a smart meter will result in a loss of points as will any example of civil disobedience. Chronic sickness, mental illness, being old and being disabled will lose you points as will being arrested (it doesn’t matter whether you are found guilty).
Having too big a carbon footprint, being middle class or white or asking too many questions will all result in a loss of points as will being too protective of your family.
You’ll lose social credit points if you cause some `identity harm’, say something that makes someone feel uncomfortable about who they are, where they are from or what they look like – or don’t say something that causes them to feel good.
If you show any microaggression, exhibit white privilege or stir up hatred you’ll be punished. If you behave in a threatening or abusing or insulting manner you will be in trouble as you will if you communicate threatening abusive or insulting material to another person.
Your intention will be irrelevant. The complainant only has to say he was hurt. Writers, actors or film or stage directors could be charged if anyone finds any of their material offensive. Shakespearean plays won’t appear much in the future.
You probably think I’m really kidding now. If you are just check out what is happening in Scotland.
In the UK, the police now define a crime or incident as hateful based on the perception of the victim (and not on the intent of the offender).
Naturally, the police and politicians have been encouraging citizens to snitch on those breaking laws.
You can get into serious trouble for playing loud music or having trees in your garden. Trees are bad because they may interfere with communications and have no practical purpose. There will be no place for aesthetics or nature in the new world order.
What else will be bad?
Eating on public transport, missing a medical appointment, parking in the wrong place, missing a job interview and jaywalking will all lose your points and make your life more difficult.
If you think I’ve gone mad you should know that cybersecurity experts have discovered that 32% of adults between 25 and 34 in 21 countries (a total of 10,000 individuals) have already had difficulty getting a mortgage or loan because of their social media activity.
So far around 4.5 billion people around the world use the internet and most have social media accounts.
A fairly scary survey found that two thirds of individuals are willing to share information about themselves or others to get a shopping discount while half are willing to do so if it helps them skip queues at airports. One in two individuals say they are happy for the Government to monitor everyone’s social media behaviour if it means keeping the public safe.
Of course, it will be impossible to find out what your social credit score is, to find out exactly how scores are made up or to correct any error. And scores will be changed in real time. So you could join a queue thinking you are entitled to hire a car or board a train and find, when you get to the front of the queue that your rating has changed and you can’t do either of those things.
Governments, big companies and local authorities are already gathering information about you from facial recognition cameras, biometric studies at airports, drones, surveillance planes and social media. This is the technocratic state in full fly. Using a silly name or avatar on social media will provide you with absolutely no protection. They know exactly who stinkyfeet of Weymouth really is and they know the name, address and inside leg measurement of bumfluff from Colorado.
You can forget about privacy, freedom or rights.
We will soon all be living in China.
If one person in a family breaks the law, the whole family will be punished.
Taking an active part in a religious ceremony will result in punishment. You may, for example, be sent to an education and training centre where the inmates study political propaganda.
Every time you give information online they are storing up information about you, your views, your personality and so on.
And there are so, so many ways in which your social credit score can be adversely affected. If you drop rubbish in a public place you will be shamed and will lose points. In Thailand, tourists who drop rubbish in a national park must give their name and address. If they leave rubbish behind they are in trouble.
All this is known as social engineering. It’s something politicians have been trying to do for many years since, when it works, which it does, it gives them complete control over the population. There is no longer any need to worry about opposition or criticism.
In China, citizens who do `good’ things for the State and their community are rewarded by having their photographs and names on a local wall. This is exactly what I remember seeing in East Germany in the 1970s. And back then people vied with one another to please the State and win a place on the wall.
So, again, if you want to know the sort of society you and your children will live in then look at China now where what people do, say and think is being monitored.
But our future won’t be so free and easy as life in China is at the moment.
We are moving rapidly into a dystopian, digital dictatorship.
Good behaviour will be rewarded and bad behaviour punished. But who defines what is good and what is bad?
Geotracking is the new normal now. Your financial records are combined with your criminal record, academic record, medical record and shopping patterns. They’re keeping an eye on the type of friends you have, the videos you watch, the people you date or marry or meet.
This is Big Brother on speed
In the brave new world, those with a low credit score won’t be able to move an inch.
People who speak out about corruption or who question the propaganda will be punished. If they are fined then their fine will be higher because they are seen as bad people.
And it’s already all happening.
Computer games are training us for our future.
I’m banned in China because I wrote a column for a Chinese newspaper which was considered unacceptable. My books in Chinese were instantly removed from sale.
I leave you with this fact.
There are public loos in China which won’t let you in without first checking your face and identifying you. Only then will the machine dispense the small quantity of loo paper you are allowed.
How many sheets will you be allowed if you have a low credit score? Two? One? None at all?
You may be smiling now.
But see if you’re still smiling in twelve months’ time.