The other day I had this Rough Type article in my RSS feed: The soft tyranny of the rating system:
A sanitized if more insidious version of Shteyngart’s big-data dystopia is taking shape in China today. At its core is the government’s “Social Credit System,” a centrally managed data-analysis program that, using facial-recognition software, mobile apps, and other digital tools, collects exhaustive information on people’s behavior and, running the data through an evaluative algorithm, assigns each person a “social trustworthiness” score.
And (emphasis added):
What’s particularly worrisome about behavior-modification systems that employ publicly posted numerical ratings is that they encourage citizens to serve as their own tyrants. Using peer pressure, competition, and status-establishing prizes to shape behavior, the systems raise the specter of a “gamification” of tyranny. Nobody wants the stigma of a low score, particularly when it’s out there on the net for everyone to see. We’ll strive for Status Credits just as we strive for Likes or, to return to Shteyngart’s world, Hotness Points. “Our aim is to standardize people’s behavior,” a Communist Party Secretary tells Strittmatter. “If everyone behaves according to standard, society is automatically stable and harmonious. This makes my work much easier.”
Standardised people’s behaviour. Worrisome indeed. Dictators and other tyrants rejoice. Now fully automated. Lots of regression in this area as of late – the world is definitely not moving into the general direction of human rights, free speech, and evidence-based reasoning as means for violence-free resolution and consolidation of different views of the world, as created by the individual perceptions of each of us.
Rough Type is Nicholas Carr’s blog. Always worth to read. He’s also the author of good, thoughtful books, such as The Shallows and Utopia is Creepy.