Sounds ridiculous, huh?
No way a modern government could do something like that. They couldn’t punish your everyday life for the political decisions you make, right?
While we were spared even the very remote possibility of it by the 2016 presidential election outcome (though if 2020 is different one could easily see a President Sanders, Buttigieg, or Warren enabling such a measure), the people of China today face this as the way they lead their lives.
It’s called the social credit system and it’s happening right now.
It’s a system of mass surveillance and control of both individuals and businesses, brought to you by socialism. It makes things like travel, house loans, car loans, acceptance into university, the ability to buy at certain stores, the chance to attend certain elementary and high schools, medical treatment, staying at some hotels, even fast Internet connections, jobs, visas, and many other norms of life completely contingent on whether you tow the party line or run afoul of socialist standards of good robotic behavior.
Obey and win social credit points. Think for yourself and lose points.
Even online dating and ride sharing fall into this trap. Say something bad about the ruling party and get overheard and reported? Then forget about that next online date recon or Uber ride. No one is going to see your profile or take your payment. Of course, you get social credit points for ratting someone out to the authorities.
It’s like a credit score gone wild.
The watchers of the state check your social media, private messaging (they have access to that too), health records, financial credit scores, insurance policies, utility usage, smart-home stats, shopping history, travel, and dating behavior. It includes the time you spend on online games. What a nice little gesture towards millennials.
If your points get too low then the punishments start. Small at first. Maybe you get an online account shut down for a day. Perhaps you lose electric power for thirty minutes around dinnertime. These are merely shots across the bow. Continue to rebel, persist in breaking socialist rules, then it’s on to more severe measures like loss of buying privileges virtually everywhere. Don’t stop and eventually you go to trial, with your record of alleged “anti-social behavior” conveniently following you into kangaroo court.
The same applies to businesses. Make socialist officials angry or forget to give them the perks of their exalted status? Then normal people will lose points, and all that loss means, if they buy from you.
It’s the mark of the big data beast.
Again, this is not a dystopian fantasy. This is happening in socialist China right now, this day, this moment.
This potentiality for them, and a fight over extraditions to the mainland, is why yesterday over a million people in Hong Kong took to the streets to protest the actions of the socialist government. They know what total control from Beijing would bring. They know that if one were charged with a crime, especially a thought crime, and tried on the mainland that person would never be heard from again. They know full well what the social credit system is.
And we too would do well to remember that if we think government is too intrusive already, if we think big data has too much influence, then what do you think would happen when a President Sanders, or in the future a Senator Ocasio-Cortez, proposes a measure to regulate behavior “for the common good” as they see fit? Should not, they will say, the needs of individual be sublimated to the “needs of the many” as defined by them? Yes, you can almost hear them, like all jackbooted thugs, say, “Well if you’ve got nothing to hide then you have nothing to worry about.”
Those authoritarian words are the perennial assurance of secret policemen. They could also be the words of a socialist president of the United States.
That would only be accomplished if we fell prey to the temptation to trade freedom for ease of mediocre living. A barter, looking at some election results, that many Americans would make.
Let’s hope, not enough to make it our own daily reality.