Chinese Social Credit or Black Mirror Nosedive episode ?
My partner and I went to many conferences last year, and when the time came to present TrustUnion to an audience, two main comparisons kept coming back. The first is the epic Nosedive episode from a Netflix series called “Black Mirror” (Season 03 episode 01). The second is the controversial Chinese Social Credit System that surfaced recently. Our readers may have heard a lot about both polarizing subjects.
Both comparisons have a strong link between them but none with our project. We, the TrustUnion team, want to make this point loud and clear. I am therefore writing this article to present the whys and wherefores of the TrustUnion project and highlight its differences with mentioned above comparisons in form and essence.
Warning, Spoiler alert! The Nosedive episode – written by the brilliant Black Mirror crew – describes a shallow society where social media in paramount to survival. It runs every aspect of life, defines social status, sets the basis of a multilayered, segregatory cast-like society and creates havoc in the snap of a finger.
Using biometric facial recognition technology and a mere smartphone app, people are able to attribute a score to each and every social interaction they face on a five star model. And just about everything counts: the waiter’s welcome, the cashier’s vibe, the attitude we have on a waiting line, you name it.
Accumulated scores by each individual are then ranked and society gives privileges and rights as a function of this ranking.
From the ability to take a plane, to making the cut for an available house advertised for rent, everything is subject to a personal profile evaluation. In this context, the story is centered on the events that happen to a young woman that desperately seeks to raise her “social score” in order to open up new opportunities for herself.
Having invested in a specialized coach or a “Social Score Optimizer”, this lady follows a quest to participate to the wedding of one of her childhood friend so high in the score ladder that befriending her again could bring her a great boost to her image (and ultimately her score). Needless to say, it will not work as planned.
Let’s dig now deeper into the new Chinese Social Scoring system. This one is completely designed by the government itself. The system behind relies among other things, on a powerful surveillance CCTV network featured with facial recognition covering a big chunk of the Chinese territory. Furthermore, the system collects and performs profile association on a huge amount of data about citizen’s everyday lives.
Without the ability to filter out the processed data, the system absorbs all interaction like those towards news, what people buy in the supermarket, their monthly spendings, their ability to payback loans and so on…
After processing such data, the Chinese government is able to give people a score. Such that score is used to reward or punish them. Crossing the road outside the crosswalk : punishment ! Being late in the payment of your loan : punishment ! Buy some high quality milk for your newborn : you’ve just showed how much responsible you are… reward ! After processing your score, the government will allow you the right to have holidays, or a visa or the possibility to buy a house or whatever they find useful to pour in this “carrots-and-sticks” model.
In the first use case, we can see how superficial human relationships can become. We seek the absolut make-believe against everybody, at any given time. As soon as you don’t want to follow the rules anymore or you feel outraged towards such an unfair system, you will face the strongest of rejection, and fall down down the society’s ladder and into oblivion. You’ll be the outcast simply for jeopardizing the privileged’s well-being.
This satiric point out our own willingness to behave correctly when we have the feeling of being watched and judged by others. This statement is important and we will come back to this later.
In the case of the Chinese Social Score system – a real use case beyond fiction, we can have an outlook on how a government could profit from the massive collection of citizen’s data to put them in a behavioral jail aiming to control with arbitrary rules based on the subjective vision of the “Legitimacy” of what should look like an ideal society. This time, people don’t even seek to be pleasant to their neighbors. Instead, all they strive for is pleasing their government. This virtual entity that they almost never see, that lives on taxpayers money and represents law enforcement and retribution. In this world vision, the new social credit score becomes a new kind of policing : one that watches your personal data and private behavior – until now your own property and part of your lifestyle. It is what define you, isn’t it? Well, there are so many controversial things to say about this. And saying this out loud sends chills up my spine.
So now, go ahead ! Ask me why TrustUnion is so different?
First, we aim to deliver a tool to express how much we can rely on somebody. Plain and simple. Relying on somebody is useful only if you have something to ask him, right ? In any other case, TrustUnion is not the tool to lean on.
And this is a major difference. When you ask yourself about your surrounding, you know immediately who will be reliable for a task and who’s not. But this doesn’t remove the possibility to carry on being friends with either. This is where lies the importance of this tools. TrustUnion is made to bring about new opportunities. Not the to harden the life of individuals who are not particularly fit to do something. When comes the time to directly compare our technology against the above cases, the difference becomes even more relevant :
- If we want to use thumb print or facial recognition it will be only on the user side for security purpose. It is not conceivable to stock this kind of information anywhere than on one’s own hardware where he can control everything. Same when you unlock your phone or your computer, you will be able to access your TrustUnion interface over biometric tools and will stay as an optional feature.
- With TrustUnion, it is not asked to rate your social interactions, your moods, the virtual interactions with your neighbors or anything else outside the frame of a behavior that involves requiring trust.
- Nowadays, in the sharing ecosystem economy, a five star model became pretty much binary: Either you have above 4.5 Star and it’s alright, or you’re not good enough. This model doesn’t let much place for the middle range and keeping a high score force you to comply to any customer’s desire out of fear of not getting the 5 stars. This is not healthy and leads to a lot of abuse. Our system is based on reward. You can earn more or less reward depending on your behavior. Punishment is kept for extreme situations.
- Many times debated, the data mining on users represent a risk always bigger with the leaks that happen countless of times. Even more disturbing is the resale of this data to big corporations aiming to inject your profile data into deep machine learning to raise the efficiency of what we call today Neuromarketing. We will completely reverse the situation and give you back the sovereignty of your data.
- With a technology where the unique goal is to digitized trust, we can enable a new dimension in the human relationship – far from the shallowness of Black Mirror’s episode.
- With our organic model, you become responsible of network’s overall health. Its evolution and its quality become your duty. No government can become the referrer of your trust ecosystem. You take part of the design of your own future.
As mentioned in my previous article, the Trust is the bridge that will bring you from your initial state to your goal. You will be supported by this decentralized technology to reach them. Any participant who wishes to benefit from it will be indeed under the watchful eye of others. As described above, we are now using our willingness to correctly behave not in a superficial manner because out of fear of retribution, but in a sincere manner, driven by reward and growth.
This reward is the possibility to go further, faster, stronger. It is the possibility to explore new horizons. It is the possibility to maximize the exploitation of one’s potential; that’s being evaluated for what you do in a fair manner.