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Would You Rate Your Friends and Family on a Social Grading System?

scifi nightmare

Scifi is often predictive: a lot of the gadgets shown in Star Trek, for example, now exist. This is a good thing.

But recently I read an article that scared me: Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens. The Chinese government plans to launch its Social Credit System in 2020. The aim? To judge the trustworthiness – or otherwise – of its 1.3 billion residents.

scifi nightmareHere’s an excerpt of the article on this scifi -sounding scenario:

Imagine a world where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated: what you buy at the shops and online; where you are at any given time; who your friends are and how you interact with them; how many hours you spend watching content or playing video games; and what bills and taxes you pay (or not). It’s not hard to picture, because most of that already happens, thanks to all those data-collecting behemoths like Google, Facebook and Instagram or health-tracking apps such as Fitbit.

But now imagine a system where all these behaviors are rated as either positive or negative and distilled into a single number, according to rules set by the government. That would create your Citizen Score and it would tell everyone whether or not you were trustworthy. Plus, your rating would be publicly ranked against that of the entire population and used to determine your eligibility for a mortgage or a job, where your children can go to school – or even just your chances of getting a date.

That is my idea of a dystopian nightmare, like a Black Mirror episode come to life. And apparently, this is to happen, in less than three years, to more than a billion people.


What do you think of this scenario? Do you think China would be able to successfully implement such a scifi -dystopia- like system? How would it affect their society? Is any other country likely to follow suit?

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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48 Comments

  • adicha219 says:

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  • abetterman21 says:

    Watch black mirror episode called nosedive. It’s the scenario you mentioned.

  • Heidi says:

    Very scary. I can believe it happening but it’s horrifying. I would like to see our world move in a way that further disburses power rather than consolidates it.

  • ccyager says:

    I wonder if the Chinese people know about this and truly understand the implications. Of course, that is a much different culture with different ways of thinking about behavior. If it is successful, I think China would be the place it would succeed. But it is scary, nonetheless. Data-mining in order to control a population. We need to be vigilant to insure it doesn’t happen where we live.

  • Esha M Dutta says:

    Very scary even to think of that ever happening. Not very different is the linking of our Aadhaar cards to all our transactions and now, even our Bank accounts…all our data is going to be out there for the world to know.

  • Jaspal says:

    My god… its a shocking thing to hear. They have gone too far and I can’t imagine something like this happening in our country.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I can’t imagine something like this happening in India either, but who knows, really.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Peter Nena says:

    Crazy. Dreadful. Why would they want to do that?

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      To consolidate power. To give people a feeling of security while taking away their freedom. The usual reasons, I guess.

  • pjlazos says:

    Horrible stuff. It reminds me of the movie “Minority Report” where you could be arrested for just thinking of doing something wrong because the government was able to monitor everything. It’s this kind of stuff, along with our dwindling resources (particularly water), that really scares me. May this never come to pass.

  • Terence Park says:

    Big Data meets Big Brother… just add Big Society to round it off.
    Society has inbuilt forces that push us toward homogeneity. The tools to enforce this are now immediate; in times past, unliked neighbours might be accused of being a witch, ostracised and maybe worse. This took time – now you can do it immediately: don’t like their opinion: shout ’em down, call ’em out in social media.
    Who sets the rules?
    China has the state, otherwise it’s a bit of a Wild West with various interest groups using social media to push their agenda to the top.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, it does sound like the perfect storm. It makes me deeply uncomfortable, and frankly, terrified.

      • Terence Park says:

        It’s a call for us to examine what we are. Given our preponderance for self deception, that’s an obvious nonstarter (just thought I’d cheer you up 🙂 )

        • Damyanti Biswas says:

          Thanks, Terence. After reading this article, and some of my friends’ timelines about net neutrality, I do need cheering up. Big power always wins–sucks that I always support the underdogs, the little people.

  • davidprosser says:

    I would not do that to my family, friends or anyone. I very much doubt if China can produce a working model as most people are very complex. What they are like or what they like today may not be what they are like or what they like tomorrow..Opinions change as do habits, people change all the time. You can’t factor that in.
    xxx Massive Hugs Damyanti xxx

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, it is impossible to rate humans– be it friends, family, acquaintances, colleagues, or strangers. This whole system is a nightmare.

      Hugs to you too, David. Hope you’re one step closer to complete healing and freedom from pain.

  • shanayatales says:

    Oh God that is scary, and no I would never do that to my friends and family. As far as can China do that? I guess, it can. Though I sure hope it doesn’t.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yeah, I fear China can implement it– given its government system. Scary is right.

  • What a frightening scenario! The groundwork for that is already in place. I’m sure intelligence services are doing something similar with people of interest.

  • Kishor Kr says:

    Having every bit of your life publicized and rate is certainly a nightmare. It’s like living a reality show, only everything is out of your control. Anyhow, that’d be for another world, and another time. I am not sure if I’ll be able to rate anyone close or distant in the present world.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, it does sound like a nightmarish reality show, a sort of Big Boss gone out of control.

  • This is simply dreadful… Makes me think of the ways in which our own aadhar could be misused…

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      This is why some people oppose aadhar cards, because they could be misused in future.

  • Widdershins says:

    We already live in a society where this happens … where the information and interactions we have in our daily lives is logged somewhere online … where a twitter-storm can result in someone getting fired or worse. All this is, is a more blatant version.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, our online lives are tracked and recorded, and I for one have given up on any expectations of total privacy.

  • It frightens me – too many opportunities for oppression! And I don’t know how you would judge the success of it?

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      The success would be total control, I guess– a system on which the entity that lays down the rules will have total control.

  • Hilary says:

    Hi Damyanti – awful … and I don’t use my debit/credit card more than necessary … and my phone GPS is off …

    I may well miss this Friday … as have hopped continents for a while … take care and appalling thought – trouble is most of those 1 billion.3 people won’t know it’s happening … cheers Hilary

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, awful.

      I’ll mark you exempt for this month– take care of you!

  • simonfalk28 says:

    George Orwell would roll over in his grave. Good friends are more precious than the world’s wealth. They cannot be rated numerically.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yeah, no way to rate friends and family. Restaurants and commodities, yes, but not people.

  • That’s it. I’m going off the grid!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Haha that’s what I’ve told myself, time and again, and yet, here I am.

  • msw blog says:

    Oh this just sounds like trouble . You and your readers may enjoy this post on big brother
    https://reallifeofanmsw.com/2016/09/16/were-being-monitored-at-work-helping-hand-or-big-brother

  • The data are all there already, and how can we be sure that those who hold this data (you know who you are, Zuckerberg et al) aren’t already working on algorithms like that described? The possibilities for social analysis are endless, and many sold to us as benefits. I remain unconvinced.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Oh they are already working on algorithms. Big data helps win or lose elections these days.

  • Almost Iowa says:

    It sounds like the worst of small town life, writ large.

    People love small towns because everyone knows you. People also leave small towns because everyone knows you.

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yeah, that last bit is too true. There’s a sort of safety in the anonymity of big cities.

  • Birgit says:

    This is very scary and should never come to be because who is the ultimate judge? I don’t like this one bit

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      I can’t imagine anyone would like it, other than big corps and governments.

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    Ugh!
    I don’t know about China…well, it might implement it successfully, who knows! But, I for sure, will never do it, ever! Imagine being rated by your family or friends and then the rating put up for all to see; imagine it affecting our entire life! Dystopian, indeed! And, in a country like ours, greasing of palms will reach an all time high! 😛

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      Yes, can’t imagine that in India– makes for a very good idea for a dystopian Indian novel.

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