The New Slick Road
This week on Facebook: I used to blog a lot on a now defunct site called My Telegraph, as did a chap who I think called himself Atrium. Eventually Atrium disappeared in a fit of pique, I think it was because he had such little response to his many cri de coeur regarding his opinions. Observing Atrium was a salutary lesson that taught me a lot about blogging and I think I understand why he left My Telegraph in such a huff. It was (at least in a large part) an ‘age’ thing, Atrium was most probably in my peer group, retired and clearly with a lot of time to spend on the social media. He had forgotten that as a younger man, when in a job and less time on his hands, any talk of putting the world to rights was invariably euphemistic and tempered by a blind faith that the democracy of our public administration lay in hands of the electorate.
My piquancy (I would hope) is not only tempered by an ever increasing understanding of the social media but also by the limitations to my curmudgeonliness. However, a recent article in MoneyWeek with the title ‘A Credit Score That Judges Your Politics’ (see Monday’s article) caused me to have an Atrium moment, a cri de coeur if you will. 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 (see Tuesday’s article). Think of the world that you are already living in!
The controlling oligarchy, who have always existed and presumably will always exist to get people to love their servitude, are already slick at implementing and developing techniques¹ that will inevitably lead to the totalitarianism of the State in a new world order².
Finding myself living in a nanny state with an increasingly authoritarian political class reminded me of an old post from 2012, which suggested that the control of cash (‘In the form of a credit rating?’) is the political aim of the controlling oligarchy and that of a loving Big Brother (slightly paraphrased for clarity):
Aldous Huxley said that, We mustn’t be caught by surprise by our own advancing technology. This said in that time before smartphones, before the internet, before personal computers, before even cable television. Adding that we also mustn’t be caught by surprise by those who seek indefinite power over us: to do that requires the consent of the ruled, something acquirable by addictive substances — both pharmacological and technological — as well as new techniques of propaganda. All of this having the effect of bypassing the sort of rational side of man and appealing to his subconscious and his deeper emotions, and his physiology even, and so, making him actually love his slavery. What Will Destroy Democracy: Overpopulation, Drugs & Insidious Technology (sic)
George Orwell occupies a funny place in the modern literary consciousness. The last few generations came to know him, in English class, as the author of the novels Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four. My own peers may remember their teachers’ awkward inversion of the earlier book, forced as they were to clarify Orwell’s already direct Russian Revolution allegory by explaining that, a long time ago, there lived a man named Trotsky who was a lot like Snowball the pig, and so on. The later book, many readers’ first glimpse at a realistic dystopia, tends to hit us harder. All those tinny, piped-in patriotic anthems; the varicose veins; the sawdusty cigarettes; the defeated cups of watery tea — why on Earth, we asked ourselves, did Orwell so confidently foresee a shambolic world of such simultaneous chintziness and brutality? For 95 Minutes, the BBC Brings George Orwell to Life (sic)
In Huxley’s seemingly dystopic World State, the elite amuse the masses into submission with a mind-numbing drug called Soma and an endless buffet of casual sex. Orwell’s Oceania, on the other hand, keeps the masses in check with fear thanks to an endless war and a hyper-competent surveillance state. At first blush, they might seem like they are diametrically opposed but, in fact, an Orwellian world and a Huxleyan one are simply two different modes of oppression. Huxley to Orwell: My Hellish Vision of the Future is Better Than Yours (sic)
Monday — A Credit Score That Judges Your Politics: Some argue that the system of financial credit scoring that is common in everyday life in Western countries has ample potential to grow into a wider system of de-facto social credit scoring. In Germany, for example, the universal credit rating system known as Schufa already exerts extraordinary power. Anyone wishing to rent a house or borrow money, say, must produce their Schufa rating; the same goes for the standard Fico score in the US. And the increasingly prevalent practice of geo-scoring — lowering your rating if you live in a low-rent area, or if your neighbours have bad credit ratings — is not too dissimilar from the Chinese system of knocking points off for being friends with low scorers.
Tuesday — Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens: 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.
Wednesday — China Wants To Build A Credit Score That Dings Online Chat Group Users For Their Political Views: China’s top internet watchdog, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC), released new rules that govern who can say what in instant messaging chat groups requiring internet companies to establish credit rating systems for chat group users, and provide services to them in accordance with their credit scores. Those who violate Chinese laws and regulations will see their credit scores lowered and their cases reported to authorities—exactly what many feared would happen when China started pushing for the creation of a “social credit” system two years ago.
Thursday — The Scary Concerns China’s Credit Scores Are Raising: The new credit-rating system was launched in China this past summer and is run by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA) and the Chinese holding company Tencent, according to China Daily Asia. The publication also noted the new system uses a variety of data to determine credit scores, including a person’s hobbies, interaction with friends, shopping habits and lifestyle.
Friday — China’s Dystopian Tech Could Be Contagious: Known by the anodyne name “social credit,” this system is designed to reach into every corner of existence both online and off. It monitors each individual’s consumer behavior, conduct on social networks, and real-world infractions like speeding tickets or quarrels with neighbors. Then it integrates them into a single, algorithmically determined “sincerity” score. Every Chinese citizen receives a literal, numeric index of their trustworthiness and virtue, and this index unlocks, well, everything. In principle, anyway, this one number will determine the opportunities citizens are offered, the freedoms they enjoy, and the privileges they are granted.
Referenced Articles & Books: A book or pdf (usually free), or simply a url that may sometimes link to a download that is also usually free. Sometimes a link to JSTOR is used, this lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 3 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.
¹China Invents The Digital Totalitarian State (url): But the government is creating the capacity for a long-tentacled regime of social control. Many of the elements are ready: the databases; the digital surveillance; the system of reward and punishment; and the we-know-best paternalism.
²The United Nations of China—A vision of the world order (url+report): What the sources deftly mined for this edition of China Analysis reveal is that there is sophisticated thinking, and hints of policy debates going on about the UN, its reform process, the various stands taken by other member states, and, to some extent, China’s present and future role in the organisation.
³Brave New World (book): A SQUAT grey building of only thirty-four stories. Over the main entrance the words, CENTRAL LONDON HATCHERY AND CONDITIONING CENTRE, and, in a shield, the World State’s motto, COMMUNITY, IDENTITY, STABILITY.
41984 (book): It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
A.P. Herbert AI Albert Haddock Banks blog book books budget budget deficit C.S. Lewis censorship Charles Dickens China Civil Service constitution Crime CRT cryptocurrency CWG debt deficit democracy economics education ethics EU euro fiat money Film France freedom of expression gdp government history human-rights internet J M Keynes language Law Ludwig Von Mises Margaret Thatcher Matt morality music Musical national debt New Labour NHS opinion parody personal PFI poetry police Police & Crime Commissioners politics Quantitative Easing research school Screwtape Sir Ethelred Rutt K.C. social-media Social Media Social Welfare statistics T.E. Utley taxation terrorism Thatcher UK Unemployment USA Victor Hugo war war on terror
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