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I am not a number

Welcome to Big Brother, China-style.

Within four years every citizen of China, all 1.36 billion of them, will be on a new and highly sinister national database. This database will collect each individual’s financial, political and social records, and all government information about them – including police encounters. All this data will be crunched down to a single number.

That number – a kind of ‘social credit score’ – will be used to determine each citizen’s ‘trustworthiness’. China’s State Council says that this social credit score will “forge a public opinion environment that trust-keeping is glorious” and that the system “will reward those who report acts of breach of trust”.

Certain sensitive professions, including accountants, lawyers, journalists, teachers, physicians – even veterinarians and tour guides – will face particular scrutiny. At long last – thanks to computer technology and the algorithms it has spawned – Mao’s dream will be realised. There will be no escape.

Or rather, those individuals who somehow elude this nightmare will effectively be dead to society, pariahs that have marked themselves out as socially untrustworthy.

Picture source: Dong Fang via Wikimedia