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Social credit will generate inequality equal

China on the threshold of a new reality: in the near future, society will be divided into “better” and “worse”

Social credit will generate inequality equal
Photo: Will a bottle of beer inadvertently caught in a frame be a source of problems? Photos of shutterstock.com
Interesting news came the other day from China - allegedly the country plans to launch a full-fledged social credit system in the next, 2020, not only for adults, but also for teenagers. In essence, what has been talked about a lot is becoming a reality: Chinese society will be the first in the world to introduce a system of preferential access to benefits at the national level, based on scoring integrity and law-abiding.

The social credit system (otherwise SCS - Social Credit Score) was conceived at the beginning of the 2000-s, it was then that its theoretical base was laid. In particular, it is directly related to the idea of ​​“scientific development and building a harmonious society”, expressed in 2003, and since then it has been on the agenda of scientific and public discourse in the PRC.

The social credit system is a social concept based on the distinction in relation to the possibility of obtaining a range of social and economic services, depending on the special “rating” of the citizen. The rating is earned by certain points, and points can be both accrued and subtracted - depending on the actions of the citizen, his social status, his social circle and a host of other factors.

The idea of ​​such social segregation is not generally new, but Chinese developers were able to put it on a powerful information platform. Various prototypes of such systems have been operating in test mode for several years, and their main characteristic is not at all to “glue” the rating and access to services together, but to automate the scoring itself as much as possible — that is, to put the rating calculation on stream. 

What the system really has is an asset, and what is still an area of ​​fantasy is an open question. It is clear that an infrastructure already exists that is able to evaluate and systematize all electronic purchases, loans and debts, digital “tails” (ie, activity on the Internet) and other events related to the activity of citizens. But in 2016-2017, there were reports that Face ++ face recognition system started working on SCS for more accurate reporting of the actions of each person outside the electronic network. The potential of this direction is both the tracking of movements and actions of citizens through outdoor video surveillance systems, and the monitoring and evaluation of all media content that goes to social networks from people's devices. 

What is known today about SCS prototypes? The Hangzhou Credit Company, which initially monitored the violations of legal entities only, operates in the city of Hangzhou. She has been collecting information on ordinary citizens since 2014, and not only in Hangzhou, but also in sixteen other cities. The number of localities participating in this “experiment" has grown and to date has surpassed the number of three dozen.

Another prototype in 2015 was launched by the company Alibaba Group, which is responsible for online trading in the Chinese space. Simultaneously, Sesame Credit (or Zhima Credit), a commercial prototype of the Unified Information Center, was launched. It was his more modern local versions that were later distributed in a number of cities; in other cities, Zhima Credit holds a monopoly on information about residents.

It is known that today the Social Credit System is rather a set of disparate systems, each of which is just studying the work of various algorithms in order to identify the best combination. Therefore, we can safely say that while many Chinese citizens live in a test version of an as yet unknown reality. However, the Chinese authorities also have plans to improve this structure. And the closest date associated with this in the future is already very close - this is the 2020th year, in which the PRC plans to create a truly unified System of Social Trust, when all information for each citizen will be in one database.

How will the second part of the system, related to access to services and benefits, work? Some assumptions can be made based on existing prototypes. For example, in the city of Rongcheng, with a D rating (the lowest of all), they hardly take even simple jobs, loans and plane tickets are also not available, and you can rent something only with a large deposit. If, for example, for representatives C and D, renting a bike costs 200 yuan, then for citizens of level A + this happens without a deposit, besides, the first hour and a half of using the transport is generally free. In addition, for A + holders, treatment is free if it fits into a certain amount - and the higher the rating, the greater the amount covered by the insurance.

These are the general principles of the Social Trust System, from which it can be seen that, at least from the outside, they are trying to observe the following principle: the possibility of acquiring material wealth is directly proportional to how well you fit into this system. The current level of technology development already allows you to reduce the rating for free travel, smoking in prohibited places, throwing garbage. And in Shanghai, for example, they tested scoring on a very family issue - they established a decrease in the rating for those who had not visited their parents for a long time. And this, believe me, is just the beginning.

How will the system evolve? At least at this stage, there are several “pitfalls”. The ideological rationale for SCS was the already mentioned above concept of “scientific development and building a harmonious society”, expressed in 2003, which proposes to identify and promote “trustworthy citizens”. This model has divided hitherto equal people into those who are “worthy of trust” and those who are already “unreliable”, because they either discredited themselves earlier, or because of their personal characteristics - a series of actions that are not beneficial to society, low level of education, bad environment is at risk.

What will happen to those who could not get an education or in his youth led a somewhat dissolute life and was associated with a number of even minor, but wrongdoings? Such people receive low ratings and therefore cannot fully enjoy the benefits of civilization on a par with law-abiding. But the problem is not only this - the operation of the system will inevitably lead to the mutual isolation of people with a high rating from people with a low rating. Since the very contact with “unreliable” can lead to a downgrade, this can lead to the emergence of a zone of alienation around people with low scoring.

Another aspect relates to information security. The work of SCS completely destroys the personal space of people, freedom and “privacy” are out of the question. But how much of this information will be protected from all sorts of errors, manipulations, attacks? And who are the judges if the citizen does not agree with the verdict of the system? Answers to these questions will appear in the very near future.
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