If you think that the headline above is a juxtaposition, or an out-of-context, out-of-left-field reference to George Orwell, I hate to break it to you: It’s literal.
The idea of “social credit” has been around for as long as humans have been competing with one another. It’s built into our DNA, in many ways, as we are biologically prone to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of those around us just in case our survival is at stake. We identify a person’s status in life in a matter of seconds, often using their hygiene and wardrobe as our guide.
It’s the caste system. It’s the cultural food chain. It’s the societal hierarchy that we’re all accustomed to.
We can’t help that we do this,. What we can do is use our enhanced cognition to treat each other in accordance with The Golden Rule.
The Chinese government is taking things a step further, however, and assigning its citizens an actual social credit score, complete with embarrassing punishments for those low on the totem pole.
The South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that most people with low social credit scores were labeled “discredited” or “deadbeats” because they have debt problems. The most widely reported punishment meted out by the computerized system is restricted travel privileges. Many of the subjects learn they have slipped into the worst category, known as laolai, when they attempt to board an airplane and are turned away at the gate.
The SCMP pointed out that many other indignities are heaped upon the laolai, such as forcing them to ride on special slow trains, banning them from renting hotel rooms–and, most bizarrely, forcing them to use a special ringtone that embarrasses them every time they receive a phone call in public.
The ring tone is a truly horrific punishment, blasting like a siren and issuing a warning to those who might do “business dealings” with the laolai individual.
Become an insider!
Sign up for our free email newsletter, and we'll make sure to keep you in the loop.