What’s up friends?
Today I picked a technology topic that truly has the potential to lastingly change life for its users in a very dramatic way. It is common knowledge that apps are changing the way we behave and consume significantly – but usually we are in more or less full control on how much we let ourselves be influenced by technology – but for how much longer? The system I want to talk about today is called “Sesame Credit” and with that being said, let’s zoom into it.
Sesame Credit is a so called social credit scoring system, developed and marketed by the Ant Financial Services Group, which belongs to Alibaba, the biggest wholesale company in the world. If you never heard about Alibaba, which you most probably did, imagine it as the Chinese Amazon. Social credit systems are to a very far extent the invention of China and, so far, limited to its borders. Those systems aim to establish a digital rating e.g. scoring system for citizens, companies and organizations
The idea behind Sesame Credit is, that every user receives an individual credit rating based on his or her behavior. Behavior on the one hand means which physical goods one buys and on the other hand, what one says about the government as well as general politics. Today the system is still being tested – but the Chinese government claimed that it could be widely implemented and mandatory by around 2020 for the whole country. That means each and every Chinese citizen will be part of this system.
But before we discuss Sesame Credits’ possible impact, let’s take a look on the metrics behind the name:
Sesame credit basically measures four categories of user data:
- The amount / volume of goods that are being purchased regardless of their purpose
- Personal information of the user in order to make the service more "comprehensive"
- The timeliness of payments of bills
- The timeliness of payments of credit card debts
While the first two categories have rather minor impact on the rating, the latter two categories are what really drive the score. If you fail paying bills on time, your score and therefore your credit rating will be lowered significantly. But it’s all a game right? It can’t be that bad. Why should one even care about that?
Well, while the idea itself actually is not bad at all because it digitizes paperwork and should enable more efficient process handling, the purpose behind this system maybe isn’t that social at all. The service lures its users with the principle of gamification, depicting the whole process as a game to which you can invite your friends and rank “against” them. That with the sole purpose of attracting a high number of users and collecting the maximum amount of data possible. It is no secret that political views and statements affect your score too. If you are working at a state-owned company, for example, you already start with a way higher score, than if you wouldn’t. Any behavior that is being regarded as misconduct by decision makers may eventually result in mobbing, personal sanctions and even the loss of your job.
The systems defines, that the lower your personal score is, the less access to basic things like housing, bank loans and even travel permissions is being granted. This incremental restriction process is only the tip of the iceberg. The downside even increases, when considering the fact, that even people the system identifies as friends to your account can lose score based on YOUR behavior – how would that make you feel?. That “misconduct” of one person, maybe a close friend, could negatively affect your social status or the status of a whole group? While the system presents itself as an incentive to behave “better” and rewarding it with seemingly great benefits, this “better behavior” firstly only means in favor of the Chinese government and secondly let’s every user pay with a complete loss of any anonymity and self-determination.
After these short thoughts, what do you think about Sesame credit? Is it an effective incentive in order to creating a better society or is this kind of omnipresent state surveillance hindering the population from prosperity? Does it pave the way for moving towards George Orwell’s “1984” totalitarian dystopia or may this development really enable the “brave new world”, a utopia where misbehavior is a foreign word and society works perfectly, hand in hand?
I am very curious on hearing your thoughts about this.
– Picture: https://static.pexels.com/
– This article was elaborated in close collaboration with my good friend Florian, who is also featured on YouTube and Steemit alias: @alternatiflos.
If you search for some variety in your video consumption, be sure to check his channel out in order to stay up to date on politics and related topics.