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KATIE ZERR: A social credit system might make us better people

If the U.S. Government gave its citizens a social credit score, where would the majority of Americans be rated?
In this day and time, in the doghouse I would say.
After recovering from the shock of hearing about the Chinese Government’s Social Credit System, I began to imagine this country under a similar situation. The results were not pleasant.
In this Orwellian political plot of 2018, Chinese social credits are determined by how its citizens act in everyday life. The Chinese government in an effort to “purify” society tracks its own people with millions of cameras. There are already an estimated 176 million surveillance cameras operating on Chinese streets, in public buildings and businesses. The government plans to have more than 600 million installed by 2020. Through these cameras the government can track behaviors, rate them positive or negative, and create a single number social credit determined by these behaviors.
This system is based on everything from whether citizens pay bills on time to how they treat others in public or what they post online. The social credit score tells other citizens whether or not you were trustworthy.
Those deemed trustworthy and good citizens are rewarded and those who are not are punished.
Some Chinese citizens are already suffering the consequences of having a low social credit score. They are not allowed to fly and are barred from trains that connect the country. They are restricted from big purchases such as buying property and taking vacations. The scores would determine your chances of getting a date on all of those dating sites.
Now imagine a U.S. where many of your daily activities were constantly monitored and evaluated. Credit is given and taken away based on what you buy at the shops and online, who your friends are and how you interact with them.
The government would track what you view on social media or which video games you play. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine knowing now what we know about Google, Facebook and Instagram.
In this world, I see myself living in a tent in some sympathetic friend’s backyard. I know my social credit, according to the government, would probably set me smack dab on the naughty list.
But I wouldn’t be alone. As I thought about where a social credit number in this country would mean to people, public figures and private citizens, I would have a lot of company on the naughty list.
Most of our politicians would be on that list and it would be filled with actors, athletes and people of wealth and power.
I thought about who some of my tent mates might be and decided even the backyards of the sympathetic would have a class system. Those who felt they were privileged would pitch their tents on the highest point in the yard so they could look down on us regular naughty peons.
As I thought about the tent cities that would pop up across the country, I imagined the scramble to up a social credit score. It would mean people would actually have to treat each other like they are worth something.
In my mind’s eye I could see those who think they are above the rest be forced to treat others as equals. It made me giggle. It might be worth watching certain individuals trying to up their score by giving a less fortunate citizens designer jeans and sharing their kale chips.
It might be entertaining to see what kind of neighbors politicians would be and if they got the best tents from manufacturers for whom they had done favors in the past. We might be able to tell who once was the most crooked by the kind of tent in which they now lived.
But then I realized that if the government were running the social credit system, the party in power would most likely be exempt from the social score system.
What a wicked twist that would bring to elections. It would make Russian interference seem like child’s play when it came to securing seats for the Democrats or Republicans.
Living in a republic governed by the people (supposedly) would not allow such an Orwellian system to be engaged in our country, but it should still give us pause. Everything we do is being tracked by analytics, watched by surveillance cameras and recorded on our and other’s cell phones. We are already being watched.
I will try to remember that the next time some driver cuts in front of me on Grand Crossing and drives 15 miles below the speed limit.
It might just prevent me from laying on the horn and giving them the old “Bronx salute,” but I doubt it.
– Katie Zerr –