The Communist government of China will shortly make full use of its extraordinary digital capabilities to monitor the actions and behavior of its people. Cameras are everywhere and many police officers have so-called smart glasses that can provide instant facial recognition.
In 2020, China will introduce a national monitoring system that ranks all of its 1.4 billion citizens based on their “social credit” or how the government wants them to act. Each person will have to participate in this national point-system program that will reward or punish people based on actions the authoritarians in power determine are good or bad.
Some cities are already initiating trial systems. One investigative journalist, Liu Hu, found he was no longer permitted to fly due to his criticism of some local leaders on social media. He mistakenly thought he was good to go after he paid a fine but now finds out he may not be able to get a flight for up to a year.
This point system will give positive points for behaviors like good spending habits and credit, associating with the proper people, obeying all laws and regulations, hard work and minimal recreation.
Points will be removed for, among numerous other reasons, social media posts, jaywalking, associating with lower-rated people, of course any law violations or even spending too much time playing video games (idleness).
These points will determine whether certain freedoms or privileges will be granted or removed like: the ability to travel by train or plane; household internet speeds, the quality of the schools their children will be permitted to attend, their credit rating and ability to borrow and the interest rate paid, participation on dating sites, the hotels at which they may stay, rates paid for utility bills and even public shame or humiliation if the government decides to publish you’re name on the dreaded bad citizen’s list.
China’s President Xi continues to consolidate power like no one has there since Chairman Mao. Today’s digital technology like AI and facial recognition using scores of surveillance cameras will serve his purposes well. It will all but guarantee that this enormous country will approach the terrifyingly state-controlled oppression that George Orwell brilliantly warned us about in his novel, 1984.
Compliance is already beginning to have an effect. Business Insider quotes a 32-year-old entrepreneur who would only say his name was Chen but said he liked the new program in his city, “I feel like in the past six months, people’s behavior has gotten better and better. For example, when we drive, now we always stop in front of crosswalks. If you don’t stop, you will lose your points.”
What could be more joyful for a totalitarian dictator than a submissive, manageable populace?
But not to worry Americans, it’ll never happen here. Right?
Two years ago, at a speech about installing advanced cameras in NYC, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “At each crossing, and at structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read license plates and test emerging facial recognition software and equipment.”