Silicon Valley has long had a romance with China. Much of this was, and is, motivated by the great lure of profit from the world’s most populous nation. But when you do business with a totalitarian state, perhaps inevitably some of its ideology seeps into you.
This is especially true on our increasingly high-tech planet where many parties are competing for the latest advances and the moneys that flow from them. China, however, is utilizing these advances for particularly dangerous ends. In a manner eerily similar to that predicted many years ago in George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” China has been instituting a social credit system.
This program, being rolled out across that country with a population approaching one and a half billion, measures the obedience of its citizens in areas from their religion (the Chinese don’t like it) to whether they jaywalk. These same citizens are then rewarded or restricted in almost all aspects of their lives (such as being able to travel abroad or obtain a mortgage) according to the scores they have received.
This is Big Brother taken to the nth degree. It will homogenize people to an extent Mao only dreamed of during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, because it will happen without people even realizing what is being done to them. It’s all seemingly in the spirit of competitive online fun. This is why some call the social credit score “authoritarianism, gamified.”
But China is a far from alone. Google, Facebook, and others are right behind them—possibly even in front of them—in the race for an obedient, homogenized society, even though the tech giants claim the reverse. (It was Google, after all, that was allegedly designing a politically censored search engine for the Chinese until the tech behemoth pulled back under heavy criticism.)
And this approach is being adopted by a variety of sources, not just the Google and Facebook giants. The likes of insurance companies and restaurant suppliers are employing these new technologies to survey social media or shared lists to give potential clients their own version of a “score.”
We’re all being monitored all the time, almost always without knowing it’s actually happening. Only lip service is paid. But we’re all getting social credit scores of one sort or another.
This ominous trend is motivated in part by the ideological uniformity of management and employees we see at Google, Facebook, etc. They think they’re doing the right thing. But unchecked global (i.e., cross border) corporate greed is equally at play, one reinforcing the other.
Whatever the motivations, the results constitute a serious, possibly even terminal, threat to democracy as we know it. In an important article on Fast Company, Mike Elgan writes that Silicon Valley is replicating the equivalent of China’s social credit system for the United States and larger Western audience.
“Many Westerners are disturbed by what they read about China’s social credit system. But such systems, it turns out, are not unique to China. A parallel system is developing in the United States, in part as the result of Silicon Valley and technology-industry user policies, and in part by surveillance of social media activity by private companies,” Elgan writes.
If there’s an emergency in our society, it’s not global warming but this growing thought control. The Chinese and Big Tech have indeed turned authoritarianism into a game we’re all playing. The fun is at our own—and our freedom’s—expense.
Roger L. Simon, co-founder and CEO emeritus of PJ Media, is an award-winning author and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. His new novel, “The Goat,” is available on Amazon Kindle. Paperback and hardcover to follow on Sept. 1.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.