China is truly a dystopian nightmare. With over 200 million cameras in Chinese cities, they now want to do what they call “Social Credit” system. In this system, every action of all Chinese citizens will be tracked on video; the things bought, the acquaintances kept, basically everything. If you buy alcohol for instance you lose points on your credit score. If you go to the night club your score suffers. If you buy baby nappies your score increases. If you date or marry a civil servant or member of the communist party your score increases, if you date someone with lower score your score decreases. If you are an investigative journalist like Aremeyaw exposing state corruption, you’re deemed enemy of the state and your score takes a nosedive.
When your score gets to a particular point, you can’t travel, you can’t buy certain things, you can’t get a social media account, you’re for all intents and purposes locked out of society. When two parent’s score gets below a certain point, their children will be blocked from attending top schools in the country. They’ve piloted this in two provinces; one in mainland Han Chinese city of Chongqing and another in the Muslim Uyghur region of Xinjiang. In the Xinjiang region, the system breaks down people into three major categories: trustworthy, average, nontrustworthy: Uyghurs are formally marked average while the Han are marked trustworthy from the get go. Over a million Uyghurs have been detained in re-education camps for becoming untrustworthy. They’re set to roll out the credit system in 2020 nationwide. All the major Chinese corporations like Alibaba and Huawei are helping write the code for the nationwide roll out of the program.
When I watched the Netflix series Black Mirror in 2016, I was absolutely terrified of this actually happening. But it appears China actually watched it and thought it was a brilliant idea. Or perhaps they were already in the process of developing it before Black Mirror. This is an Orwellian nightmare. Unfortunately, I don’t think this will stop in China. If China can do it (and they’re doing it because no one can stop them), then other countries will do it even if clandestinely. In America, we already have the credit score system which can affect your ability to buy a car or a house. And with China taking it a step further, it will not be long before dictatorships in the Gulf and other parts of Asia, South America and Africa decide they want their own version of population control.
I don’t trust in the ability of ordinary people to fight against this. We are creatures who gravitate more towards comfort and security instead of freedom. And if a government is able to provide you with these like the Chinese has done pulling out hundreds of millions out of poverty in such a short time, people will happily give away their freedoms or not fight against creeping authoritarianism. I’m particularly afraid for African countries like Ghana where among young people 30 and under, social media is so ubiquitous in our lives. Hell, my every joke is on Facebook. We are going to be in a big big trouble in the ever expansive power that the digital age is ushering us into. We’re being weaved into ever tightening grip of powerful state and non-state entities. It’s like we’re getting into a prison. An electronic control grid. How to get out of it I don’t know. I can say we should not allow too many cctv cameras on our streets and cities. But I and most young people carry video and audio cameras and recorders with us everywhere we go. And we’re very happy carrying them. It looks like we’re happily marching ourselves into this grid of digital prison future we’re building for ourselves! A terrifying future indeed!