A Social System that Inspires Pride and Shame

This story continues to fascinate me. 


China’s social credit system started in 2015. 


China scores individuals based on public data (social media, financial, insurance, health, shopping, dating, and more), and they have people that act as “information collectors” (i.e. neighborhood watchers) who record what their neighbors are doing–good and bad. 


Each individual starts with a 1,000 points. 


If you do good things in Chinese society–helping people, cleaning up, being honest–you get points added. 


If you do bad things in China–fight with people, make a mess, be dishonest–you get points deducted. 


Fail below 1,000 points and you are in trouble–and can get blacklisted!


A good score is something to be proud of and a bad score is something that shames people to hopefully change for the better. 


But more than that, your social score has tangible social impacts–it can determine your ability to get into certain schools, obtain better jobs, homes, loans/mortgages, high-speed internet, and even high-speed train tickets/airplane flights. 


While maybe well intentioned, certainly, this has the very real potential to become a surveillance state and the embodiment of “Big Brother”!


On one hand, it seems like a great thing to drive people and society to be better. Isn’t that what we do with recognizing and rewarding good behavior and with our laws and justice system in punishing bad behavior?


Yet, to me this type of all-encompassing social credit system risks too much from a freedom and privacy perspective. Should the government and all your neighbors be privy to your most intimate doings and dealings?  And should people be controlled to such an extent that literally everything you do is monitored and measured and counted for/against you?


It seems to me that the price of sacrificing your very personal liberty is too high to make in order to push people towards positive social goals.


Guiding people is one thing, and rewarding outstanding acts and punishing horrific ones is understandable, but getting into people’s knickers is another. 


This type of social credit system really borders on social control and moves us towards a very disturbing, dystopian future. 😉

Bird’s Nest Surveillance

Birds Nest Surveillance.jpeg

I took this photo today of a bird’s nest on top of a surveillance camera. 


I find this fascinating!


The pure irony of a bird finding safety and shelter in a nest atop a surveillance camera looking out for bad things like criminals and terrorism. 


On one hand, safety and security.


And on the other hand, the fear and insecurity of it all. 


A bird may find a peaceful nesting place there.


But for the rest of us, the world continues to be a very dangerous place. 


Often walking the streets of a major urban city, I think to myself the chaos and danger that could so easily ensue if events took a sudden and serious turn for the worse where society as we know it can completely start to unravel, and as they say, “the sh*t hits the fan!”


I believe that many, if not most people are worried about this, hence the incredible popularity of shows and movies far and wide such as:

 (Fear) The Walking Dead

Containment

The 100

The Last Ship

Jericho

Mad Max

Road Warrior

I am Legend

The Book of Eli

The Postman

World War Z 

Waterworld

Children of Men

Outbreak

Armageddon

Oblivion 

The Day After Tomorrow 

and more. 


The camera is surveilling and the bird is watching from their perch. 


We go about our days like the post apocalyptic zombies that wander the Earth.


But not so deep down, in our minds and hearts is the terror of what can happen at any moment and what is likely destined to happen eventually. 


This is not about doom and gloom, but about what the threats are out there, what is being done or not done about them, and who will ultimately survive and would you even want to. 😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

What Are People Hungry For?

Katniss_salute_to_the_people

In the Hunger Games, the storyline is of the common people being punished for rebelling against “The Capital” generations ago, by having to put up male and female “Tributes” (kids age 12-18) from each of 12 districts to fight it out to the death, while the rich and powerful in The Capital watch, laugh, and enjoy the equivalent of the gladiators in the Coliseum.

The Games offer a restricted hope to the people–as hope is seen as “the only thing stronger than fear.” In this movie, the hope for winning the games is supposed to displace the fear of the central authorities over their subjects as well as any real hope of change, equality, and justice for the masses.

What the kids and adult fans of this movie seem to be lining up and cheering wildly for with this box-office smash hit is the main character Katniss Everdeen who defies the corrupt politicians and affluent capitalists by fighting not for her life in The Hunger Games as much as for the dignity of the common people in the districts.

From the beginning, Katniss become the first ever to volunteer for the games to take the place of her less adept, younger sister, Primrose, who is selected from District 12; Katniss put her life on the line to save her sister’s life.

And all along during the movie, Katniss refuses to be a pawn in the game and simply kill or be killed, but she rises above the fight and acts all the time with humanity, caring for other tributes and generally refusing to hurt others, unless her life is threatened and she literally has no choice.

For example, she cares for a younger girl from District 11 who eventually is speared to death by another tribute hunting them. Also, she cares for her companion from District 12, Peeta, who is injured, and she risks her life to get medicine to save his.

At climax, Katniss is ready to commit suicide, rather than continue playing to the evil dictates of the authorities.

Katniss comes from the poverty and ordinariness of the district people. However, her fighting spirit, humanity, and ability to outwit not only the other tributes, but the evil leaders–who play the tributes (and districts) off each other for their own power, permanence, and punishment of the lower class–makes her a hero among the masses who are at the ready to revolt at her simple salute to the people.

What I thought was going to be a kids movie that would put me to sleep, turned out to be an uplifting experience watching an old, familiar theme of Rocky the fighter win against all the odds, but in this case with the added twist of defying a corrupt government and elitist culture.

I think this movie is appealing to people at exactly a time now where the 99% are simmering and fed up with the shenanigans of the 1% and elements of both the Occupy movement and Tea Party are looking for principles of freedom, justice, and dignity to be restored.

The Hunger Games is not just about the dystopian future society that doesn’t exist today, but rather about a historical perspective of people who are craving for the proverbial “dirty politicians” and “greedy capitalists” to put aside their games, agendas, excuses, and pots of power and gold for a more utopian society where all people are created equal and treated fairly with hope anchored in reality.

(Source Photo: Adapted from here)

Deus Ex-Overtaken By Technology

 

Deus Ex is an action role-playing game (RPG) and first person shooter game. It sold more than a million copies as of 2009 and was named “Best PC Game of All Time.”

 

A prequel Deus Ex: Human Evolution is due to be released this month (August 2011). 

 

You play a coalition anti-terrorist agent in a world slipping further and further into chaos.

 

The time is 2052 and you are in a dystopian society where society has progressed faster technologically than it has evolved spiritually–and people are struggling to cope with technological change and are abusing new technology.

 

The challenges portrayed in the trailer show people using/abusing technological augmentation–the integration of technology with their human bodies–replacing damaged limbs, adding computer chips, and even “upgrading themselves”.

 

There are many issues raised about where we are going as a society with technology:

 

1) Are we playing G-d–when we change ourselves with technology, not because we have too (i.e. because of sickness), but rather because we want to–at what point are we perhaps overstepping theologically, ethically, or otherwise?

 

2) Are we playing with fire–when we start to systematically alter our makeup and change ourselves into some sort of half-human and half-machine entities or creatures are we tempting nature, fate, evolution with what the final outcome of who we become is?  As the end of the trailer warns: “Be human, remain human”–imagine what type of cyborg creatures we may become if we let things go to extremes.

 

3) Technology may never be enough–As we integrate technology into our beings, where does it stop? The minute we stop, others continue and we risk being “less intelligent, less strong, and less capable than the rest of the human race.” In short, are we facing a technological race toward dehumanization and as enhanced machines.

 

4) Drugs and other vices follow–To prevent technology augmentation from being rejected, mankind relies on ever larger and more potent doses of drugs.  We not only risk losing elements of our humanity to technology, but also to drugs and other vices that make us forget the pain of change and rejection (physical and perhaps emotional).

 

Deus Ex literally is Latin for “G-d out of the machine.” Perhaps, future dystopian society starts out by people trying to play G-d, but I think the risk is that it ends with the proverbial devil displacing the best laid intentions. 

 

While technology holds the most amazing of promises from curing disease, solving world hunger, and endless innovations (even including developing the archetype bionic man/women–“We can rebuild him…we have the technology”), without a solid moral compass and frequent check-ins, we run the risk of technology getting away from us and even doing more harm than good.