Below is an excerpt from a recent note written by our Demography analyst Neil Howe.
The Chinese city of Shenzhen is readying a system that will use AI and facial recognition to identify jaywalkers, who will automatically be notified of their offense by text message. The initiative illustrates that, for all its potential, advanced data analytics pose some ominous ethical questions. (MediaPost)
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Working with Alibaba and Tencent, the People's Republic of China is already implementing a nationwide "social credit system" that is expected to become official in 2020. It has been called "gamified obedience." And yes, it's just about as Orwellian as it sounds.
Every Chinese citizen will have a SCS score--much like a FICO score, only this one will range from 350 to 950.
Pioneered as a credit-scoring system by Ant Financial (a wonderfully named Alibaba affiliate), the score is already influencing more than just your access to loans. Depending on everything from your record of criminal and regulatory infractions to your (social media) record of criticizing government and your reputation in the eyes of your friends, neighbors, and employers, government will grant or deny social rewards.
The worst citizens won't be able to buy plane or train tickets. The best will enjoy automatic check-ins at airports, get preferment on the job, and cut in line for the best apartments.
This is how Uncle Xi, with the help of hi-tech AI, will channel China's deeply rooted "shame culture" into powerful support for his authoritarian regime, one which he hopes is durable enough to last well beyond his (apparent) lifelong tenure.
Even in the absence of the new trade war brewing with Trump, the emergence of this SCS is steadily reducing the likelihood of Google's or Facebook's eventual entry into the China market. The brand blowback, by now, would simply be too high.