China’s social credit system is a fascinating case study in humanity’s embrace of artificial intelligence. China is connecting everything in a literal internet-of-things where people are part of a surveillance architecture like the world has never seen before.
Cash has nearly disappeared in China where QR code-based mobile payments like Alipay and WeChat pay are dominant. Facial recognition payments are becoming more common. CCTV cameras are everywhere and video game curfews and restrictions on travel and access to the internet for citizens that abuse their lifestyle is becoming more common.
There are also signs that business converenge with the social credit system will be a powerful force to spur innovation and the Chinese economy. If data is the new oil, China’s entire society will revolve around data and artificial intelligence systems.
China is evolving what some see as a 1984 parallel. The Chinese Government is able to utilize its growing technology sector and corporate innovation focus to its own advantage in creating a centralized hierarchy for social conformity and behavior modification. China is perhaps significantly closer to its goal of tracking the actions of people and businesses so that it can reward behaviors it likes and punish behaviors it doesn’t — the so-called “social credit” system.
If ad firms in the West like Google and Facebook harvest data for profit in mobile advertising, China’s social credit system’s scope is even more ambitious and ubiquitous for Chinese citizens.
CNBC reports that Chinese authorities want to collate information from businesses operating in China — domestic and foreign firms alike — and integrate them into a centralized digital database, according to a report released Aug. 28 by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China, in cooperation with China-focused consultancy Sinolytics.
If you are a model citizen in China you receive incentives, discounts, access to better services and are gamified to play along. This is not unlike the vanity incentives social media has been using in Western platforms for years like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and so forth. However, in China, everything is tracked.
China plans to rank all its citizens based on their “social credit” by 2020.
We are now in the last few days of 2019. China’s data-first approach to citizen surveillance is actually a tremendous AI experiment in state-control.
Beijing affirmed its commitment in mid-2019 to building out social credit, and appears blockchain-friendly as well as likely to roll-out a state-backed digital RMB currency. Punishments like being blacklisted means being blocked from transportation and even potentially, internet access.
China is taking algorithmic surveillance to a very personal level. Whether you are in debt, have issues with gambling, porn or video games, or another violation of conduct, there are very serious repercussions in such a system. What China deems undesirable behavior may differ from other parts of the world. Such as having different viewpoints compared with the Chinese Government.
Big brother meeting Big Data means China is weaponizing algorithms against its own citizens, however, there are significant benefits to technological innovation and economic development by ushing in such a system.
Beijing insists the system is meant to create a “fair, transparent and predictable” business environment,s and companies are blossoming that cater to its implementation including the most advanced facial recognition startup companies in the world. China’s powerful social credit system will be able to churn more Big Data and in the experiment of profiling citizens, it unites its technological companies in a way that United States’ companies lack.
China’s Social Credit System is the Biggest AI Experiment in the World
China’s social credit system is an ambitious initiative to build a database that monitors individual, corporate, and government behavior across the country in real-time. However the SCS will also help AI evolve in China that could eventually become superior to Google and Google’s DeepMind experts.
The Chinese state is setting up a vast ranking system that will monitor the behavior of its enormous population, and rank them all based on their “social credit.” However how human beings are being connected with data also will usher in new kinds of jobs, innovation, and interoperability which could enable China to catch up to America in the Cloud, in Advertising, in machine learning and in creating responsive internet-of-things connected environments, for example with the help of 5G and blockchain. Your social credit score can change in real-time.
However, if you are deemed a deviant citizen, your life could become very difficult. If you do not conform and perform as expected, you could be blacklisted to basic rights and services. It’s only been 5 years since the SCS started, yet many have lost access to certain transportation privileges.
The SCC was initially conceptualized and launched by the powerful Chinese State Council in 2014. As Chinese business and corporations must comply with the data-harvesting on citizens, here is an interoperable Big Data weaponization we have never seen before by the state on the individual’s behavior and rights.
China is Taking Data Harvesting to the Behavior Modification Level
A social credit system means individuals must think carefully about how they wish to lead their life. Since, when completed, the full social credit system will target individual citizens, businesses and the Chinese government, according to Beijing-based research firm Trivium China. It will consist of three parts: a master database, a blacklisting system and a structure for punishments and rewards. It’s difficult to know how it might evolve in the 2020s.
Such a system would become better at processing all of our actions (both online and offline) and while it’s unclear how fairly such a system could impose penalties on individuals, or how easy it would be to get off blacklists it has the makings of a technological police-state architecture some analysts have noted.
Still, authorities already claimed (as of Sept, 2019) to have the records of 990 million individuals and 25.91 million enterprises, as the central government runs up against a self-imposed 2020 deadline. Today, 2020 is just 50 days away as we say goodbye to this decade, we are also saying goodbye to the past. A past where data harvesting and social credit systems didn’t exist and influence our lives to the extent that they will in the years ahead.
China’s social credit system will provide the Government with so much Big Data it will soon become the most powerful AI-player in the world. If China dominates technologically and economically in the 21st century, its surveillance architecture could become the dominant global policy with regards to AI and influence Billions of humans for decades to come.
If data is the new oil, China’s higher population and location in population-dense Asia are competitive advantages the United States won’t be able to imitate.