China, the NSA, Google, and the War on Freedom
The Chinese are making doubly sure public displays of displeasure with their totalitarian regime such as occurred in Tiananmen Square in 1989 will never be repeated. They are instituting a technological surveillance program so pervasive that when completed -- quite soon, it seems -- it will enforce conformity throughout their giant country on a scale that would stupefy Orwell and Huxley.
China’s plan to judge each of its 1.3 billion people based on their social behavior is moving a step closer to reality, with Beijing set to adopt a lifelong points program by 2021 that assigns personalized ratings for each resident.
The capital city will pool data from several departments to reward and punish some 22 million citizens based on their actions and reputations by the end of 2020, according to a plan posted on the Beijing municipal government’s website on Monday. Those with better so-called social credit will get “green channel” benefits while those who violate laws will find life more difficult.
The Beijing project will improve blacklist systems so that those deemed untrustworthy will be “unable to move even a single step,” according to the government’s plan.
Bloomberg has more to say about this incipient "brave new world."
The final version of China’s national social credit system remains uncertain. But as rules forcing social networks and internet providers to remove anonymity get increasingly enforced and facial recognition systems become more popular with policing bodies, authorities are likely to find everyone from internet dissenters to train-fare skippers easier to catch -- and punish -- than ever before.
Bad news for Winston Smith. Or is it Winston Chang? Thank God, it's China!
Or is it? Perhaps the Chinese are only being public, and therefore somewhat more honest and transparent, about their plans and the world in which we all already live. After all, when it comes to technological surveillance, they are merely playing catch-up to our NSA, which has been monitoring us all for decades with only sporadic protest.
Does the NSA have their own form of a rating system? We don't know, but they surely have some way -- various algorithms, one assumes -- for deciding who deserves more attention.
Meanwhile, Google -- lord on high of the internet -- works with the NSA through the PRISM program and with the Chinese on a new China-only search engine that will be subject to Communist Party regulation, an equal opportunity silicon behemoth. Google's experience with NSA makes this outreach to the Chinese almost seamless. When you think about it, the similarity of approach and method is blood-curdling. It wouldn't be surprising if important components of the new surveillance technology for this latest Chinese initiative to control the behavior of their entire population were "borrowed" in part from Google.
What does this all mean to us -- the common man and woman of the USA (and elsewhere really)? Whether we choose to think about it or not, almost all of us realize we have no private life any more, no secrets the government couldn't easily ascertain should it be the slightest bit interested. Even a presidential candidate was not exempt from such surveillance. What possibility do we have?
This has already been factored into our personalities and behaviors, at the very least unconsciously, in ways we can only begin to guess as it is now such a mundane occurrence. I would imagine many phenomena such as political correctness and its attendant virtue signaling are amplified by the knowledge that we are constantly observed. It also contributes to the extraordinary uniformity and group think pervading our educational system and media.
The employees of Google themselves behave much like a cult, eager to drum out the mildest of apostates. The self-styled social justice warriors on our campuses act similarly, ever searching for the most "victimized" person as the eye in the sky watches and, hopefully, approves. All the to-ing and fro-ing on our supposedly contentious social media are just fodder for the homogenization to come.
It's all very Chinese, if you think not very far back to the Cultural Revolution. But Mao and Jiang Qing didn't have the technological weapons available today and were beaten back, temporarily anyway. Now the battle for freedom is global.
Roger L. Simon - co-founder and CEO Emeritus of PJ Media - is an author and an an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter.