Session
Fahrplan 34C3
Ethics, Society & Politics

Gamified Control?

China's Social Credit Systems
Saal Adams
Katika Kühnreich
In 2014 China’s government announced the implementation of big data based social credit systems (SCS). The SCS will rate online and offline behavior to create a score for each user. One of them is planned to become mandatory in 2020. This lecture will review the current state of governmental and private SCS and different aspects of these systems.

Imagine living in a society where your actions will be rated and formed into a score. Where your online or offline behavior, work performance and attitude towards littering or ignoring red lights will be included in it. And that score will define your job, your ability to get a loan, your general chances, and your life. But don't be scared, it won't be like Orwell's frightening Big Brother. It will be like an all-embracing game, a huge MMORPG. You can do tasks to better your score. What sounds like dystopian fiction or just a teaser for a “Black Mirror” episode became a real life option in 2014, when China's Communist Party (CP) published a “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014-2020)”. The CP announced the system to be mandatory for every Chinese person in 2020. It is no theoretical babbling about something happening in a far future: The CP started experimenting with such social credit systems (SCS) in different regions soon after, allowed the private development of such systems, and was cited to become world leader of SCS. While the official goal of the SCS is to level economic development and to bring harmony, sincerity and trust to the whole country, the question is what the “side effects” might be.

Starting with a review of the current state of social credit systems (SCS) in China, examples of their functions and examples of consequences of their existence will be provided. This information will be embedded into a short walk through the People's Republic's Internet landscape, its big players like the BAT (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent), and the CP's digital policies. In the following this will be set it in relation to current ideological turns and the CP's announcement to become the world leader in SCS. China's SCS is seen as an extreme example of a tendency that has developed in most industrialized countries. It displays what can be drawn from the huge amount of information provided by ICTs and so-called “social media”. And it can show possible consequences of the combination of big data and nearly endless storage on one hand and evaluation by algorithms on the other. From the point of view that this aspect of digitalization is not a problem of the Chinese but for all of us, it will lead to the question how critical thinking and dissenting actions can develop in a reality that is constantly rating behavior to create a score that is defining vast parts of your life. Ending in a discussion on possibilities of big data based social rating and social control and modes of resistance.

Additional information

Type lecture
Language English

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