By Eta Onrish
I see quite frequently, people warning that the US is becoming an ‘Orwellian nightmare,’ or that we’re living in a country that’s fast becoming a new 1984. I think they’re wrong. It’s worse.
We here in the US look at what China’s doing as if they’re on a reality TV show. Seeing what they’re doing with surveillance and their social credit system as if we’re watching some kind of dystopian entertainment series fashioned after the George Orwell book, 1984. Our burgeoning dystopia isn’t as overtly dystopian as Orwell warned against, and that’s the problem.
If you haven’t read 1984, you really should. I’m not really a fan of the storyline since it’s pretty crappy but the message still comes through, and it’ll give you an idea of why people reference it so much when talking about governments gone awry. Then, get yourself a copy of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and you’ll start to see the problem. The story’s a little better, but not much. The message is more apropos, however.
1984 was about a government that would ban information and rule with a leather boot on your throat, whereas Brave New World was about a system that would slowly seep into our life like a drug. In other words, Orwell warned us about a dystopia that we wouldn’t be able to stop, Huxley warned us about a dystopia that we would beg not to stop. The US isn’t becoming Orwellian, it’s becoming Huxleyan.
Social credit systems are coming.
In 2013, China started its social credit system, coordinated by the Central Comprehensively Deepening Reforms Commission. What they’re planning to do by next year is to have a comprehensive credit system under one roof that will cover pretty much everything in the lives of its citizens. It’s already well on its way.
In that system, your life is measured based on how well your actions align with the Party’s vision of what you should be doing, and how often. It’s a little like the credit score your mortgage broker pulls up when you buy a home but instead of deciding if you’re allowed to borrow money, this system increasingly decides if you can do anything.
Good social credit? You’ll be able to travel freely around the country and get into jobs that you want and live in better neighborhoods, and your kids will attend better schools. Bad social credit? You’ll be increasingly limited in where you can go and how comfortable your life is until you finally get yourself back in line with everyone else.
Sounds like a good plan, right?
The ‘biggest’ problem is that these freedoms that you enjoy will be infringed without due process. The social credit system is a very nebulous and fuzzy system that lacks any sort of transparency. Also, if you happen to speak out against the government or are somehow considered a threat, you could easily find yourself without a job or money and unable to travel – and not only could this be done without any proof that you’ve done anything illegal – this could happen completely behind the scenes. Because there is no legal proceeding, you have no recourse other than to fall back in line and hope they give you your life back.
So what? We don’t have social credit here in the US and we wouldn’t allow such a thing, right?
Wrong. China’s system of government allows them to pull from the 1984 rule book but our system is worse. In this case, it isn’t directly the government that’s the problem, it’s Big Tech.
The Brave New World of Big Tech
Our lives are now steeped in social media and corporations that leverage user-created content to make money. Instead of getting our news from trusted news agencies, we now get it from our echo chambers on Facebook. If we do want to explore past that, we get on Google and “fact-check.”
Now part of the problem here is that mass media news stations long ago stopped being news, and threw out their ethics in exchange for advertising revenue. It’s big business. However, it gets worse.
Both Facebook and Google have been caught censoring information that they deem not to their liking. Now, they’re both private companies and we don’t HAVE to use them, but they’re essentially monopolies that are allowed to exist. By dropping certain viewpoints lower down in the algorithm or even outright blocking them altogether, you now no longer get any sort of balanced view of the world. You start seeing things the way they want you to.
Our Growing Social Credit System
For quite a while now, we’ve gotten used to user-created credit systems such as Yelp and Amazon reviews. They’re very helpful with deciding what product to buy or service to use. They’re also very unreliable and easily faked.
This idea of reviews is being expanded to other systems. Uber allows you to review your driver so others can have a better ride experience or avoid someone who’s smelly or annoying. Airbnb lets you read about locations and owners to give you a better idea about what the stay will be like. Did you know that you’re also being evaluated when you use these services?
Uber allows drivers to rate their passengers. If your score drops to a certain point, Uber will ban you from using their system. Airbnb is even worse, stating with regard to banned accounts:
“This decision is irreversible and will affect any duplicated or future accounts. Please understand that we are not obligated to provide an explanation for the action taken against your account.”
They can ban you for life, with no explanation, and you have no recourse. So what? Read on.
Earlier this year, New York’s Department of Financial Services stated in its guidelines that it will allow insurance companies to use non-traditional (which could potentially, and may even already include both social media posts and information from such places as Uber or Airbnb) to determine your risk and cost and the only stipulation is that they can’t use it specifically to target protected classes:
An insurer should not use an external data source, algorithm or predictive model for underwriting or rating purposes unless the insurer can establish that the data source does not use and is not based in any way on race, color, creed, national origin, status as a victim of domestic violence, past lawful travel, or sexual orientation in any manner, or any other protected class.
They added to that in a press release, stating:
…insurers’ use of external data sources has the potential to benefit insurers and consumers alike by simplifying and expediting life insurance sales and underwriting processes. External data sources also have the potential to result in more accurate underwriting and pricing of life insurance.
The Coming Future
As these rating systems continue to be more pervasive, and as companies, agencies, and governments increasingly refer to these scores, they will continue to erode your freedoms and those freedoms could easily be constrained by someone with an agenda, purposely manipulating your score.
Because these systems aren’t regulated with any sort of effective oversight, they’re ripe for misuse and manipulation. No longer will you have protections against punishment for living the life you currently live or speaking out. Our laws that protect you against such invasions do not apply to this new de facto system of government that we’re allowing.
As we become more accustomed to this increasingly-aggregate score being allowed to affect our lives and our freedoms, we will be more willing to follow whatever guidelines are put in place to achieve higher scores, whether that be buying the right things, saying the right things, or even worse – not saying the wrong things. As we see more value in these systems, we’ll not only stop fighting against them affecting our lives, we’ll soon beg for them.
We may not be living in 1984 but have no doubt, a Brave New World is on the horizon.
What do you think?
Does Big Tech’s invasion into our lives concern you? Do you think there is any way to stop or reduce tech companies’ intrusions into our lives? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
As the former Director of Alliteration for the Association of Redundancy Association, Eta has developed a tautological approach to obfuscation through recursion and periodicity.
These three links make the point as well as many others. What long ago began as the totalitarian tiptoe has become today’s jangling jackboots.
Edward Snowden: Facebook is a surveillance company, rebranded as social media
American and China lead the world for spying on people
Attorney John W Whitehead on the age of tyrannical surveillance
We already have a culture that prays to the almighty FICO-god who decides their financial credit score. Anyone who has no FICO score due to lack of using credit, is viewed as weird. Our society is even ok with folks having bad credit, but having no credit is viewed less than. Our society will go along with a social credit score, sadly.
After 1984 and Brave New World, read The Circle. It deals directly with the social media aspect.
This has been happening since before “Big Tech”. Insurance companies had MIB, CLUE etc. Purchases via credit card (and now debit card) are harvested and sold for customized advertising/offers. All those warranty cards people blindly filled out (which you didn’t need to do in order to be under warranty) – a treasure trove of information. How many people filled out the income range, years of schooling etc? Which had absolutely NOTHING to do with the product warranty. A subsidiary for First Data Corp (I believe) was the big player back in the 1980s for being the repository for this type of information.
May the day come when future generations look back on “social media” and deem it a dark part of history. This cancer is spreading thru corp america – pertinent information being posted on fakebook type software. Need a question answered – post it on twitter like platform and use “##. I am at the point I am #Idon’tdohashtags.
I like to say I am part of the resistance. I pay cash whenever I can. I will *never* bank online (personal computer or phone). Rarely use the browser on my phone and unless needed for GPS, location services are turned off. Yes, I know I can still be “tracked” due to cell signal.
I think this is extreme. I don’t use social media and I know plenty of other people who don’t, including a business owner who has never looked at someone’s social media before considering them for a job. If anything, I think a lot of people are starting to see how lonely and myopic it is and they’re moving away from it. I refuse to use Google or Google-derived searches anymore. I’m shifting my mail to ProtonMail. News, I get from WhatFinger and related sites. I do tech consulting and have set up Qwant on my machines as well as others. People are adapting. If the actions against the tech monopoly goes through, a huge part of the problem will be taken care of. If we get better privacy and data laws, that will be it. So, I’m not giving up and diving into the bunker just yet.
Agree with you in so many ways. You sound like one of the few. I will check out Qwant, so thank you. I never social media, only use startpage to search online, never do banking online or on a phone, (I even have an older flip phone), I have a “mailing address” that I use that is connected to my bank card, I began to use protonmail.com because microsoft/google/big brother opted to close out my email account because they didn’t agree with my conservative views for a stronger America and also I have been shadow banned online when I go to conservative sites and post relevant truths. I too, go to Whatfinger.com (after Drudge sold out big time) and other alternative sites for my news as well as refuse to give my phone number anywhere, and there are ways around this. I highly recommend protonmail, takes a bit of getting used to and they work with you – very good customer service and they are a VPN so it hides your IP location when you use it. While you could still have your car controlled and stopped if you have On-star, I prefer older models with less “security” features and am happy to be “less engaged” and in control of my own health, etc. We all need to do this. So much programming via tv and the media. Remember when we were all forced to go digital from analog? And no one had a choice? There were many reasons for this………So buckle up, prepare and think ahead of the curve, most will not think until something happens, and then it will be a “free for all” in the streets, so better to prepare ahead of time so you are not “caught up in it”. God bless everyone, we are going to win this but I do believe a “perfect storm” is coming first. Pray and prepare and THINK.
If you think Brave New World is a more terrible outcome than 1984, it’s because you’ve not actually read the books. In Brave New World people were engineered to be happy. In 1984, it was a dictatorship where war was waged simply to maintain the status quo.
We are far closer to 1984. What is the purpose of the war in Afghanistan? What is the end goal? What would “winning” mean there? How about Syria? Libya? Iraq? Yemen? Why are we at war?
To maintain our military industrial complex, to justify the 1 trillion dollar budget for it, to keep people employed in the “defense” sector, and to maintain the profit of drugs dealers who are sourcing opium from Afghanistan, and criminal companies like Genie Energy who is extracting oil from the Golan Heights with US and Israeli protection, even though this is Syrian land.
These books aren’t either or; it appears more like the carrot, the stick, and reality..Huxley for the carrot, Orwell for the stick, and the reality for many people will be closer to Soylent Green.
I honestly think you are right and we’ve already seen the advent of Soylent Green in a number of ways. Finding fetal tissue in fast food outlets (when they’ve been tested), abortion/fetal tissue in cosmetics, in our food, used as “natural flavoring” in foods and drinks (Pepsi is one). All of the classic sci-fi movies (They Live is a good one based in fact) usually are based in reality and are either used as pre-conditioning or their way of warning us ahead of time without outright telling us that’s the plan because to the New World Order (elites, the Illuminati), they believe if they tell you ahead of time (like the Simpson’s tv show foretelling “events”), then it’s not their fault you’re too stupid to catch on or understand and it eliminates any karmic consequences on their end. It doesn’t – but that’s what they believe – so they always tell you ahead of time because they think it eliminates karma on their end. Yes, and Mockingbird Media, which is legalized programming and broadcasting in modulating frequencies to cause unrest and disturbance.
Courtesy of the Nazi scientists brought over in Operation Paperclip. Oh, so much……….fortunately, we are waking up………
Facebook (Sheepbook) is a good example of a Huxleyan trap people demand to enter despite knowing all about the spying and bullying scandals.
Thank goodness we don’t live in China. I suspect benevolent hackers will prevent this type of thing becoming commonplace elsewhere.
It already is happening here. Don’t kid yourself. Try posting your own opinion on websites that are not popular with the “overlords” that are censoring our internet and find yourself shadow-banned. That is, you believe you posted something and it looks as if you have, but in reality, no one ever sees what you post because you are being shadow banned. It’s what happened to America First and The Donald on Reddit, which was shutdown. Don’t kid yourself, Obama signed ICANN, the bill giving over internet control and censorship rights to Red China, Russia and Middle Eastern countries in Dec. 2016 – right before he left office. Right before it happened, (both Pres. Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz warned against this takeover), Senator Ted Cruz had asked if ICANN would be bound by the First Amendment in the US constitution which defends our freedom of speech. “No”, came the reply from ICANN’s chief executive, Goran Marby. So there you have it. Censorship.
No ratings of the raters?
The very first dystopian novel I ever read was a science fiction novel from the 1950s called “The Caves of Steel” by Isaac Asimov. It describes a miserably uncomfortable and restrictive America where a handful of inhabitants become desperate enough to re-start a space program. I am surprised the book was never made into a movie. Oddly, the author didn’t predict a surveillance state. He did predict a kind of social credit system that awarded people luxuries and privileges to prevent open rebellion. People were desperate to acquire, retain and increase their credit.
Today, social media and TV fakenews impose a social credit system on us. Do or say or post a politically incorrect opinion and your life is destroyed by the social media lynch mob and the PC police. You get fired from your job and no one dares to hire you. You get evicted and no one dares to rent to you. You can’t go outside for fear of being assaulted. So yes, we have a social credit system in America; but it’s run by Silicon Valley, not the feds.
Asimov’s “Caves of Steel” became part of a sprawling serial saga about robots and a human galactic empire in a galaxy with no aliens run by mathematical determinism.
Caves of steel set the background for the early social engineering arc wherein the Earth was rigged to die by an AI-led faction, to force all humanity to colonize space.
One thing about Asimov’s writings I was never comfortable with, was the tacit glorification of insiderism and the notion that the insiders really knew what they were doing.
However, he did come up with some fascinating ideas that appear abandoned by today’s AI programmers, like the basic laws of robotics hardwired into every robot.
Zeroth Law – A robot may not harm humanity, or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.
First Law – A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Second Law – A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
Third Law – A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.
Today’s AI programmers seem more interested in having robots mimic human caprice and irrationality.
Not much real freedom left is there?
I’ve always been careful about what I say in “public”, less so online, but I don’t use fb or Twitter just cause I hate them. Now I’m finding that my phone may be listening to /reading everything, my TV may be feeding back information to “someone” and don’t get me started on “Alexa”! I live in Massachusetts, so I don’t dare talk about my true feelings about politics, religion, the environment or many other topics in public for fear that I’ll get blacklisted or worse. And my family is only marginally better if only because I don’t think that they will call the thought police on me…yet.
Remember the stories about subliminal messages in advertising that we heard so much about a while ago? I’d be interested to know if that’s being done still, and if methodology has changed with new technology. Has anyone heard anything about this?
If you would, read my comments above, acquaint yourself with what is already happening. Do not think for a second it has gone away…..programming has been highly successful (just look at the current generation and previous one who raised them), it’s just more covert and insidious. You think you have freedom. Yes, you are being tracked, yes, your tv and computer and phone (and car) can listen to and report back what time you log on, what time you get up, etc. But people love their gadgetry! Yes, do THINK. Not be paranoid – but just realize and see the signs and act accordingly. Just because a dangerous poison is presented in a tempting way does not in any way make it less poisonous to take. The movie classic, “They Live” is a prime example of what is in actuality, fact. Many “news” articles or “fact checking sites” or “history” is done in a way that is – programming. How that is done is, repeat, repeat, repeat – until people begin to accept that “it must be so, I keep hearing that”. Then there is the “give many facts as known to be true, then slip in a couple, say, one or two misleading propaganda points to subtly get past the person’s conscious filter”. What this does is ease the person into accepting the article like this, “oh, yes, I see, I agree with this and that point and so the rest of the article must be true as well, so I accept and trust this to be factual”. This is exactly part and parcel on how to propagate the spread of communist ideology – through propaganda or “false ideology”. This means, it is not Truth, it is an ideology which is perpetrating an agenda. I don’t want to repeat myself here, so please read what I wrote above. People need to question everything. Political correctness was, and is, a tactic used to censor critical thinking and to make people shut up and not question what is in fact right in front of their faces. Think, “Emperor’s New Clothes” story. Transvestites being now thought of as a “third gender”, when in actuality it is a “mental illness” or at a minimum “gender dysphoria” which is a condition when a person experiences discomfort or distress when faced with reality. Because there’s a mismatch between their biological sex and what they perceive or wish for as a gender identity. It’s sometimes known as gender incongruence or the emotional inability to deal with facts – such as being born a biological male or biological female and their not feeling able to shake the feeling that “they were supposed to be a boy” or in “feeling they are supposed to be a girl” so they are highly confused as to why this is and are no longer encouraged to seek help or to trace back to where this wanting to be a different sex originated from. This “confusion” can be readily addressed and healed if dealt with honestly. They are not encouraged to “get well” but to “embrace your confusion”. They are no longer encouraged to heal this emotional problem because now “society” is encouraging this confusion and is encouraging this break from reality based thinking. This inability to be able to realize where that confusion emanated from or how they wanted their dad’s love (“I’ll become a woman like mom”) or were taught that “being a man is bad” because they were raised by single mothers who hated men and so on and on it goes. Rational, deep and critical thinking is out the door, “political correctness” is the norm, hypocrisy is celebrated instead of seeing that it is actually lying to yourself and trying to live that lie. It takes courage to face yourself and more courage to live the life you were meant to live, not in pretending to be something you are not in order to escape your lessons and to avoid reality. Life is not easy but to go against reality or Truth and what God intended for us is to go backwards and regress, hence, we have to keep coming back repeating the same lessons. WAKE UP. The Truth will set you free.
God bless us to turn back to what makes us great.
Scary… Facebook police – just say an unpopular opinion(not mean or racist just not the majority) and see what happens…
Vaccine debate is a prime example. Both sides. Pro-vacine camp being far worse for non-informed people demanding that they are right without question. Stay far away from these topics.
But it is getting into other things. I actually saw a lady comment on dangerous grapes advocating that you should cut grapes in half if you love your kids even if they are teens. Even suggesting anouther was abusive for not doing so! Come on really. Teens have bigger issues than grapes being a danger of chocking…
Anyway I see tech degrading society and reason.