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“Nosedive” might be considered a plausible scenario not only because its basis are already available technologies, but also because the way they are used is completely feasible –although unlikely. If you are a Black Mirror fan and you have surfed the internet, you have probably had some information about the “Nosedive” case from China. When the episode premiered, everyone thought it was a brilliant estimation of our current obsession with social media and our place in other people’s eyes. But wait, let’s take a step back. Imagine if your government collaborated with the private sector to collect your credit history, your online behaviour and your personal characteristics? Imagine if your government also scored you based on what you said privately, what you purchased? Imagine if your government through a powerful vigilance network of more than 200 million cameras, used facial recognition and special machine learning to have eyes on you and your behaviour 24/7? And finally, imagine if your government distilled all that data down into a single metric to rate your trustworthiness as a citizen?
Well, it is real and it is what already happening in China. While the system was expected to be up and running until 2020, it has already been successfully implemented in a number of trials across China and will make use of smartphones, artificial intelligence, facial recognition, and geo-tracking. This information will be combined with what the data the government already holds, such as finical, medical and educational history. The trial is opt-in, but it is planned to be mandatory until its complete rationalization. Although even now avoiding it becomes difficult due to the big amount of services that require the participation in their terms of services. The system has drawn obvious comparisons to the one used in Black Mirror episode ‘Nosedive’.
The same as in Nosedive, in the system scores, can go up if the citizens choose to do a community work or buy local products. The same way the score can fall down if people commit public mistakes like smoking in non-smoking areas, not paying the taxes or even buying items that the government does not approve on (such as alcoholic drinks, violent video games, etc. ). Those with a high score can expect to be treated well at the airports while booking hotels or restaurants and the vice versa.
There are also several differences worth to highlight. For instance, while in Nosedive the scores of the society were transparent to everyone, in the case of China the system is private scoring. Data is only gathered upon knowledge and consent of the user and users’ scores can currently only be shared with their authorization or by themselves. Another difference is that the system has a major capacity to show who or what is making your score go down and how to improve it, which we don’t see in the episode.
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