Hi friends, thank you for the stimulating reflections!
@SeanO, I had no idea the idea had gone that far - to see the idea in Black Mirror is one thing; to see that it is an in-progress government program in China is another!
It seems that we are all agreed that clarifying, recording, measuring, and comparing one another by a single, socially-generated number is an illegitimate basis for human identity. We can see the immense power of this technology to break people’s lives and the subsequent opening the gospel may have to show a better way of providing the experience of value and worth we all have as God’s image bearers.
I wonder what positive contributions Christians can make to this discussion? For instance, I do find value in the aggregated and individual customer reviews when doing online shopping, considering a new restaurant, or taking a ‘taxi’ ride somewhere. In general, I think having access to other people’s opinions have really helped me make better decisions about what to buy - and what not to buy.
At the same time, as @Brittany_Bowman1 points out, how much have we been affected by others without realizing it? False, negative reviews may have torpedoed the sales of truly excellent products and companies that are now out of business. Inflated positive reviews may have misled us to buy inferior products at inflated prices without realizing the alternatives we never considered.
Once we become accustomed to rating products and services, the habit is in place to rate each other. As the technology advances and it becomes easier and simpler to rate even the briefest interaction, we will face the technological imperative: “If it can be done, it must be done.” To not rate someone could be seen as an injustice - you are withholding data from us! Without your rating, we might make bad loans or offer jobs to an unqualified individual!
I can see some platforms phasing out the relevance of older ratings in favor of your current + three months prior ratings. This could give many people a fresh start. But…
- How will this affect the elderly? It doesn’t seem like you’ve contributed very much recently…
- Will this create pressure to always be on? I can’t “rest on my laurels” but need to keep performing.
I can also see ways that social ratings could strengthen churches. If church members are more gracious and kind in their rating systems, then their members might be more enabled to flourish in a world where your social score is increasingly important. Every Sunday you get “topped off” with a few hundred five-star reviews!
There are also ways in which a social score could enhance inclusion of people. If you don’t have a financial background, but you are well-respected by your network, then you have a means of accessing capital. This could enable you to open a business, etc. and have a better life than would otherwise be possible.
There will have to be accommodations for tragedies. Along the lines of the dominos that fall in the Black Mirror episode - will this mean that if you get into a car accident, does your score plummet, you lose your job, you can’t pay your bills, your score drops further, you are evicted from your home, your score drops, your kids are taken away by the government? There will need to be safeguards built in to keep one small thing from escalating into a disaster.
Another approach could be to give extra weight to people who help other people increase their scores. If your involvement in other people’s lives means that their scores consistently go up, then your own score improves. By rewarding service and collaboration, such a system could motivate many more to pursue the good of others and not just of themselves. This will lead to a challenging ethic: what does it mean to volunteer if you know that your social score is likely to go up a certain number of points?
What will it look like to pursue humility, servanthood, and authenticity in a world where your social score is everything?
Or could we go along the lines of the European Union and the recently enforced GDPR regulations? In addition to the right to privacy and the right to be forgotten, will we decide that there is also the right to not be socially scored? The right to change?
And in the meantime, how will we engage in these systems - or opt-out of them?