Gamers will get this. Everyone else, please bare with me.
I was an avid World of Warcraft player until one day the game changed unfavourably. Developers introduced a thing called a gear score, which gave every player a rating based on what items they possessed.
In a world where what you have is worth more than how you got those things, or how good or bad you were at doing things (hello real world?), gear score became everything.
Suddenly players with low scores were locked out of group opportunities and many doors to advance in the game closed shut.
The game became a struggle, less fun, forever permeated with exclusion.
It is a big stretch to link the rating system in an online game to the social design of a real society, but there are many parallels – our monetary system for example acts much the same way – those with the most have exclusive access to advance further.
But China proposes to go one step further. It is developing a national reputation system – called the Social Credit System.
The proposed system is said to assign a "social credit" rating to every citizen based on government data regarding their economic and social status. How it is proposed to be used, and for what purposes, is unclear.
An episode of the Netflix sci-fi Black Mirror deals with this idea where citizens are granted access to, and locked out of, certain things such as quality of housing, access to credit, medical care etc, all based on their social score.
It will be interesting to learn more of China's proposal and of how it unfolds. But coupled with rapid advancements in technology, and equally rapidly stripping away of privacy, it is fair to assume this will be an extremely powerful tool. You'd want to fully trust the people - or algorithms - running it.
And as we have learned from the recent Facebook saga, those in possession of our data, can't always be trusted.