Social Credit System

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= allocating resources based on acknowledged public reputation

See the entry on Resource-based Economics for added context.


Eric Hunting:

"The idea of a social credit system may derive from this resource Internet in the context of how it would deal with the human component of its creation and maintenance. In essence, the idea of a social credit economic system is based on people being allowed more bandwidth of resources relative to the reputation they build in the society as whole, this reputation digitally tracked life-long, and the public opinion of a particular activity they are engaged in. It’s sort of like having a system that Googles your name regularly to see how many people know you on-line and how positive their opinions of you and then assigns you a credit rating based on that on the premise that what you do has a certain greater than average value to the society. I sometimes call this Star Trek Economics because the concept was first presented in the popular culture in the Star Trek TV series. In Ray Bradbury’s vision of the future we arrive at a moneyless resource-based economy founded on ‘replicator’ use; a replicator being a machine that synthesizes anything it has a computer model for from pure energy and can recycle it back into energy, with some net loss. Thus the global resource budget is simplified to an energy budget. Everyone who lives in the Federation of Planets can use replicators to make whatever they want when they want it -within reason. You can’t have everyone going Imelda Marcos on this and luckily most people won’t because irrational overconsumption is a product of mental illness and the culture will treat it as such. (unlike today where we casually tolerate public displays of insanity by anyone who is rich enough) The system tracks everyone’s replicator use just like Internet service providers track your personal bandwidth use and if it sees that it has become aberrant it raises the WTF flag and a psychiatric ‘counselor’ calls you on your lapel communicator and asks you if you really did need those five thousand Swarovski crystal-studded pokemon figurines. But, in fact, sometimes people have rational reasons for needing more than the usual amount of resources, usually because of a specific project associated with a vocation; the artist who wants to build a large public sculpture, the scientist who wants to build a supercollider, the engineer who want to build a spacecraft, the night club operator who wants to make a new public party venue. This is where ’social credit’ comes into play. In Star Trek, if you have distinguished yourself ‘professionally’ and socially as a member of the Federation or if the community of your professional peers thinks your work is worthy then you get assigned a higher personal energy budget based on the assumption that, by the measure of your reputation, what you do with this is likely to have value to the whole society. You may be assigned this higher budget based on reputation in general or it may be temporary, leant from the budgets of your personal advocates/supporters, or limited to a specific project. Now, this doesn’t preclude you going out into deep uninhabited space and setting up your own infrastructure so you can make all the pokemon figures you want without justifying it to someone else but most people won’t abandon society to do that -which is probably why, in Star Trek, space -like the Earth’s near-wildernesses- tends to be inhabited by a lot of strange people. A resource based economic system -a resource Internet- is likely to produce a social credit system like this by its own need for altruistic human intervention to build and maintain its infrastructure. This system would just be a mass of software; an on-line trading system that evolved into an expert system. It’s not like HAL9000 or Colossus. It can’t make people do anything by threat of punishment or the like. It relies on people ‘getting it’ and voluntarily following its requests for facilities here or there on the premise that they’re doing good for the society. In reward for this aid, it can assign people a slightly higher resource bandwidth than average. It’s not payment. Everyone who links up to this system will get full access to as much as they could -on average- want with the system seeking to raise the bar as high as possible to keep it above the average of people’s desires for personal comfort yet within the limits of environmental sustainability -which is pretty high when you factor-out all of today’s waste and greed. So this bonus is offered on the assumption that because these people altruistically helped this system they will likely use whatever extra bandwidth for a similarly altruistic purpose. From this would come the notion of digitally tracking reputation and socially beneficial activity as a way of anticipating the demand for the similar activities such people are likely to need such extra resources for in the future and assigning resource credit accordingly. In effect, the system -just like when it was a commodities exchange market- automatically economically speculates on your socially progressive behavior! And so we arrive at a system of social credit economics. This might sound like a kind of communism but there are no political parties or bureaucratic institutions or nation-states here. There’s just this distributed networked machine that scientifically knows the planet Earth extremely well, tries to anticipate and give you everything you ask it for, asks you for help in doing that from time to time, lets you have extra when it knows you’ll do good things with it, and occasionally may alert your neighbors to come and question your goofy behavior. Would this be something open to abuse? Of course! That’s what culture and community exist to control. It’s not the Internet’s job to anticipate and factor out every possible kind of rudeness, stupidity, or insanity that humans may perpetrate with it. That’s our job. Besides, we still need something to craft SciFi plot devices out of.” (