Totalitarianism is a function of technology. Prior to recent times, governments might claim to be absolute, but they did not have the record-keeping, administrative capacity to make good on that claim.
True. In the ancient world, authoritarian kings were often regarded as gods. But then so were some animals and rocks. They could not be totalitarians because they did not have terabytes of data, just armies of messengers and spies, each with various motive for what he said.
Now they can do so far more easily than ever before — without hiring armies of spies. All that they have to do is follow the population on the Internet and use computers to collect and analyze the data. What Google can do, governments can do — and in Xi Jinping’s China that is what they are going to do. As The Weekly Standard reports,
China’s Communist government is rolling out a plan to assign everyone in the country “citizenship scores.” According to the ACLU, “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified.’?” In the system, everyone is measured by a score ranging from 350 to 950, and that score is linked to a national ID card. In addition to measuring your financial credit, it will also measure political compliance. Expressing the wrong opinion—or merely having friends who express the wrong opinion—will hurt your score. The higher your score, the more privileges the government will grant you.
To do this, of course, the Chinese government needs help, and that is where private enterprise comes in. Alibaba and Tencent are set to administer the plan; and, if you hold stock in Yahoo, you are party to this as well. More
Brave New World in 1984’s boots. No reason it can’t come here; just needs a celeb makeover. A high-minded cause.