GOOD

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Remember “Peeple”, the “Yelp for humans” that freaked us all out when we first heard the news? Well, it finally launched—in a form so humbled from blowback that now the internet’s calling it toothless.


But the basic idea behind it—a mass social ranking system—is roaring away. Score Assured, a British startup that feels all too American in its certainty that if it’s an innovation it must be good, just launched a product that gives landlords a comprehensive briefing on your entire life online. Tenant Assured, as it’s called, sucks up the data living in your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn accounts—“including entire conversation threads and private messages,” according to the Washington Post—and turns it all into one big verdict on how desirable a renter you are.

It’s a concept that could just as easily be applied to buying a home, applying to college, or trying to land a job. What could be more innovative?

The scary thing is, unless somehow we nip this idea in the bud, we know exactly how it’s all going to end: with a single scoring system, for everything, for everyone. Just look to China, where the increasingly Maoist government has given credit capitalism an ultra-creepy collectivist spin. The so-called Social Credit System, launching in 2020, will put every Chinese citizen into a database and rank them according to a single, comprehensive scoring standard—factoring in everything from their financial health to other, well, more personal things.

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According to the State Council Notice announcing the project, “its inherent requirements are establishing the idea of a sincerity culture, and carrying forward sincerity and traditional virtues, it uses encouragement to keep trust and constraints against breaking trust as incentive mechanisms, and its objective is raising the honest mentality and credit levels of the entire society.” Translation: to decide how good of an investment you are, the Chinese government wants to quantify how good of a person you are.

The thing is, it’s so crazy it just might work. The social-science gobbledygook used to justify the program is all too familiar to anyone who’s spent time in the soul-deadening world of American consultant-speak. “Accelerating the construction of a social credit system is an important basis for comprehensively implementing the scientific development view and building a harmonious Socialist society,” the Notice reads. “It is an important method to perfect the Socialist market economy system, accelerating and innovating social governance, and it has an important significance for strengthening the sincerity consciousness of the members of society, forging a desirable credit environment, raising the overall competitiveness of the country and stimulating the development of society and the progress of civilization.”

Unity and togetherness are great and all, but not if there’s one ring to rule us all. Rather than fearing a future that’s too socialist or too capitalist, the real nightmare is a monitoring system so intimate and comprehensive that even the biggest ideas become just another couple of interchangeable buzzwords.

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