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TheMoniker

China's "Sesame Credit" "Game" that scores the population's opinions and purchases

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Alright, normally I don't post here, just read here, but this seems worth a thread, so here we go:

This was brought to my attention when Extra Credits did an episode on it, and it came rather out of the blue. Checking some sources, it does seem to be a real thing that's happening. The Extra Credits video summarizes it, and you should definitely watch it if you don't want to dig through other sources.

Extra Credits Video

Other sources, because one isn't enough for this:

BBC news

News Scientist

I would have liked to find more sources, but my google searches kept getting interrupted by ads for american credit score companies. If anyone can find more sources, feel free to post them here.

Anyways, for those of you who don't want to check the sources, I'll sum it up: China has partnered with various social media networks in order to create a new system called Sesame Credit. Currently, it's optional, thankfully. The system tracks your posts and links on social media networks,(according to someone from China, it actually DOESN'T do that, though the Extra Credits video says it does) as well as your purchases and other things (and its being going to track more things as time goes by.), and uses them to assign a score to people depending on what they're doing. If you post "good" links, such as links to sites praising the government, you'll get an increased score. Posting "bad" links or making "bad" purchases with your money lowers your score.

But that's only the start. The number it gives you isn't just a score. There's already government-mandated benefits in place for having good scores. It lets you reduce paperwork and buy cars easier if you have a good score. Right now, there's no penalties for bad scores. Right now.

Another method it uses to track your score isn't what you do-it's what your FRIENDS do. Checking your score or the scores of anyone else online is as easy as a few clicks, and the site even gives you a handy map of all your friends scores. The thing is, having friends who have low scores drags your OWN score down. Meaning, you have to cut those people away from you, at least on social media, if you want a score, as having friends with bad scores will make keeping those good-score benefits you've worked for that much harder.

It will be mandatory for the entire population come 2020. Extra Credits explains it all a lot better than I did, so you definitely should watch the video.

This feels like something that deserves discussion. China has always maintained an extremely tight control on what its population says and does, and now its taking another step, using incentives and reward systems to keep people in check in a more subtle way. Myself, I don't think its a good thing at all. In fact, this entire thing feels like some crazy sci-fi thing. China is trying to compare this to a credit score, like we have in America, but the two aren't even close. The credit score tracks how well and often you pay your bills, not how "good of a citizen" you are!

Edited by TheMoniker

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This blasphemes Positive Reinforcement as a doctrine, largely capitalizing (ha, how ironic) on social pressures to enforce its results. And the fact that this is all knowledge taken from the game industry makes me feel a little sick.

This sort of thing scares me. Psychology as a whole is fucking terrifying, really. And this is a prime example of how understanding the psyche to the level we do, is... practically too powerful. Enforcing exactly what companies should get business, what sorts of people should be social dominant, the habits those people should have... so on and so forth... It's practically brainwashing. And it's done with only a governmental nudge.

...And this is also a demonstration of how social medias are some of the most dangerous places on the internet, but that's another can of worms all on its own. <.<;

Edited by Ritisa

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This blasphemes Positive Reinforcement as a doctrine, largely capitalizing (ha, how ironic) on social pressures to enforce its results. And the fact that this is all knowledge taken from the game industry makes me feel a little sick.

This sort of thing scares me. Psychology as a whole is fucking terrifying, really. And this is a prime example of how understanding the psyche to the level we do, is... practically too powerful. Enforcing exactly what companies should get business, what sorts of people should be social dominant, the habits those people should have... so on and so forth... It's practically brainwashing. And it's done with only a governmental nudge.

...And this is also a demonstration of how social medias are some of the most dangerous places on the internet, but that's another can of worms all on its own. <.<;

Yeah. Right now it basically uses a positive feedback loop, a skinner box, akin to a lot of standard grind-fest games in the industry, except it looks like it's going to mix real-world benefits(and penalties!) into it later on. The comments on the youtube video agreed with you: This thing looks like its going to take over a massive country in a few years, and the thought of stuff like this becoming commonplace is indeed terrifying.

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So what happens if someone's not on a social network at all? Or they have a profile with zero friends/relatives?

I kinda hope everyone intentionally tanks their score, thus ruining the entire point of this exercise. The odds of this happening are about the same as China announcing that the Great Firewall will come down and stay down.

I don't like this one bit.

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So what happens if someone's not on a social network at all? Or they have a profile with zero friends/relatives?

I guess they'll be seen by the CPC as good productive workers without an internet life?

And everybody who enjoys video games as "idling" unproductive citizens?

I don't know really...

Edited by Naughx

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This is... Terrifying. Like, seriously scary. Imagine if WoW did this. Everyone HAD to play it and the quality of your gear depended not on how good a player you were but on how much you loved Blizzard. Dictatorships are such a horrible thing now-a-days and the sheer atrociousness is disgusting. Let us hope that this never gets to America or, worse, North Korea.

Edit: Want it to be more scary? This company now owns Riot. A.K.A. League of Legends.

Edited by Snowy_One

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This is unsettling, to say the least. I won't claim I know what life in China is actually like for the average person, but... things like this make me worry for them. I hope things end up changing for the better over there, sooner rather than later.

On the other hand...

If there's one thing the internet is good at, it's exploiting artificial systems for its own gain. That Extra Credits video made a comparison to World of Warcraft, and if something like this was added to a MMORPG, I guarantee the forums would be drowning in bots spamming "positive" posts and selling their friendship within the week. Exploiting a system more tied to real life would be harder, of course, but with the size of the thing and real life benefits to make the possibility even more tempting... I'm hoping that the project will crash and burn long before it becomes mandatory.

Or maybe I'm just trying to convince myself that this won't be a problem. Still. If nothing else, I'm sure this Sesame Credit thing won't proceed quite as smoothly as they hope.

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So, I want to preface this by saying that I find this incredibly frightening and am highly, highly concerned about what effects this could have on future human society. Not just in China--worldwide. This is a really, really, really bad precedent.

That said, there's a very important false claim that people keep making, which both of your linked articles refute, but which you yourself stated. According to both articles, things you say on social media are not ranked--a representative from Ant Financial (part of the online-payment system for Alibaba) specifically said that, and also said that they knew nothing of any plans to factor your friends' scores into your own score. These are the biggest two potential human-rights issues with the system, and they appear to be fabrications; at least, we have actual evidence (flimsy though it may be) that those are not real things.

I am not, in any way, trying to say that these things can't or won't happen. Just that, with anything like this coming out of China, we have a responsibility to avoid any distortion of the facts, no matter how small. Otherwise, we can be justifiably tarred with the same "Westerners don't understand, they turn everything we do into a horror story" brush that so often gets pulled out in conversations about Chinese governmental actions. If we want to claim the high ground in this situation--and we absolutely want to be able to do that--we cannot allow a lame failure of research, that could've been corrected with 30 seconds of reading an article, to cloud our understanding.

That said, I definitely had to agree with one of the end-points made later in one of the articles you linked. The biggest issue with this system, from the Chinese government's perspective, is going to be keeping it "honest." They're touting how it will prevent people from committing fraud by simply moving to new areas or the like--but putting real, meaningful value on this kind of thing merely sets up a lucrative black market opportunity. "Trust" is a great buzzword, but when "trust" can be bought with money, all you're doing is creating a new place for the powerful to get off without consequences while the weak get hammered for every little flaw. And that may very well be what dooms this project, whether or not it makes it to the "mandatory" point: if it becomes general knowledge that Sesame Credit can be bought and sold, regardless of your real "trustworthiness," then it will lose its main value. This is especially true because corporations will also have Sesame Credit scores--and those are exactly where we should expect corruption, bribery, and distortion to come from.

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-snip-

Looking at the news sources again, you're right. Someone from China explicitly said that it doesn't track social media stuff. I'll remove that from the OP.

And you make an excellent point. Things that use an automated system can be abused, and as the mandatory point draws near, if China left even 1 flaw in it it WILL be abused. China refused to divulge their algorithm, of course, but if this wasn't done absolutely perfectly it's going to suffer a lot.

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