Will the social engineers of the future use social engineering tools such as social credit scores and social impact finance to co-create a more equitable and just world? Or are all of the buzzwords simply another mask for the next stage of colonialist-corporate-capitalism?
“The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. They have greatly increased the life-expectancy of those of us who live in “advanced” countries, but they have destabilized society, have made life unfulfilling, have subjected human beings to indignities, have led to widespread psychological suffering (in the Third World to physical suffering as well) and have inflicted severe damage on the natural world. The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in “advanced” countries.” ― Theodore John Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future
Between 1978 and 1995, Theodore John Kaczynski, or simply Ted Kaczynski, launched a coordinated bombing campaign in an attempt to raise awareness about the threat digital technology poses to the planet and all life. Kaczynski’s bombs resulted in the deaths of 3 people, 23 persons injured, and him being sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars in the supermax prison in Florence, Colorado.
On September 19, 1995, The Washington Post and The New York Times co-published Kaczynski’s manifesto, Industrial Society and Its Future, and quickly catapulted the terrorist to cult status among certain radical anti-technology activists and anarcho-primitivists. It was the publication of Kaczynski’s writing that ultimately led to his capture and imprisonment. Since that time, his words and ideas have been heavily debated, dissected, praised, and scorned.
For many Millennials and Gen-Z who grew up with the Internet (or in some cases “on the Internet”), the issues that Kaczynski speaks to are very real — isolation, over-socialization, disassociation. These experiences are familiar to many of the recent generations who spent their childhoods learning on computers, navigating the world filtered through memes, self-obsessed social media, and feeling the judgement or praise that comes with a life lived via the net. Numerous studies over the last decade have clearly highlighted the negative effects of spending too much time on the Internet, comparing and contrasting our lives against largely fictionalized versions of other peoples lives. This disassociation — along with mass surveillance — was exactly what Ted Kaczynski warned about.
“The industrial-technological system may survive or it may break down. If it survives, it MAY eventually achieve a low level of physical and psychological suffering, but only after passing through a long and very painful period of adjustment and only at the cost of permanently reducing human beings and many other living organisms to engineered products and mere cogs in the social machine.Furthermore, if the system survives, the consequences will be inevitable: There is no way of reforming or modifying the system so as to prevent it from depriving people of dignity and autonomy.
If the system breaks down the consequences will still be very painful. But the bigger the system grows the more disastrous the results of its breakdown will be, so if it is to break down it had best break down sooner rather than later.” ― Theodore John Kaczynski, Industrial Society and Its Future
The thoughts and actions of Kaczynski are likely to experience another surge in relevance and reflection with the recent release of the movie Ted K, a crime drama which represents the terrorist’s story in a factual manner. After watching the movie I began re-reading Kaczynski’s original manifesto and his 2016 book, Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How. The difference between my previous studies of Kaczynski’s manifesto and this latest examination is that I am interested in filtering his views through the lens of The Great Reset, and the rise of Technocracy and the biosecurity state.
By understanding the concerns of Kaczynski, is it possible to better comprehend the dangers posed to us by rapidly emerging digital technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), biometrics, facial recognition databases, and the Technocratic philosophy which guides The Great Reset initiative? This essay is the first of several efforts to understand the coming threat of these technologies — specifically, social credit scores and social impact finance — in relation to the warnings of the brilliant but fractured mind of Ted Kaczynski.
The World Kaczynski Warned About: Social Credit Scores
Kaczynski warned about the dangers of using digital technology in a way that forces humans to mold themselves into the machine, as opposed to molding the machines to the desires and benefits of humanity. When he writes, “our society tends to regard as a “sickness” any mode of thought or behavior that is inconvenient for the system, and this is plausible because when an individual doesn’t fit into the system it causes pain to the individual as well as problems for the system. Thus the manipulation of an individual to adjust him to the system is seen as a “cure” for a “sickness” and therefore as good”, he speaks to a feeling expressed by many thinkers before him.
Perhaps most famously, Krishanmurti said, “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.” However, this is exactly what most of the human population is encouraged to do. Find a way to find balance within the increasingly imbalanced, unstable world we live in. While the digital infrastructure is erected around us we are compelled to comply or be left behind. And, of course, this infrastructure also includes government agencies with rapidly increasing police and surveillance powers, distractions in the form of television, social media, and other forms of entertainment, and a culture which promotes use of mind-altering pharmaceuticals as a method of escape from the drudgery of the profoundly sick society.
The area where Kaczynski might be most prescient is his prediction is that society would compel people to change their behaviors and actions to suit the needs of the technological system. This can be seen most clearly with the introduction of social engineering programs such as social credit scores.
Most TLAV readers are familiar with the ongoing roll out of a nationwide social credit system in China. Starting in 2009, the Chinese government began testing a national reputation system based on a citizen’s economic and social reputation, or “social credit.” This social credit score can be used to reward or punish certain behaviors. The idea is that the state can give or takeaway points from a social credit score in order to engineer good behavior from the people.
One need not imagine the potential negative outcomes, or even look to science fiction novels for inspiration. To gain a clearer understanding of the implications of this Technocratic machine just look the digital dystopia of China.
By late 2019, Chinese citizens were losing points on their score for dishonest and fraudulent financial behavior, playing loud music, eating on public transportation, jaywalking, running red lights, failing to appear at doctor appointments, missing job interviews or hotel reservations without canceling, and incorrectly sorting waste. To raise one’s social credit score a Chinese citizen can donate blood, donate to an approved charity, volunteer for community service, and other activities approved by the government. The Chinese government has begun to deny millions of people the ability to purchase plane and high-speed rail tickets due to low social credit scores and being labeled “untrustworthy.”
While most people are likely familiar with this concept because of the popular show Black Mirror, the truth is this practice is much more reality than fiction. According to a 2020 report from cybersecurity experts Kaspersky, 32 percent of adults between 25 to 34 have had issues getting a mortgage or loan due to their social media activity. The denial of loans comes as part of “social scoring systems” which are being used at an alarming rate by government and businesses to determine customers or citizens “trustworthiness.” Kaspersky surveyed more than 10,000 people from 21 countries and found that 18 percent of those polled had issues accessing financial services because of assessments of their social media data.
“Based on these scores, systems make decisions for us or about us, from travel destinations and the associated costs, to whether we are allowed to access the service itself,” the report states.
When understood in the context of COVID1984, it’s fairly easy to see how concepts like social credit scores can be used to punish those who reject vaccines and similar therapies. For example, let’s say you are one of the people who refuse to wear masks in public. Once one of the thousands of facial recognition cameras scan your face, they will send the faceprint to the local data analysis center and immediately identify you while deducting points from your social credit score. The government and partnered corporations might also broadcast your photo and identity to your local surroundings, individual phones and digital billboards, to alert the people they are in the presence of an anti-social, anti-science, anti-mask idiot.
These types of actions have the effect of taking away state-sanctioned privileges (travel in China, for example) and stigmatizing the individual amongst their local community. This is because associating with an individual with a low social credit score can also cause one’s own score to drop. This means family and friends might choose to change their relationships with those who display so-called anti-social behaviors for fear of losing points on their social credit score and suffering the consequences.
It’s worth noting that in a different world — a sane world — there might be a multitude of positive use cases for something similar to a social credit score that provides accurate and useful data about the people and companies around us. In many ways humans already accumulate and spend “social credit” in our current relationships. For example, when a person develops a reputation as a liar or a thief, word spreads. Community members become aware of the anti-social habit and begin to spread the word to other community members who associate with this person. From there, each individual can decide how they want to use the new data and whether or not they want to continue to associate with the anti-social individual. When participation in social credit score schemes is voluntary, consensual, and private, it could help individuals make better decisions in their daily lives.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where men and women in positions of authority exercise their power by attempting to control the lives of the masses using digital technology and propaganda. This means that governments with a track record of authoritarianism and deception, and corporations with less than trustworthy histories are the likely architects of the social credit schemes of the near future. It would be a mistake (and a simplistic analysis) to assume that every single company, government, or individual expressing interest in some element of social credit is a tool for The Great Reset.
The reality is that certain individuals believe they can use the concept of social credit scores to encourage positive, empowering behavior. However, we must always ask, who is the judge of what behavior constitutes positive and negative?