Brave new world? Christians and the “digital social credit system”
Ukrainian authorities intend to assess citizens in accordance with the digital social credit system. What to expect – a digital concentration camp or an ideal society?
A few days ago, it became known that the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is developing a project that will actually allow the state to establish digital control over the lives of citizens.
People's deputies under the leadership of Ruslan Stefanchuk (a man who has already been marked by the bill on the celebration of the Nativity of Christ on December 25) are developing the so-called "social credit system". It sounds harmless, but is it really so? After all, such a system has long been developed in China. And not only developed, but also successfully implemented.
Social credit system
On January 1, 2021, the Civil Code entered into force in this Asian country, which at the legislative level secured the use of the "social credit system".
According to this system, every Chinese citizen receives a certain starting rating, which is estimated at 1000 points. And then this rating can either grow or fall – it all depends on the person's behaviour.
So, on the basis of 160,000 different indicators from 142 institutions, information about a person is collected and processed in a single centre. A citizen who scores 1050 points receives index AAA – he/she is trustworthy from the point of view of the state and he/she can be "trustworthy". For example, he will be able to occupy certain positions, work wherever he/she likes, not to face restrictions related to medicine or education. But if a citizen's rating falls to 849 points, he gets index C and falls into the category of untrustworthy. In this case, he will no longer be able to work in state agencies and will encounter certain problems in other spheres of life.
However, the biggest problems will begin if your “rating” drops to below 600 points – this is index D. You will not be able to get a normal job (or just a job in general), education or medical services. Moreover, you will be restricted in the use of public goods and your purchasing power will be minimized, rent will be refused, a loan will not be issued, etc.
In world literature and cinema, a similar phenomenon, in which a person is assessed using a "rating system", has already been repeatedly described in the genre of the so-called "anti-utopia". Suffice it to recall the cult book "1984" by George Orwell or the less famous but no less insightful book "The Sphere" by Dave Eggers. Usually, such literature is sold in the “science fiction” section and hardly any of us would have thought a few years ago that it would move to the “based on real events” section. But it happened.
What criteria does the state intend to use to assess the "correctness" of a person's behaviour?
"Social сredit system" and Ukraine
One of the people's deputies of Ukraine told Vesti about the details of the implementation of the "Chinese" system in Ukraine. According to him, “the new project can legitimize state control over various spheres of human life ... Points will be awarded for useful social activities, for example, donation, volunteering ... or timely payment of loans. And for fines, debts in various areas, including alimony, tax evasion, points will be deducted. As a result, it will become more difficult for a person to get a job, take out a loan, or even travel abroad. All this will become possible when all the bases that are already available in Ukraine are combined into the Single base. At the moment, such ideas are being discussed. And what will come of this and when is still unknown."
The minister of digital transformation Mikhail Fedorov also explained his vision of the “rating” of Ukrainians: “This is a certain “gamification” of the state, where people earn “points”. The logic is like in credit histories in the financial field. The faster you pay back loans, the better your story, the easier it is to get the next one. People with a low rating cannot get a good job, they are not given loans, they may even be denied a bicycle rental." However, the politician stressed that he is not a supporter of the introduction of this "system".
However, it should be emphasized that a person's “assessment” is not limited solely to his credit history or participation in volunteer projects. According to Tatyana Pashkina, an expert on employment issues, many firms are already using various databases and studying social networks. At the same time, says Pashkina, so far "posts in social networks are considered not so much for loyalty to the authorities, as for the adequacy and sanity of a person: what topics are discussed, how they manifest themselves in discussions." According to some reports, all these ideas are planned to be implemented in the new Civil Code of Ukraine, the change of which is precisely the task of the Ruslan Stefanchuk group.
At the same time, the people's deputy assures that the authorities will not introduce "ratings" since "all citizens are equal in their rights, this is stated in the Constitution". At the same time, according to Stefanchuk, “the legislation makes it possible for every citizen to create his own special status, including on the basis of contracts. That is, a citizen can conclude any contract and, accordingly, acquire special rights and create obligations. But this is only of their own free will."
In other words, for now, the rating system will be voluntary rather than mandatory, which does not prevent individual firms and banks from creating their own databases and using them to evaluate candidates for work.
Lawyer Ivan Liberman pointed out a few more problems that Ukrainian citizens will face when introducing a “social credit system”: “Everything will be monitored, all data will be in a single state register, access to which will be available to everyone who needs it and who does not need it. Already, many databases are available to almost every third citizen – these are lawyers, legal and notary offices, judges, representatives of clients in court, law enforcement officers, lawyers of large companies. On these bases, when they are united, it will be possible by "one click" to learn about the entire history of people’s activity and, based on the data, assign an assessment to a person, and, accordingly, limit him/her in receiving benefits." And what is all this for?
Profit and control
We have all heard of the so-called Overton window. From the point of view of science, this is the concept of the presence of a framework of an acceptable range of opinions in public statements of politicians and activists from the point of view of the current discourse. To put it simply, the Overton window indicates a situation when a thing that seemed impossible yesterday, thanks to unobtrusive but constant propaganda, first becomes acceptable and then – the only correct one.
Let us recall, for example, the attitude towards LGBT people. Thirty or forty years ago, homosexuality (we are not talking about other "sexes") was perceived as a mental disorder. Even earlier, for same-sex "love" you could get a prison sentence, and before that – even pay with your life. However, constant propaganda, the struggle for the rights of sexual minorities, the "sexual revolution" led to the fact that homosexuality first became the norm, and now it is an integral part of life in many civilized countries. The time is not far off when heterosexuals will be imprisoned on flimsy pretences.
The Overton window indicates a situation when a thing that seemed impossible yesterday, thanks to unobtrusive but constant propaganda, first becomes acceptable and then – the only correct one.
Or take the coronavirus pandemic. Could the residents of developed democracies bear the thought a year ago that states would restrict freedom of movement, close everyone to forced quarantine, oblige them to wear masks, and in fact, in a few months, would be able to abolish the fundamental rights and freedoms gained by centuries of democracy? No, no one could imagine this. But it happened.
So, the Church for many years (at least the last 30) has been talking about the possible danger posed by digital technologies. Representatives of science and art also talk about this. Science fiction writers warned that robots would replace humans and that human functions would be reduced to serving these robots. 50 years ago, it all seemed unreal, but not today ...
At the same time, it is interesting that the introduction of digital technologies and their application in the public space finds wondrous unanimity among officials and businessmen. This is not surprising, because some are interested in profit, while others are interested in control.
Yes, robots do not need to pay a salary (it is enough to update the programme from time to time), and robots do not go on strike, do not demand any rights and freedoms, do not need social programs. Therefore, an ideal society, from the point of view of management, is a society in which a person functions like a robot and with the help of robots. This can only be achieved in one way – to obtain such control methods that would completely exclude the very possibility of a person's disobedience and make him/her completely dependent on the state or employer. So, the governments are trying to introduce a "social credit system" – there is encouragement and control, a carrot and a stick. Yes, everything looks beautiful and attractive at first glance. But what can await Christians in this case?
"Social credit system"
Officials propose to base the "credit rating", and then the social one, on different indicators. Including web history and Google search history. Your credit score (and then social) should be based on your web history. This means that if a person types in the search engine the phrase "criticism of paedophilia", for example, or "criticism of LGBT", then he/she will immediately lose several points of his credit rating. It will not be easy to restore them, therefore, it is better not to risk it.
Your credit score (and then social) should be based on your web history. This means that if a person types in the search engine the phrase "criticism of pedophilia", for example, or "criticism of LGBT", then he/she will immediately lose several points of his credit rating.
The same applies to the history of purchases, watching films or programmes, reading literature or articles – all data will be collected, processed by artificial intelligence and sent to a single centre, which evaluates a person as "trustworthy" or not. So, it may turn out that after buying a book by St. John Chrysostom on the Internet, watching a sermon by some priest criticizing LGBT people, or even just visiting a website on Bible interpretation, a person will suddenly find that he is denied a loan, that his credit card is blocked, and that from tomorrow he is not only fired from his job but also cannot buy a loaf of bread in the store. Fantastic, say?
Remember the Overton window. Better yet, remember the Book of Revelation: “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, 17 so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name” (Rev. 13: 16-17).
Of course, we may object that the "mark", as the seal of the antichrist, will make sense only if a person accepts it freely. If it (the mark) is imposed by the state, then there can be no betrayal of Christ. Agree. Moreover, we are sure that there will definitely not be a forced “chipization”. As there will be no need to forcefully drive a person into the "digital camp". No, people themselves will choose a "comfort zone" and explain their choice with completely rational reasons – the common good, common interests, convenience, and so on. But will there be room for Christ in this “zone”? Hardly.
Digital slavery and the position of the Church
Most recently, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Kirill expressed his attitude to what is happening. According to him, “digital technologies are able to create tools that provide total control over a person. Nothing like this could have happened in the past. Human thought, technical civilization today have reached such a level when, by introducing digital technologies, it is possible to ensure total control over the human personality. Not just observing a person but managing human behaviour".
“Human thought, technical civilization today have reached such a level when, by introducing digital technologies, it is possible to ensure total control over the human personality. Not just observing a person but managing human behaviour".
Is His Holiness right? Of course. Here are the words of Alexander Zharov, head of Gazprom-Media: “Neural networks start working long before the viewer is going to watch something on TV or in the cinema. They help to see hidden patterns by analyzing a large number of factors and offer the viewer exactly the programme that they want to watch, and the film that suits them ... ".
If we translate his theses into simple language, it becomes obvious that neural networks, in fact, influence the formation of a person's worldview and reduce the concept of “freedom of choice” to a pure formality.
On the other hand, BigData will have access to a huge amount of information about a person – media, social networks, ad sites, special databases that will contain information about administrative violations, fines, debts, convictions and contacts with convicts, and so on. Naturally, for the user, access to this data should be extremely simplified. Therefore, according to Patriarch Kirill, the Antichrist will propose: “So that all crime will leave our lives, let us be guided by the fact that each person has a certain key to everything he/she needs. For example, it can be a card – you apply and get access to food, access to education, and if this card is not there, then everything is lost."
The patriarch believes that “the maximum development of total control over a person means slavery, and everything will depend on who will be the master over these slaves. That is why the Church is categorically against the use of digital technologies to ensure total control over the human person".
“The maximum development of total control over a person means slavery, and everything will depend on who will be the master over these slaves. That is why the Church is categorically against the use of digital technologies to ensure total control over the human person.”
And the problem is not even who will be the master of the new world order, and not that at any moment Christianity can become a “toxic factor” in this very world order, but that God created man free. Christianity is built, in principle, on freedom. We are free to accept or reject faith in God, we have the freedom to choose between good and evil, we can agree or not with the will of God. And all because God is Love, and love is impossible without freedom. That is why Christians will always resist any attempt to suppress freedom.
Not because we do not know or understand something, but because we are afraid of losing Love.