China is going to implement a social credit system. Meaning, it’s going to rank its citizens according to various criteria like what job one’s hold and the degree one contribute to society. I guess it will also include education, credit history and to what degree someone keeps the rules (like parking tickets). This sounds like a bad idea for most of us, and it rings the “dystopia” bell and makes us think straight away on “Black mirror” or other sci-fi movies like 1984.
But, if we will look around us, we could see that we tend to rank a lot of things. Let’s say you want to go to a restaurant. You don’t know which exactly, but you have a rough idea of what kind of food you want to eat. So, you look for Italian restaurants near you on Google. Well, you have a lot of options, but you will probably choose the one who has good reviews. How do you know which one has good reviews? You have a 5-star system that indicates that. If you want to know more, you will have to go into the review section and read what people wrote about it.
If you look for things to do, let’s say in Japan. You will maybe search on google “trip in Japan.” Then you will have many options. These options are ranked in a specific order. How does this order come to be? Well, Google algorithm scans all the text and decides which site is more relevant which are less. Other things that might be able to influence the ranking is money. People can buy the first positions by bidding money on it. Amazon makes HUGE money out of it. In many instances people pay money to jump to the start of the line to be visible, it’s a key strategy in the “attention economy” of today.
So you will probably tend to go to sites that are ranked higher, than the places which are ranked lower. When you choose one of them (probably the first second or third one), you will see that users of the site also rank the activities that are offered. A good example will be trip advisor or Booking. Those are ranking systems of hotels, holidays and so on. So, your daily choices, everything that has to do with buying things, is a form of rank. Even the places on the shelves in the grocery store are sometimes offered to the highest bidder.
Why not people? Let’s say you look at people’s FB page. You might see which movies they like, which books they’ve read. But obviously, the number 1 variable that ranks on FB is how many likes do you get? You know these people who get few hundred likes for posting a silly picture, while others write deep and provoking things just to get one like? (sounds familiar ain’t it?). If you think that this ranking is only taking place on FB, you are dead wrong. Potential employers check your FB page and guess what; they consider those likes a lot. My friends constantly reported to me how in job interviews, there were asked to add the interviewers as friends on FB. There are even “tactics” or ways to improve your visibility on FB for future employers.
So, maybe the Chinese only made it official? It’s already here, like it or not. Today we quantify our productivity, our popularity and even in university, professors are ranked by Google’s impact factor (Google Journal Metrics). And of course, we rank people on how much money they have in the bank. Again, why not just make it official?