The dark anthology ‘Black Mirror’ has always been disturbingly prescient with its forecast of technological doom and gloom, but the first episode of the new season, Nosedive, seems particularly poignant. The episode takes place in a near-future suburban America where everyone’s real-world and online interactions are rated by those around them on a scale of 1 to 5. The rating system influences almost every aspect of people’s lives from job prospects to credit rating. And it even determines which neighbourhoods they can live in.
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When you think about the fact that it’s now commonplace for prospective employers to look over our Facebook profiles, and the fact that the rise in online shaming has turned what were once personal blunders into devastating public spectacles, not to mention Tripadvisor and Google Maps rating or the entire concept of Uber and Airbnb, it’s hard to argue that social interaction becoming formally monitored isn’t inevitable.
And now, as if to coinside with the episode’s release, the Chinese Government have stated they are planning to introduce a “social credit” system in a move that they claim is to help control:
China’s vast, anarchic and poorly regulated market economy, to punish companies selling poisoned food or phony medicine, to expose doctors taking bribes and uncover con men preying on the vulnerable.
But it’s clear from what they are focusing on that the programme is interested in far more than simply exposing corruption. Everything from:
Defaulting on a loan to criticising the ruling party, from running a red light to failing to care for your parents properly, could cause you to lose points.
And these are only the proposals that the Government has made public. It’s not hard to imagine what more invasive measures they might also have up their sleeve.
The Nosedive episode warns us that allowing our social interaction to become a form of currency will most likely lead to our public profiles taking over our private identity. Everyone in the episode with a half-decent rating tightly controls their behaviour. They are all polite, conscientious, subservient and most importantly, fake. In other words, they are all walking, talking CVs. And we all know how excruciating it is to sit down and write a CV, to talk about how professional you are, how motivated you are, how normal you are. Imagine having to act that way every second of your life.
One of George Orwell’s most prophetic visions was that of a Big Brother state in which we all spy and inform on one another. But even he couldn’t predict that in the age of online social networks and Google glasses, we’d all be informing on ourselves.
For more ‘Black Mirror’ predictions that have become a reality, click HERE.