This is a fascinating article about the underpinning and foundation of China’s surveillance and social credit system and the systems engineering theories and methodologies that brought it about. I find it particularly interesting the author specifies the use of “carrots” (means of pleasure, getting at the desires and loves of the populace) and “sticks” (means of coercion, inflicting punishments on the populace for stepping out of line) to essentially control the masses. This has roots (though not one for one) in some things Aldous Huxley said in a lecture at Berkeley in the 1960’s about “scientific dictatorships” of the future. It’s worth listening to:
In my yearly trek through the Scriptures, I have come today to the book of Ruth. I have read this book many times, but never studied it in depth. So I thought it would be good to look up a sermon series on this book and I came across some sermons by none other than John Piper, who preached on this book in four sermons in 1984. I really was taken aback by the first one in how he displays so clearly the beautiful providence of God in the midst of deep, bitter trial, designing and intending it for good. There are so many things I have missed in this wonderful little book. I highly recommend these sermons.
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.”
Excerpt from the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman.
I don’t normally read RollingStone Magazine, but I stumbled across a link to an article while on Bruce Schneier’s security blog. In short, China is performing a social/spying experiment upon a city called Shenzhen. Every spy toy imaginable is being employed in the service of watching and controlling every movement its citizens make. This is 1984 stuff here. And one of the interesting comments in the article is that U.S. corporations are some of the largest financiers of this endeavor. Also, just like everything in China, it will be exported to a “neighborhood near you,” as it says in the article. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true and maybe a bit alarmist. But it is odd to me the U.S. seems to have such a vested interest in this. Also, at the very least, the technology could be quickly exported to current oppressive governments for the controlling of their people. Here are some quotes from the article:
“As China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)”
“This is how this Golden Shield will work: Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers. They will be listened to on their phone calls, monitored by digital voice-recognition technologies. Their Internet access will be aggressively limited through the country’s notorious system of online controls known as the ‘Great Firewall.’ Their movements will be tracked through national ID cards with scannable computer chips and photos that are instantly uploaded to police databases and linked to their holder’s personal data. This is the most important element of all: linking all these tools together in a massive, searchable database of names, photos, residency information, work history and biometric data. When Golden Shield is finished, there will be a photo in those databases for every person in China: 1.3 billion faces.”
“One Shenzhen-based company, China Security & Surveillance Technology, has developed software to enable the cameras to alert police when an unusual number of people begin to gather at any given location.”
“Shenzhen is the place where the shield has received its most extensive fortifications — the place where all the spy toys are being hooked together and tested to see what they can do. ‘The central government eventually wants to have city-by-city surveillance, so they could just sit and monitor one city and its surveillance system as a whole,’ Zhang says. ‘It’s all part of that bigger project. Once the tests are done and it’s proven, they will be spreading from the big province to the cities, even to the rural farmland.’
In fact, the rollout of the high-tech shield is already well under way.”