The Social Credit Score and the Bell Curve

By Georg Tichy

Bell Curve

The Social Credit Score is a system that China has had in trials for several years, and that uses the principles of credit scoring- data streams from several specific sources- to formulate a predictive score. The current credit score uses data from the past to predict future behavior, and allows financial institutions to evaluate risk. The social credit score is taking this model and enlarging it to fields of interest beyond financial behavior.

Some data sources are going to provide information that has a better predictive value for future behavior than others. And while humans often surprise their families and themselves by going off the rails, some patterns of behavior are bound to be repeated. The social credit score attempts to find the behaviors with the best predictive value, and use these values to determine how well a person functions in society.

With a large population, concerns of governments are the needs of the population. And population dynamics are different from tribal, family, or individual dynamics. As the world population grows and human society becomes more complex, we will be facing new challenges. We will be living in significantly denser social groups, for instance. Policy decisions will be made for the good of the entire group, and it is believed by those making these plans and decisions that the populations as a whole will be best served if everyone toes the line.

Toe the line. Follow the rules. Do what you are supposed to do. If you screw up, it goes on your permanent record. Very permanent. People can check your score. Employers, landlords, parents of the person you want to marry.

The beginning of this post suggested some variables as understood fact, and that is how governments are presenting them. But are these variables- the predictive value of past behavior in finance, jobs, personal relationships, activism- do these variables predict future behavior? Complex systems, involving either a single human brain or a population, always have variables that change the predictive outcome. There is never a simple linear equation that can describe and predict human behavior. We are using big data and neural networks- AIs- to analyze this data and make predictions. They will use the data we give them. Are the data sets biased? Only as biased as human beings are, and that is very biased.

When we look at a Bell Curve, there is a tail on either end of the curve. The outliers, known as two standard deviations from the mean, are those elements being measured that do not fall in with the main group. With eleven billion people on the planet in 2050, two standard deviations from the mean is a very great population that does not fit into the statistical probabilities suggested by social credit scores.

Can humankind, and the planet, afford to discount the human potential of those who fall into the outliers group? Because their human potential will be affected, and they will be marginalized and made vulnerable, just as those living in poverty today are marginalized and made vulnerable. Can we afford to lose the human potential of so many, in order to have order and efficient management of large populations of people?

That depends on if the current situation, that of large groups of people living in desperate poverty, and without the potential to change their futures, is a system that is accepted and understood as part of the way human society organizes itself. If it is understood and accepted now, then social credit scoring will continue, in a different way, to score people as having more or less potential to work within the system. That scoring will create a class of vulnerable and disenfranchised people, much as we have today.

Or will the development of human society suggest to leaders that we cannot afford to lose the human potential of even one? The famous Star Trek discussion, between Captain Kirk and a dying Spock, has engaged people for years: Do the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many? Kirk said yes, in heroic fashion, and saved the life of his friend. What is the clear subtext is that the question itself is wrong. It isn’t an either-or proposition. The needs of the one are the needs of the many. We take care of the human population by caring for individual humans. Those humans, with all of their potential intact, then care for families, villages, communities, countries, and the world.

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