1. 5
  1.  

  2. 10

    I expect a system very much like citizen score is going to develop in the United States out of the credit and insurance industries in the next

    There’s already starts in credit customer analytics (fraud protection, credit scoring) and discounts for car monitoring devices. The obvious next step is root on someone’s phone or social accounts to monitor behavior (because every damn thing leaves a location/transaction/communication on a phone or corporate chat network now). It’s a hard step, because Apple/Google/Facebook know they make a lot of money owning their users. I guess that means the first selloff will be by Microsoft, who have been very late to and weak in the ownership game with MSN/Live/whatever it’s called this half-decade.

    I’d say it takes five years or so to see citizen score work. Then probably a credit card company (probably Visa, they’re more creative) starts giving discounts to users who let them have root or a student loan provider requires it. Users give in, let they’ve spent the last ten years giving into location and communication monitoring. Another five years for competitors to realize how much money there is to make and start up their own programs, another five for those to grow and the laggards (Apple) to give in.

    And there’s the third-party doctrine that means all this info is now open to government agencies. The current social networks are scared of this now, but the finance and insurance industries have been sharing data for decades (from mass statistics to personal “know your customer” and 1099 reporting), they won’t fight intrusion. Nearly everything becomes available real-time to the government without warrants, subpoenas, or even official letterhead - just live data feeds.

    Europe has a few privacy laws and hasn’t built an industry around debt and poverty like the states, so they’re 5-15 years behind unless the governments make major law changes “because terrorism”. Towards the low end if the EU or Eurozone don’t hold together.

    I’m not trying to play the “hey look I can be more cynical than everyone else” game. I see a lot of negative trends with lots of small-next-step incentives to worsen them, and I don’t see influences in the direction of individual privacy and autonomy. We can’t even get a basic hippocratic oath for devs to put a little shame on unsafe practices and building surveillance systems. Data breaches don’t cause customer uprising. Instant gratification of app stores and media streaming feeds a pop culture, not thoughtful long-term system planning. Moloch is way out ahead.

    1. 2

      I’ve taken what you’ve described as a foregone conclusion. I’m curious what the backlash will be.

      It’s quite hard to de-technicalize (assuming that we’re talking about moderate opting-out, and not “off the grid” radicalism). I’ve stopped using Facebook for the most part, and I don’t need to go into what happened on Quora, but the truth is that every new thing feels like it solves a real problem and, in some partial way, it does. Facebook keeps your high school friends from falling into the black hole of time (instead, they fall into the white hole of meaningless infotainment about peoples' lives). Quora makes you feel like you’re part of an intellectual community (until…). Hacker News and Reddit feel rebellious and anti-corporate (but wait…).

      I tend to think that the Internet is reinventing whatever is in THC that (in some users, and not all) causes the amotivational effect. My insight into this was when I thought I was a video game badass despite playing (objectively) poorly. If a drug can give you that feeling of accomplishing useful work, without the need to actually do so, then it makes sense that some people would lose their drive. The Internet offers similar luxuries. You can get addicted to behaviors that feel really productive while accomplishing very little.

      I suspect that there are plenty of people who’ve sworn off blogs and tweets and message boards and are back to getting information the old-fashioned way: from those rectangular box-shaped wood-pulp repositories. I suspect that some are happy in doing so, but of course, they don’t blog about it… so who really knows?

      1. 1

        So, it would seem that we could definitely see the deployment of some kind of unique identifiers for people in a couple of decades. Some sort of system identification number.

        Hoi, chummer, look on the bright side: between AR and drones, we’re getting closer to living in Shadowrun every year!

      2. 4

        I really liked the Idea of whuffie in Down & Out, and I think Doctorow is doing some of his own ideas a disservice here., though it’s fairly obvious that there’s a bunch of political points wrapped up and the whuffie idea is only really being used as an analogy for them.

        Meritocracy is a tautology, of course. There’s no objective measure of ‘‘merit’’ so there’s no way to know whether your society is meritocratic or not.

        There’s a lot of reasons to object to aspects of meritocracy. Luck is one, how you define or calculate ‘merit’ is another, but I think this is one of those “don’t let the good be the enemy of the perfect” situations. If there’s a compelling argument for something other than meritocracy, I’d be happy to hear it, but the rejection of meritocracy based on it’s problems without a suggestion for an alternative seems incomplete bordering on disingenuous. In the general sort of usage, I’d consider meritocracy to be a good thing - it’s the idea of judgement based on demonstrated success and ability, right? If I had a team of employees and needed to promote one of them to lead that team, what criteria should I use to pick the person to promote? If it’s something other than their “demonstrated success and ability” I think we’d need to hear a really strong argument to support that idea, as the meritocratic approach seems like the most obviously correct.

        But reputation is useless as a hedge against the real nightmare of a setup like Ebay: the long con. It doesn’t cost much, nor does it take much work, to build up sleeper identities on Ebay, fake storefronts that sell un­remarkable goods at reasonable prices, earning A+++ GREAT SELLER tickmarks, even for years, until one day, that account lists a bunch of high-value items on the service, pockets the buyers’ funds, and walks off.

        I think Doctorow is ignoring the huge benefit of reputation systems here. Is it true that someone with high reputation can still betray you? Absolutely, But that’s the case in pretty much all inter-personal relationships. I doubt that many of us can say we’ve never personally been betrayed by a trusted friend in some way. The big win of a reputation system is one of increased information - the system can tell me that even though this person is a stranger to me and could still betray me, here’s a whole bunch of other people who said that they took the same risk and were not betrayed. It’s the difference between meeting someone in a bar and knowing nothing about them and having to find out the hard way, vs being introduced by a friend who knows them well and vouches that they’re a good person. Sure, they could still burn you, but you can enter into the relationship with more information, and IMO that’s almost always a good thing.

        Let’s also be honest about the situation Doctorow describes - the long con could happen to anyone regardless of any reputation systems, including Whuffie or the ebay seller ratings or knowing the person for years. It’s not fair to say the reputation system is ineffective because it has this failure mode, because the right way to defend against that failure is another system not based on trust. Using his ebay long-con example, when I want to buy something inexpensive, the high reputation is probably enough for me to go through with it, knowing I could still get burned. If it’s so much money that it’s loss would damage me, though, we have other systems at our disposal to remove trust from the equation like an escrow service. (Of course, to use an escrow service me and the other party both need to trust that we won’t get burned by the service, which brings us right back to the reputation economy, and you can bet I’d want to know that there are tons of other people out there that have been happy with their service rather than having to find out myself the hard way.)

        If you wanted to highlight the dystopian nature of Whuffie, you need go no further than this vision for Peeple. If it ever took off, it’d be a lever that the likes of Gamergate could use to destroy your’s employment and personal life, possibly permanently, just by mass-one-starring you.

        (I’m going to let the random Gamergate reference slide for the most part, but will point out that that it would be equally a problem for Milo Yiannopoulos or any other controversial figure.)

        Peeple was bad in a way that Whuffie wasn’t, and Doctorow himself described at the beginning of this essay:

        Whuffie reflects how respected you are by the people I respect. Someone else would get a different Whuffie score when contemplating you and your worthiness.

        Whuffie has a whole other dystopian failure mode, though, and that’s how it would create (well, reflect) respect-silos, like different currencies with no exchange rate. It find it unlikely that Doctorow’s network would have enough respect for the Gamergate network for their ratings to have much impact on each other.

        I think this misses the real problems with Whuffie, which is that it is far too one-dimensional. It’s not respect or reputation that’s the problem, that’s just reflecting the reality of operating in society. The real problem is trying to reduce a person to a single number based on that standing in society, when reality is a lot more complex than that. A good reputation system would probably need to reflect that complexity - for example while I might not agree with some of Doctorow’s political or social opinions, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect his opinion on other topics and it most definitely doesn’t stop me from respecting him as an author. Some reputation systems like ebay’s seller rating don’t run into this problem because they’re only based around a single variable - whether or not it was good doing business with that person. Whuffie or Peeple or such other systems do need that nuance, though.

        1. 1

          Reputation is a case of humanity’s social immune system failing. We’re just not built for complex societies.

          To the positive, it’s supposed to include unforgeable credibilities, but almost all of these supposed merit tokens (whether we’re talking about 11th-century titles of nobility or 21st-century corporate credibilities like titles and references) are just resources that be traded like any other. To the negative, it’s supposed to guard us against bad actors (that’s the “immune system” aspect) but it ends up being co-opted by the bad actors, almost invariably. In fact, these two faces of reputation often interact: if a well-provisioned but unworthy person can’t acquire the credibility tokens through true merit, he’ll often resort to extortion (threat of negative reputation, which his provisions likely give him the power to inflict) to gain them that way.

          Unfortunately, I don’t see a way out. Over time, our bullshit detectors are supposed to improve. Personally, I don’t take Internet reputation (“karma points”) very seriously. They’re evidence of grinding, not high-quality contribution. Still, many people lack the discernment to recognize when reputation has been gamed, and I don’t think anyone has a fool-proof ability to figure it out.

          1. 0

            God, “Wealth Inequality” is the most cringeworthy oxymoron I have to hear on a regular basis

            1. 1

              Oh? Do explain. If I were to pick a pithy adjective to describe the phrase, it would be “redundant”.

              1. 2

                Wealth exists because of inequality. If everybody has “equal wealth”, there is no wealth because the concentrated abundance disappears.

                1. 2

                  The world is not zero-sum. Wealth isn’t “money”. Money (meaning currencies, typically backed by nation-states) is just a tool we use for trade. If, for example, we developed commercially viable fusion, then there would be more objective wealth. It would not necessarily generate inequality.

                  1. 1

                    I did not mention money? I’m just annoyed by the obviously liberal phrasing of what’s put more simply as “wealth” (and did a poor job of phrasing my contention as whbboyd pointed out haha). The phrasing “wealth inequality” implies, “it’s ok that some are exploited to a degree, such that others can have a degree of wealth”. Equalization in this context is the implied equilibrium of wealth which does not condemn capital or its exploitation, and causes for fangless and under-read analyses in my opinion. I’m not saying that this article specifically suffers from it (I didn’t get a chance at work to read through it thoroughly enough), but I definitely feel it’s a trend I’ve experienced.

                  2. 1

                    Wealth can be attributed to value. And if every entity had the same value, then the phrase disappears.

                    However, since the universe would be a boring place if every entity was the same (perhaps, wouldn’t even exist), we are going to have to live with this one.

                    Sorry if I went diabolical, but ‘wealth inequality’ is a serious matter.

                    1. 1

                      I think that this is a overly reductive engagement of the moniker. “Wealth inequality” is obviously material and isn’t engaging with subjective reduction to such a minute level, given its roots in labor. I think it’d be pretty easy to agree that in such a context, while also saying that wealth can be viewed as valuation and on a subjective level. Class analysis particularly doesn’t get very far (or at least not in an engaging and worthwhile fashion) in understanding the problems that the working class face without an almost strictly material standpoint.

                    2. 1

                      Exactly, so, redundant, not oxymoronic. The words mean the same thing (or at least imply each other), not opposites.

                      1. 1

                        see my above comment, didn’t even realize what you (or I) said until I had gotten off work and gotten a chance to even read what I wrote r i p