Ethical Issues in CS Report
Social Credit System
Samia Mohammad Dallah U15101563
Asma Khalid Alshehhi U15105701
Mariam Shahzad U14220045
Noor UI Minhaaj Khanum U14122218
Supervisor: Prof. Mohammad LataifehCollege of Sciences
University of Sharjah
Table of Contents
TOC o “1-3” h z u Introduction PAGEREF _Toc531205709 h 3Ethical Theories Evaluation PAGEREF _Toc531205710 h 4’Sesame’ from different views PAGEREF _Toc531205711 h 5Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc531205712 h 10References PAGEREF _Toc531205713 h 10
IntroductionSocial credit system or what is known as “Sesame system” was launched in China, which aims to rate people based on social behavior, tolerance, and their daily actions.
It is not science fiction, it is a reality that the Chinese communist party has come up with such system of monitoring the behavior of its citizens and based on their actions both good and bad, they are rated between 350 to 950 points. The outline for the national social credit system was issued on June 14, 2014 by China’s state council. According to the reports of the France 24 English News, the social credit system began testing in approximately 30 cities in China. It will be rolled out in the entire country by 2020 and will be mandatory. Artificial intelligence is being used widely by this system to record everything and detect the behavior of people. The mechanism evaluates your daily behavior such as when, where and what you are doing. It evaluates your friendships based on your interactions with your friends and who you are friends with. It evaluates your all purchases, from the amount to the quantity you buy. It also tracks how many bills and taxes you got to pay and how punctually and promptly do you pay it. Everyday action of your daily life is being evaluated and would be rated as good or bad and then based on rules set by government, your score is generated as a number that will tell everyone weather you are trustworthy, or not.
According to an article published by Rachel Botsman, Sesame system has teamed up with certain data generating platforms to assess how people behave and to rate them accordingly and your ratings will be publicly ranked against the entire population to determine if you are eligible for a loan or your children could be enrolled for a good school or not.
But the question to be asked, Is this system ethical? Is it functional enough? How do these people feel about it?
A survey was launched by a group of Asians asking the Chinese people if they think this system is a beneficial and functional system. Surprisingly, most people find this system to be of a great achievement and a good way to progress in life. Some believe that all you need to do is be good to gain credits for good conduct. If we integrate the system based on some of the ethical theories, we find many variations regarding this system.
Ethical Theories Evaluation
Kantianism theory states that you should never treat people as means to an end, but rather a means to themselves. Here we ask ourselves, are people using each other? Perhaps yes, they are, but how so? In the following system, people are using each other to gain credit; in other words, some are forced to treat and tolerate people just, so they could increase their rate. They are under a rule that says, “I rate you high if you treat me well”. After all, no one likes to be judged by others and this way no one would act as themselves around anyone.
For the Utilitarianism theory, where morality has nothing to do with the intent, but rather thinking of the consequences before deciding whether the action is right or wrong. We could weigh out the harms and benefits when calculating the consequences of the action.
Evaluating the system based on the act utilitarianism theory, we get the following.
Every Chinese citizen would be on their best behavior, which means less crimes and no fights
right1524000The society would advance, and people become more mature
Helps people in dealing with various life situations in a good way
Increases acceptance of others and respect
Easy way to gain credit by just acting good
Another beneficial way to gain credit than just money obtained from jobs
Concealing their feelings. Humans run through various situations in life which could make them cry, laugh, anxious, and even angry. The following system prevents from all that. Meaning, humans would never be able to be themselves and might even build up hatred, and sadness. People would even lie just so they would hide their actual feelings towards each other. If I was to gain credit for acting good towards a person I don’t tolerate, then yes, I would bear with them just to get that credit.
People wouldn’t be honest towards each other. Fake smiles and all.
No privacy. The government supporting this system, would store all data about each citizen. Data that they keep may include buying and selling habits, work progress, and social behavior. It’s like every action they do is being monitored!
After our interpretation, we noticed that regardless of the harms, the benefits do exceed the harms. So, based on act utilitarianism, the system is a good action to take.
However, Rule utilitarianism might not view the following system as act utilitarianism does. Rule utilitarianism asks the following question, if the system was applied by everyone would it increase the happiness?
We believe that the system might increase the happiness in some way through:
Maintaining good actions by everyone in the society would lessen crimes and hatred
Gaining credit by behaving in a good way, which encourages people to be good, accepting others, and stopping hatred
Everyone would be following the rule, and no one above the rule, so everyone is treated equally.
As we notice, Rule utilitarianism does support the system and would eventually increase happiness among people.
Virtue Ethics views the system in the following way. It is based on the character of a virtues person. The government launching the system trusts that people would do their best and act in a virtuous way. In fact, I believe this theory shall be the most supportive of this system.
Like a mother caring for her children, the Chinese government wants nothing but happiness for its people. Hence, laying out this system and applying it on the people, would make each person responsible for their own behavior and would allow them to evaluate themselves when dealing or interacting with others. Seeking happiness, good conduct behavior by individuals, encouraging individuals to act as a virtues good citizen and getting rewarded later, then surely this system is considered good.
After our evaluation of the system through the ethical theories, we realized that the system is perhaps a good system since we obtained three goods and one bad.
‘Sesame’ from different views
left1206500Placing the ethical theories on the side, we are mainly concerned with the effectiveness and ethicality of this system from other views. Hence, we are trying to view the system from other means and we asked ourselves the following questions:
How does China deal with bad ratings of people or perhaps are there any punishments for that?
Chinese citizens would face an ocean of problems that will arise when someone gives them a negative rating based on their behavior. Life is never an uphill or a downhill, it’s a rocky path and everyone has their own way of dealing with situations which is fair enough, one’s positive can be other one’s negative and giving a rating based on this phenomenon is highly biased.
If someone is travelling on a train without a ticket or smokes in public or behave rudely with other people, then that citizen would be punished, and their negative behavior will be recorded in individual’s social credit system. There are other several things that will give you a negative rating such as playing video games excessively, visit unauthorized website, criticizing the government, buying excessive junk food, spreading fake news, and many more.
In Sesame system, if a Chinese citizen has a low rating, the system will immediatley ban and restrict the citizen from many previliges causing negative consequences socially and economically. The following punishments include:
Chinese citizen will have a limited access for flying and travelling by train.
They will have a low speed internet.
Their children will be banned from getting into the best school.
They will be restricted from getting the best jobs.
They will be considered as a bad citizen in public.
They will be banned from going to the best hotels.
They will be restricted from getting a loan and rent a house.
438150056007000A review from a Chinese guy named Chen , 32 years old said “I feel like in the past 6 months, people’s behaviour has gotten better and better but at first we are just worried about losing points, and now we just got used to it”.
As shown on the right, this is a statistics of Chinese citizens that have a low social credit system and it’s evident that 24% of people are restricted from applying to certain jobs because of their low social credit score.
Majority of the Chinese citizen have agreed that the system is advantageous to their society and will make a difference for the better.
What kind of online behaviour might affect their score?
On this question majority of the Chinese citizens said that not paying bills on time, buying low quality items will cause negative rating but they are fine with it; however, on the contrary some Chinese citizens said that this, is breaching their privacy and its highly judgemental. They have also expressed their concern as the feature is forcing them to not be themselves or express their emotions which is considered to be a basic human right.
Are there any similar systems to the Chinese Sesame system that exists or has been adopted?
There are three national credit reporting companies and they are Equifax, transunion and experian.They keep all the information about lending and payment method and they are kind
of similar in some way to Sesame system. In these systems they collect our financial information and based on these information they give credit score to people so whenever you wanted a loan, house and car first they check your credit score and based on that they take decisions.
What effects does this system hold on the Chinese society and its economy? Does it improve their living?
Social credit system will widely impact Chinese society. Some of the effects are as follows.
• Society Under pressure:
Sesame system will act as a hidden camera for individuals, who make society. It will put an eye that will look after everything and will put society under pressure. People will always be in a tensed situation and may not be able to work with full concentration. They may not be able to enjoy the time with the family, as they used to do in the past.
• Emotional trauma for the society
Keeping a keen eye on someone and making lifetime judgments for his deeds will cause serious psychological disturbances for the society. For example, there are millions of people who have been blacklisted on the last lunar new-year in China. Many expected family reunions, weddings, and other happy moments canceled because; the government did not allow the “unqualified” Chinese people to book on a flight or buy a ticket for high-speed trains. It causes emotional trauma for the kids, as well as for the adults.
• More good deeds, more points
For this purpose, the social credit system looks a good idea. It appreciates good moral deeds for the society, like charity or donating blood. The person involved in good activities will get bonus points and an addition in the good books of the authorities. For instance, in Suzhou city, a person can gain 6 points with the donation of blood.
Gaining more points with good deeds also offer some privileges for the people. For example, local governments of some cities are providing free gym facilities, cheaper public transport, and a shorter waiting period in the hospitals. With such steps, the authorities have promoted the ways of building healthy societies and enjoying perks.
• Less religious independence for the minorities:
Chine social credit system is to punish those people, who do not follow the Chinese traditions and rules. Due to this reason, minorities are unable to practice their religious orders. For the government, they are wrong and need the right path. China’s Uighur Muslims are its best example. Millions of them are under strict Chinese hold. The authorities have taken their passports and send them in the so-called “rehabilitation centers.” In addition, their businesses have completely crashed. For example, with the help of sesame, the officials identified a businessman selling prayer mats and paternosters. They banned his shop and took his wife and kids for training them as better Chinese.
Impact on the economy:
Chine has emerged as one of the powerful economies in the world. But, SCS will impact the entire economic situation. The authorities will keep a strict check on every financial transaction of the citizens and they can also interfere in the economies of other nations.
In addition, Chinese call the “modern market economy as the credit economy.” So, it could be seen that it will decrease the transaction costs and interventions of the bureaucratic lobby.
Is Sesame considered to be a breach or an advancement as a system to be considered for the future?
To be able to answer this question we need to analyze the agenda behind this kind of system and we also need to analyze the positive and negative aspects of this system.
Agenda behind the Sesame SystemThe Ultimate goal of this system is to enhance trust. The Chinese communist party believes that the sesame system will help them punish people who are disturbing the harmony of the Chinese society. By using, the mechanism of social credit system, they will be able to create a blacklist and create punishment based on scientific theory. They believe it will help build more good values.
The Positive Aspects of the system
The transparency level in this system along with the prevention of illegal behaviors will attract companies to do business in china.
Motivation to become a good citizen: The system motivates people to strive for being a good citizen to increase personal ratings and to be looked upon with respect because of a high score and to enjoy a lot of societal benefits provided for individuals with a good score such as easily getting a loan etc.
Reduction of bad habit doers
The Negative aspects of the system
Not a choice but forceful acceptance of the system: Does not give the citizen the freedom to choose if they want to participate in this system of not. The participation of every citizen in the system is mandatory.
Privacy distortion: Being monitored at every time and at every place and being judged for every action done and of course no human being likes to be judged. Big data being collected. No personal information is a secret now. Too much transparency in the system.
The working of the algorithm used in the calculation of the rating score has not been disclosed: Since the big data would be collected, there are possibilities of data breaching by hackers and other third parties leading to privacy distortion.
Social and mental pressure: There is a huge pressure on the citizens no matter what your score is, if your score is good, maintaining it is a huge pressure, you require to be cautious every second of your life and if your score is low, raising it is a real challenge.
Publicly Shaming People: For Example, if somebody jaywalked, then they are captured by the cameras and their act is shown on the nearby screens and they are shamed publicly for their wrong action which is not ethical to do.
ConclusionAs we noticed, things that might be normal for us to do, might be abnormal and not right for the Chinese people and their government. This system sounds sophisticated enough to us. This perhaps, is a part of cultural relativism theory, seeing as what is right for our society would be wrong for the Chinese society. It’s all connected in some way to the ethicality of the system. Hence, we can conclude that the system is believed to produce progress in a society and its citizen would be payed in return for high ratings perceived by good actions.
The social credit system of China will make greater impacts on the Chinese people, as well as to its economy. At this time, Chinese media is showing more population in favor of the order, but their views may change as soon as they will feel the effects. Rather than seeing them as a surveillance camera, most of the urban residents believe that it will protect them from various frauds and scams. People will remain under a pressure of strict check of the government. On one hand, they will involve more in building a better society, but on the other side, the system of punishments on small issues will demolish them. In addition, it is also a threat to religious minorities.
Moreover, hacking and cyber attacks have always been serious issues for China. If they occur again; the system may lose its credibility and fail in the country. That’s because the connecting databases will be more prone to attacks and will increase the risk of identity thefts of more than a billion Chinese citizens. The dangers also increase as the Chinese government also has a “history of being lax” for cyber securities.
Furthermore, the scoring system has faced resistance in many cities in China. For example, in 2010, the local population resisted the law of points gaining. Even the official news agency taunted the approach.
The government must make some amendments and soften the level, which they have established for checking the trustiness of the citizens. If they succeeded in implementing successful SCS in the country, other authoritarian or so-called democratic states will also work on such an approach. However, China is using Artificial intelligence; other countries may attempt it with the help of smartphones technology.
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