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Post-Pandemic Scenarios – IV

Representation of the Chinese social scoring system. The upper part is the reward, the recognition that your social behaviour provides value to the society and society should pay you back and leverago on you. The lower part, the underground portion, is highlighting the negative impact of your behaviour on the society that leads to social shame. Image credit: Merics, The Guardian, Wired Deutche Welle


This post happens on April 1st and to many of us, imbibed in the Western culture, it might seem an April prank. How could you possible think about a codified social monitoring leading to an appraisal of individual behaviour AND sharing this appraisal to everybody in your social circles and furthermore having that influencing (positively or negatively) the relations you have with institutions. It looks at the opposite of a Western culture of privacy. Yet, this is not an April fool! To double check read the article from where I took the graphic (the title is: Social scoring in China: Big Brother squared).

The FTI’s report foresees a growth of the scoring, possibly in different forms depending on the context, during this decade, sustained by the increased access to personal data, that, as pointed out in the previous post on “digital signature”, are becoming more and more accurate through their correlation to the point that the “network” knowledge on a person may exceed the knowledge perceived by the person (i.e. the network will know more, and be able to derive more accurate inferences about ourselves than we, the data generators!).

I mentioned in the previous post that biometric data interpreted via Artificial Intelligence (with specific learning on each single person) can detect emotional status and predict probable reactions to a variety of situations. There is a new technology area called biometric scoring that by making use of accurate monitoring of the way we are using our devices (like the way we type on the keyboard, the force used on a touch screen to click on something) over time is able to detect our interests, our perceptions of what is shown on the screen, in other words how we feel and how we react. This information is used in scoring our personality. It is nothing really new, banks have been scoring our likelihood of repaying a loan, what is new is the accuracy on the one hand and the use of that scoring in a variety of activities we are engaging on line.

Amazon has applied to a patent to provide SSaaS, Surveillance Scoring as a Service, a service made possible by analysing the data gathered by delivering drones in an area and evaluating the type of people moving around in that area… This is just an example that according to FTI’s report is indicating a trend that will lead in this decade to a sort of data-based Big Brother. Interestingly, the report points out that the uptake of self driving cars will dramatically reduce the number of tickets for traffic violations that in turns will result in major underfunding of police. Hence the need to turn to scoring to intercept minor violations in several areas leading to additional tickets!

I feel that people, at least in Western Countries, will not allow this kind of slippery slope to take place. Nevertheless it is a given that some sort of “scoring” will become more and more applied in areas like retail, advertisement, social circles and most likely in workforce hiring. These are all areas where some sort of analytics is already applied. As more data are becoming available, the analytics can become more precise, hence more useful and will see a broader adoption.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.