What Is Surveillance Communism?

Capitalism doesn’t look so bad now, huh!

Image from Pixabay.com

I just released a blog yesterday about a concept that I believe was coined by Professor Zuboff, called surveillance capitalism. This is basically where corporations with the implementation of artificial intelligence are able to track your online viewing and shopping habits, making educated suggestions to you based off the mining of such data. And it has led to a number of extremely serious ethical concerns.

In line with that, I want to speak today about how artificial intelligence has been used in the introduction of what’s called surveillance communism. This, at least given my background and research, is far more terrifying; but if the two could be combined in some politico-economic system, it would be perhaps one of the most dystopian realities a person could conceive.

I’m going to share some thoughts from a book I read recently called 2084 written by Professor John Lennox. He relates that in,

“March of 2018, the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford, released a report on the development of AI in China…[I]t is said $197 billion was spent on domestic security in 2017, and where they expect to install more than 400 million CCTV cameras by 2020 [the year of his writing this book]. Some of what George Orwell envisaged for 1984 is already with us”.

It’s abundantly clear they are using their development and proliferation of artificial intelligence for social control. This frightened me when I read it. He continues,

“They are gradually rolling out a social credit system to check on the reliability and trustworthiness of their citizens. The system consists in starting each citizen with the award of 300 social credit points that can be added to by “good” (I.e., government-approved) behaviour – like using public transport, keeping fit, reporting on someone you have seen with large amounts of foreign currency.”

He explains how such so-called ‘good behaviour’ and accumulation of credits will grant you greater access to certain perks. These may include better jobs, education, mortgage opportunities and travel prospects.

That all sounds fine and good like the meritocracy we have seen capitalism provides. Well, not so fast! If, on the other hand you begin to associate with ones of disrepute by the government or have conflicts with law enforcement or abuse alcohol, among many other activities – they may label you “anti-social” or “unsafe” to the public.

This can result in a number penalties quite contrary to the benefits the government is willing to bestow (such as limited access to jobs, travel, or even the restaurants you’re permitted to dine in).

Remember, this is social engineering at its finest! The restauranteur, if he knowingly served this unperson may be compromising his own stand within the community. So everyone is in on the little project. Professor Lennox even reports that you could be denounced on a public television as a “discredited person” as you walk by.

Well, how is artificial intelligence involved? Apparently, much of this control is exercised through advanced facial recognition which is plugged into a massive database and is then channeled to a central computing centre.

It is said that they’re planning to roll out this credit program for almost the entire population of Beijing, some 22 million citizens.

A system very similar to this has already been implemented in the western region of Xinjiang which is home to around 10 million Uighur people who are overwhelmingly Muslim. An increasing population of the Han Chinese community resides there, and they’re given palpable preference.

Not only are over 3 million of the Uighur Muslims being held in concentration camps – and no, I’m not exaggerating the situation, that’s how many news stations are describing these facilities – but the remaining approximately two-thirds of the Uighur people fall victim to a level of invigilation that would make George Orwell blush.

According to Professor Lennox, a Human Rights Watch report indicated that “The Chinese can move around without difficulty, but the Uighur population is now subject to the most intense surveillance that the world has ever seen to the extent that the capital city has been described as a “digital fortress””.

Why is this not being more exposed by the press! Instead we’re so busy trifling over the poor lot of the duchess of Sussex. This should be one of the most reported pieces of news going right now. It’s on a level of North Korea; in fact Xinjiang’s infrastructure seems even more advanced than the DPRK’s.

This is surveillance communism and there’s no sign that it is going away, either. What if leaders were to take the very worst elements of surveillance communism and combine it with some of the things discussed in my surveillance capitalism article (linked above)? Professor John Lennox, despite my differences with his Christian perspective, deserves a lot of credit for bringing up these unique ethical concerns and shedding a light on the terrible misuses of what could otherwise be very positive and useful technology.

What are your thoughts on all this? Do you think much of the artificial intelligence alarmism we hear today is justified? I clearly do. But make your thoughts known in the remarks below.

Editor for Diogenes Lounge. Writer for ILLUMINATION and a YouTube personality. Subscribe to my channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHBpAoID8i6tqz6ksLSY8ow

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