A new app in China is now assigning users a personal credit score, and it’s drawing comparisons to the season three opener of Black Mirror where an app assesses people’s worth.
According to Wired, the app is called Alipay, and your score can make a huge difference in your everyday life as well as your future.
You don’t earn money through Alipay: Instead, it’s a tool for accomplishing tasks. You can buy groceries, pay your bills, and book doctor’s appointments all within Alipay. Third party apps can even be reached through the app — including Uber and Airbnb.
That might not sound too futuristic (after all, we have Apple Pay), but it’s how one earns this score that makes it sound like it’s straight out of the Black Mirror episode, “Nosedive.”
Each user begins with a score of 600 on a scale of 350 to 950, called “Zhima credit.” If you exhibit stable spending and social habits, your score increases.
Alipay offers perks and rewards to users with high scores, just as how within the Black Mirror episode “Nosedive,” people with higher scores were able to rent nicers cars. Unfortunately, those with lower scores were unable to rent cars at all.
Alipay’s system could act as China’s version of a FICO credit score, which the United States has had since the ’50s.
However, with Alipay’s system, it’s the habits of your friends that will be judged as well as your own spending.
Here’s where the Zhima Credit score gets eerily similar to Black Mirror – the algorithm doesn’t just consider whether you pay your bills on time. It incorporates what you buy, what college degree you have, and your friend’s scores into your total score. Social variables are just as important as financial variables. So not only does your score increase when you behave well, it can be effected by the behavior and spending habits of your friends.
In a 2015 press release, the company said it was working “to help build a social integrity system.”
What does this mean for the future of technology and society? Depending on the algorithm, it could encourage users to alter their behavior in an effort to obtain a higher score — just as Bryce Dallas Howard’s character obsessively did in the Black Mirror episode. Will Alipay make people cut off their not-so financially responsible pals? It’s easy to see why, in theory, it could.
Currently, Alipay and participating in Zhima Credit is optional. Then again, so is social media — and there are plenty of studies which show how our behavior is altered by the use of those voluntary apps like Instagram and Twitter.
If Alipay is anything like Black Mirror, it could potentially dictate our actions and change our habits instead of merely anticipating them… and that’s quite the future to behold.