Dystopian classics are back into the spotlight, like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and George Orwell’s 1984. They have roared back onto bestseller lists due to whistleblowers’ exposés of government imperialism and totalitarian surveillance of their citizens and foreigners. While the kakistocracy and dystopian surveillance state depicted in 1984 undoubtedly reflected, to some extent, contemporary sociopolitical realities, Orwell extrapolated worst-case scenarios set as warnings for future generations. Nonetheless, his book and implicit warnings seem to have been ignored as an authoritarian surveillance state is now a reality for most people in first and second world countries. In lieu of accountability for criminal mass-surveillance or these revelations deterring or limiting the prying eyes of government-sponsored spy programs, the establishment in conjunction with their media platforms has used it to their full advantage, almost as if they, themselves, masterminded the leaks. Rather than being dismantled, the establishment has openly added advanced surveillance technology to their arsenal in their cataclysmic War on Truth. The mainstream media now parallels Orwell’s Ministry of Truth that broadcasts official explanations, while it effectively neutralizes those who venture outside the parameters of government-approved thinking, which so often equates to threatening their interests. While the current Western population control via advanced surveillance technology and social engineering is unparalleled in history, China has nevertheless rolled out a system that sets new standards for government control, the so-called social credit system. In a few decades from now, if the Chinese government succeeds, those who are imprisoned by the social crediting system will have no reference point or conception of freedom; digital tyranny will have become the norm. To some extent, Western policymakers have been apprehensive of the Chinese program, but as we shall see, it is nevertheless evident that they themselves are working diligently behind the scenes to implement the same technology that makes the Chinese digital prison possible.
The Social Credit System
The Chinese Communist Party implemented the world’s first social crediting system in 2014, a dystopian and Orwellian surveillance-based program that rates citizens according to a set of rules defined by the government; for example, one will be punished for playing too much video game, eating food in the metro, criticizing the government, failing to sort personal waste correctly, swearing in public, and other offenses. On the other hand, one will be rewarded for spying on one’s fellow citizens and reporting to the authorities if people use profane language. At this time, the system has been rolled out in selected cities and declared a success by the government. Before the end of 2020, the Chinese government intends to have assigned a credit score to all of China’s citizens and private businesses, and, at this time, there is, therefore, some variability in the imposed set of regulations and rewards.
If you lose too many points, you become a “blacklisted” individual. Violations, for example, red-light violations, caught on video and mugshots, and personal information of those who are blacklisted are openly displayed on LED screens in public, and even in cinemas as a substitute for commercials. Chinese authorities have also released an app showing “a map of deadbeat debtors” within a 500-meter radius . Users of the app are then encouraged to report if they think a particular debtor could repay his outstanding loans. Rules and regulations cover almost every aspect of human behavior and interaction. For example, if dog owners forget to keep their pet on a leash, disturb other people, or if their leftovers are not removed by the owner for a total of three times, government employees will forcefully remove the dog, and the person will be banned from keeping any dog for five years . Senior citizens may sue their children if they do not visit them regularly; the courts can force the family members to visit them more often . Violations can result in blacklisting. Blacklisted individuals become personae non-gratae: they and their children are banned from a long list of services, like getting out of the country, from specific schools, have their banking accounts frozen, and other people will by force not associate with them as it causes their rating to drop . It is evident that getting blacklisted puts restrictions on movements to such an extent that it effectively amounts to house arrest. It, therefore, seems likely that a blacklisted individual could suffer from starvation and malnutrition as a result of the imposed restrictions. It is important to note that the punishments can – as all other government rules and laws – be changed at any time for the worse. Individuals who have a high credit ranking can receive a list of rewards, including a greater chance of employment, a variety of discounts, and less waiting time at hospitals.
The social crediting system is made possible by extensive and intrusive surveillance, such as video-surveillance and facial recognition technology. The newest technology being rolled out to isolate, control, and modulate people’s behavior parallels science-fiction action thrillers from the 20th century, such as John Carpenter’s They Live from 1988. State-of-the-art technology currently being deployed includes gait recognition technology (they can identify you by the way you walk), robotic birds that hover in the sky monitoring people on the ground, and facial recognition sunglasses for police officers . The surveillance is taken to such an extreme that by 2022 the total number of CCTV installments is projected to increase to 2.76 billion . The Internet also plays a vital role in the edification, the alleged rationale behind the social crediting system, as it is subjected to oppressive control by the Internet Police, a sophisticated unit which monitors online behaviors and punishes government critics, people who watch porn, or somehow else violates the thousands of rules. The Chinese authorities have a well-developed profile of each citizen to the extent that they can find out how often you open your refrigerator, go to the toilet, when you get up in the morning and go to bed as smart meters installed in people’s homes give them that capability. The data is submitted to a variety of analyses, including predictive and behavioral analytics. The end result is a dynamic profile of each citizen. Government workers and artificial intelligence can, at any time, access a file and impose restrictions.
In a blatant propaganda piece on the social credit system by the American NBC News, it was stated that “it pushes you to become a better citizen” and “you are not going to be punished if you haven’t done anything wrong .” The terms used in this sentence are obviously subjective; a good citizen from the perspective of the social crediting system is one who never questions authority, always follows the rules, in essence, an aspiring drone controlled by a set of external rules that may at any time be changed. There is no room for individuality, liberty, and creativity within the digital prison. The second assertion has religious connotations as it assumes that the Chinese government and its social crediting system are all fair and just, which is provably false. The Chinese government and judiciary system are notorious for their criminality, blood lust, corruption, and extreme bias. In 2013, Chinese prosecutors had a conviction rate of 99.93%, yet it was a typical year for them . Provably wrongful convictions and executions are abundant. In 1989, a Chinese executioner put a rifle to the head of Teng Xingshan and pulled the trigger for the murder of Shi Xiaorong. In 2005, however, Shi resurfaced, alive and well. In 1996, 18-year-old Hugjilt was executed 68 days after sentencing despite an abundance of evidence attesting to his innocence. When the Chinese courts finally had to admit that the state had executed an innocent teenager, they compensated the parents with 30,000 Yuan ($4300) . The US justice system is likewise notorious for executing innocent people and forcing innocent people to plea bargain to avoid an overly harsh sentence; in fact, 97% of federal criminal convictions end in a plea bargain while state criminal convictions are at 94% [10, 11]. Nonetheless, in 2015 the average US death row inmate waited 15 years between sentencing and execution, allowing plenty of time for further analysis of the alleged crime committed, and many innocent individuals have been released from death row . In China, execution sometimes takes place immediately after sentencing .
Capital punishment is a lucrative business, as organs from executed prisoners are harvested and sold to the highest bidder. For years, the Chinese government denounced the allegations but admitted in 2005 that organ harvesting indeed took place, but asserted in January 2015, they had stopped this practice. Their claim has been met with intense skepticism. The Independent Tribunal into Forced Organ Harvesting from Prisoners of Conscience in China (China Tribunal) has disputed this claim, and presented evidence to the UN that there is “no evidence that the significant infrastructure associated with China’s transplantation industry has been dismantled .“ The tribunal concludes, “Forced organ harvesting is of unmatched wickedness even compared – on a death for death basis – with the killings by mass crimes committed in the last century .” The International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China has concluded that the number of organ transplants may exceed the official government statistics by 1000% .
The organ harvesting industry is not only targeting executed prisoners, but is also aimed at “prisoners of conscience,” such as Falun Gong, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and House Christians, and has been “practiced for a substantial period of time involving a very substantial number of victims .” In 2001, a whistleblower, Dr. Wang Guoqi, gave testimony to the US House Committee on International Relations. He described in detail how he had been paid $40 for every prisoner he had stripped of organs. He had, however, quit the job in 1995 when he had observed doctors removing the kidneys from a man who was still alive. He had survived his execution. Dr. Wang Guoqi had then inquired whether “the man should be shot again,” but he was informed that it was not necessary “because the man would die after the organ harvest anyway .”
Many of China’s “prisoners of conscience” are kept in “concentration camps,” allegedly for re-education purposes; eyewitness testimony and evidence from a variety of sources, however, suggest otherwise . Human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar has called their concentration camps, “a completely Orwellian system of ethnic cleansing, where China is acting as big brother .”
Considering China’s long history of causing harm when no harm was merited, it is a distinct possibility that the social crediting system will be used to harvest organs of dissenters who have lucrative, well-kept organs and rare blood types as medical and dental records are a part of each citizen’s digital profile.
Big Brother is Watching You
Government officials who have commented on China’s social credit system have offered mild criticism of it. For example, in 2018, US Vice President Mike Pence, surrounded by teleprompters, stated, “China has built an unparalleled surveillance state,” but his main point seemed to be that they allegedly often had used US technology to achieve their “Orwellian” state . Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, Maxim Akimov, has stated that Russia “currently” has “no such projects .” The adverb, “currently,” signifies that the situation may change in the future.
However, there is no need to analyze their statements rigorously, as the evidence is abundant that governments have systematically and deliberately undermined our liberties and secretly geared up their respective states for a tyrannical, digital prison. As will be shown in this article, the same types of surveillance technology deployed in China are being set up by government agencies or in conjunction with private companies, in numerous countries, such as USA, France, Australia, Germany, Canada, India, United Kingdom, Russia, and soon they will have the capability to create a digital prison. Additionally, there exists an unmistakable propensity toward crediting systems by private companies. Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, a director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and researcher of the Chinese social crediting system, has warned that western countries are sleepwalking in the same direction, and we are much closer to an Orwellian social crediting system than what it may appear . A variety of crediting systems gauging citizens’ trustworthiness have already been put in place. For instance, Germany is using the universal credit rating system, SCHUFA, which is analogous to FICO, an American version, affecting the majority of those populations and millions of companies. SCHUFA tracks your entire credit history, and by means of classified algorithms, they give you a score. Additional variables also come into play. One of these is “geo-scoring,” meaning that neighbors’ credit ratings can affect yours . If the score is below a certain threshold, you will not be able to acquire a loan, get a phone subscription, etc. This trustworthiness record follows “you everywhere as [a]consumer in your everyday life .” Dr. Gigerenzer has warned, “If we don’t do anything, then one day a corporation or a government institution will pull all the information from different data banks together and come up with a social credit score,” and “at the end, we will be in the same state as the Chinese .” He concludes, “We live in a world where judgment is being replaced by numbers – by scores that calculate the value of a human being, with the help of algorithms,” and “It would be tragic if somebody’s life was destroyed just because others put blind faith in a commercial algorithm .”
In 2018, the Moscow Times reported that by 2025 four out of five Russians will have received a “personal development trajectory ,” a digital file which Dmitry Kuznetsov, head of IT at Russia’s Pension Fund, has clarified will contain, “Every achievement in a person’s life – the misses, mistakes, big projects .” This personal digital file is a part of Russia’s multibillion-dollar program that aims to digitize the economy and roll out digital technologies nationwide. One of these is fifth-generation wireless technology (5G) that is expected to cover 80% of the population by 2025 . Despite overwhelming safety concerns with numerous scientific studies pointing to cancer and other adverse effects at levels “well below most international and national guidelines,” 5G is being rolled out in most advanced countries across the globe . If governments are to create a “smart” or “digital” prison for all of us, it follows that as much as possible of human behavior and interaction with physical devices must be readily quantifiable and internet accessible, preferably connected to large databases; this is often referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). Government agencies that can process vast amounts of data, such as the National Security Agency (NSA), will then intercept the data to evaluate our interaction with the world. 5G network technology is essential for IoT. One of the devices that can transform physical activity into quantifiable data is a smart meter . Country after country has embraced smart meters and, despite evidence that these devices can be hazardous and carcinogenic, often made their installment compulsory . A smart meter digitizes nearly everything in your household by registering when you do what, for example, when you turn on your computer and when it is off. Old-fashioned measuring devices of electricity were limited to measuring the aggregate consumption of energy, but smart meters can collect data every minute, allowing for “consumer profiling” with high accuracy .
Surveillance is essential for the workings of a social credit system, in particular, facial recognition technology or biometric face scanners and similar technology . Numerous governments have embraced the technology. In addition to facial recognition technology, governments have successfully implemented several other types of live surveillance technology such as automated license plate readers, which are mounted on street poles, streetlights, highway overpasses, and attached to police cars. These devices record your license plate, and thus governments will have a well-developed profile of your regular movement pattern, irregularities, where you are, and at what time .
Although the implementation of biometric face scanners has been challenged and banned to some extent in a few US cities, the FBI has been working diligently behind the scenes by scanning millions of drivers’ license photos from DMV databases, and in all probability from social media accounts and other sources . According to a report from Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, “law enforcement face recognition affects over 117 million American adults. It is also unregulated. A few agencies have instituted meaningful protections to prevent the misuse of the technology. In many more cases, it is out of control .” In March 2017, President Donald Trump issued an executive order mandating a “biometric entry-exit system” for top 20 US airports by 2021 . According to a declassified report by the Department of Homeland Security, all travelers, including US citizens, will be subject to facial recognition technology and other methods of identification .
A British court ruled in 2019 that biometric face scanners do not violate privacy and human rights, and it is acceptable that the police use them . Private stores, totaling hundreds if not thousands, use facial recognition technology to scan their customers to detect “subjects of interest” and determine if customers are old enough to buy beer and cigarettes . In August 2019, Big Brother Watch, a British civil liberties and privacy campaigning organization, issued a statement that they had uncovered a “collusion between police and private companies .” Law enforcement had allied themselves with private companies, such as the owners of the Sheffield’s Meadowhall, one of England’s largest shopping centers, and secretly used facial recognition technology to scan an estimated two million visitors . One year prior to this revelation, it was revealed that the owners of the Trafford Centre, another popular shopping mall, had in collusion with the Greater Manchester Police scanned around 15 million visitors . Big Brother Watch has characterized the situation as an “epidemic,” and the organization has warned that “facial recognition surveillance risks making privacy in Britain extinct .”
The usage of automated live identification systems in Canada is similar to the other countries described in this article, but with one exception. Wei Chengyi, the owner of the Foody Mart grocery chain, has stated that the company is planning to introduce “payment by Chinese-made facial recognition devices .” Rather than using a credit card or cash, the facial recognition system identifies the customer and links his face to his account, enabling the person to make purchases by simply looking into a camera.
Reportedly, “Russia is building one of the world’s largest facial recognition networks” and that “according to some projections, it may even be bigger than China’s .” In particular, strategical places are targeted since the Russian government knows that people will enter these facilities or use these services at some point, like social security payments and passport renewals, to ensure that virtually no one can escape having their face measured, analyzed, and recorded in an instant.
France has launched a nationwide ID app that strongly parallels one of the most essential aspects of China’s social crediting system. The app gives access to a host of public services; however, you can only access them if you let it scan, analyze, and store your facial characteristics. The only way to verify your identity is by means of a facial recognition scan, which is then compared to your passport photo, and undoubtedly used for a wide range of other classified purposes . The usage of facial recognition technology is similarly on the rise in Germany, and from 2010 to 2017, its usage by law enforcement increased by over 1600% .
For years, the government of Australia has been creating a massive database of photographic material from a variety of sources, such as passport photos. The database will be available for “government agencies and private businesses to access facial IDs held by state and territory traffic authorities, and passport photos held by the foreign affairs department .” The Australian Privacy Foundation has voiced its concerns and stated that Australia is just steps away from “automated and real-time surveillance of public spaces .” Measures strongly paralleling China’s surveillance system were taken in 2019, when the government proposed that facial recognition software should be used to verify users’ identity on certain websites .
In 2019, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), an Indian government agency, released a 172-page document. It was announced that the NCRB had started working toward making India the world’s epicenter of facial recognition software, permeating the country’s 29 states . The document urges private companies to submit a proposal to help them build the system. When the contract has been signed, it has been ambitiously estimated that it will take less than one year for the system to go live in the world’s second most populated country . Eventually, there will be a single, centralized database comprised of images from “social media accounts, newspapers, CCTV cameras, passport photos, publicly available pictures, and criminal records. Even artists’ sketches of suspects will be part of the database .” Law enforcement will be equipped with “hand-held mobile devices enabling them to capture a face in the field and search it instantly against the national database, through a dedicated app .” According to the NCRB, “This is an effort in the direction of modernizing the police force, information gathering, criminal identification, verification and its dissemination among various police organizations and units across the country .” On the other end of the spectrum, Apar Gupta, a lawyer and the Executive Director of the Internet Freedom Foundation, has voiced strong concerns over India’s plans to roll out a national facial recognition database, saying, “political opponents, civil rights activists, government critics, and journalists could become potential targets for surveillance .” In January 2009, India launched Aadhaar, which has become the world’s largest biometric ID system, containing details of more than 1.2 billion Indians as of October 2019. Gupta fears that the national facial recognition network might be linked up to Aadhaar, resulting in India becoming a “total, permanent surveillance state .” Gupta concludes, “These kinds of technologies will be used not toward satisfying the needs of national security, but to enforce a system of social control, like in China” .
In addition to the type of technology that is engineered to identify you swiftly, like biometric face scanners, massive data centers are essential to a social crediting system or digital prison. These centers harvest the most private and sensitive data and use it to create individual profiles that include people’s call history, medical records, school records, employment history, purchase history, network of friends via social media monitoring, movement history through GPS signals, and through sophisticated analyses, it is determined whether or not a person is a threat. Newer cell phones give the user the option to lock and unlock it using one’s fingerprint, or via a facial recognition scan, such data is also collected by these data centers. Additionally, smart TVs, computers, iPads, cell phones, which are present in millions of homes, record user activity, conversations, movements, and certain video games employ facial recognition software. It has been shown that this data is being intercepted by western governments . The NSA is well known at this time due to the media-friendly whistleblower Edward Snowden who revealed that the US engages in the activities specified above. Specifically, the NSA is the American part of the Five Eyes Alliance, a conspiratorial network designed to intercept data, share it between them, and thus commit espionage on as many people and governments as possible . The other four countries are the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. These countries are the main players, but governments have also formed the Nine and Fourteenth Eyes Alliances comprising major and minor European countries .
Collectivism and Censorship
While the technology is already available or will soon be to most advanced countries, it can be argued that its availability does not necessitate a rollout of a digital prison. However, for years governments have preconditioned the masses with the ideological underpinnings paramount to a totalitarian digital prison, namely collectivism and the related idea of free-speech restraints via political correctness, brute force, and censorship. By preconditioning the masses, they will slowly be guided into acceptance or compliance with such a system as it is being gradually rolled out.
The Chinese social crediting system is rooted in collectivism and thereby is individualism sacrificed at the expense of the “greater good.” The collectivistic notions that underline this system are similar to these ideas: “A social crediting system is to help us all become better citizens,” and “We need government to protect us.” While collectivistic propaganda runs rampant in socialistic/communistic countries, like Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and many others, it has similarly been integrated into the legal framework, culture, and public awareness of supposedly “liberal” countries like the USA. For example, vaccination has successfully been transformed into an aggressive collectivistic idea by the psychopharmaceutical complex with the assistance of a government-enforced monopoly . While inoculation used to be a personal choice, it has now become mandatory by law in numerous countries and States, and in those places where an individual choice is still possible, dissenters and those who even question the safety of vaccines are targeted for harassment and exclusion. Mandatory vaccination is a collectivistic and social crediting related concept. Another important collectivistic idea is that of “gun control,” but only for the masses, not for the government personnel (law enforcement, military, etc.). Removing firearms or making them extremely difficult to be obtained has been achieved in numerous socialistic/communistic countries, and effective strategies have been implemented in supposedly “liberal” countries . In a digital prison, it is important that the citizens are unarmed in order to make the population virtually powerless.
Silencing whistleblowers, government critics, and free thinkers is an essential component of any tyrannical regime in order to terrorize the public into compliance, and to keep them isolated from information that runs contrary to official dogmas; the greater the ignorance of human rights violations the lower is the chance of resistance and opposition. The digital revolution has equipped us with lightning speed communication, but ruling elites have weaponized the digitization to control, manipulate, and destroy information that is contrary to their interests. For example, as far back as 2003 and 2004, Internet activists were tracked down, and Chinese judges imposed extremely harsh sentences . With its massive resources, China conducts real-time Internet censoring through artificial intelligence and their cyber police squads. Western governments are no better and spy on their citizens in blatant violation of privacy rights, all enabled by the events of September 11, 2001. Subsequent to September 11, the US government launched the draconian PATRIOT Act, limiting and nullifying laws governing civil liberties . England, France, Germany, and other countries followed in the American footsteps and implemented similar laws . These legislative steps served as the first steps toward an Orwellian digital prison.
In addition to imposing restrictions via legislation, governments have also allied themselves with the corporate juggernaut of Facebook, Google, Twitter, and YouTube for the purpose of censorship and social engineering. YouTube’s CEO, Susan Wojcicki, admitted in 2019 that 10,000 Google employees and artificial intelligence had succeeded in reducing the “amount of time Americans watch controversial content by 70%” and that instead of referring users to “controversial content” they would be directed to government-approved sources, like CNN . Furthermore, there has been a strong move toward punishing intellectuals and public figures for voicing dissent of official narratives and a variety of ideologies, such as questioning the official 9/11 dogma and the transgender ideology, to the extent that such criticism has been codified into law as a criminal offense . Diversity of thought, especially notions that exist outside of the imaginary boundaries established by governments, is no longer accepted in supposedly advanced countries. Even more illuminating is that whistleblowers have been severely punished, tortured, and made an example of in blatant violation of international law, sending a clear message to potential whistleblowers that exposing government corruption might entail grave consequences. For instance, Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning) leaked documents exposing horrendous US war crimes, and for her service, she was sent to prison while the perpetrators walked free . The editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, despite protests from human rights organizations and the public, has been subjected to arbitrary confinement, harassment, humiliation, and torture, not for spreading false information, but for exposing government corruption, war crimes, and other information. Professor Nils Melzer, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and a team of medical experts visited the Wikileaks editor in a UK prison. From their examination, it was clear that Assange displayed “all the symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture .” Melzer subsequently sent an appeal to the UK government demanding that they adhere to international law, immediately release him, and bar his pending extradition to the US. However, in their considerably delayed response, the UK government “flatly rejected” the appeal, “without indicating any willingness to consider my recommendations, let alone to implement them, or even provide the additional information requested,” Malzer later said .
The Special Rapporteur on torture concludes:
“While the US Government prosecutes Mr. Assange for publishing information about serious human rights violations, including torture and murder, the officials responsible for these crimes continue to enjoy impunity .”
“The blatant and sustained arbitrariness shown by both the judiciary and the government in this case suggests an alarming departure from the UK’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law. This is setting a worrying example, which is further reinforced by the Government’s recent refusal to conduct the long-awaited judicial inquiry into British involvement in the CIA torture and rendition programme .”
“In my view, this case has never been about Mr. Assange’s guilt or innocence, but about making him pay the price for exposing serious governmental misconduct …. Unless the UK urgently changes course and alleviates his inhumane situation, Mr. Assange’s continued exposure to arbitrariness and abuse may soon end up costing his life .”
Surveillance technology follows the trend of other computing technologies, and its cost will decrease while accuracy, size, and speed will improve concomitantly. Governments prioritize control of the masses, and unless significant changes happen to the status quo, scientific development will continue unabated due to sizable government grants. Advanced cameras will eventually reach a size that is nearly unperceivable to the human eye, but even more important is the opportunities advances in technology will provide in regards to monitoring people. Today’s most advanced cameras can monitor physical activity, identify a person, and via advanced algorithms, cameras can outline general characteristics of a person’s appearance, detect if someone is in possession of a gun, and even “detect motions that are commonly used to commit a crime .” Although advanced, cameras are nonetheless limited to the physical realm, and while the behavior of a person will reveal a lot about that person’s intentions, mannerisms, etc., the person’s mind can nevertheless hold secrets, engage in “thought crimes,” and plot and outline “crimes” against government or others. In the near future, the mind might not be the refuge it has been hitherto.
A long list of studies found in the PubMed literature deal with decoding human brain activity, for example, by extracting images or thoughts. As early as 2011, Professor Jack Gallant et al. were able to decode brain activity associated with watching movies on YouTube and digitally reconstruct the dynamic mental images using fMRi technology and advanced algorithms . Gallant would later say, “We are opening a window into the movies in our minds .” In 2016, in the Journal of Neuroscience, Hongmi Lee and Brice A. Kuhl showed that they could decode information from neural activity in the angular gyrus, a region of the brain associated with memory, and digitally reconstruct a face a person had been instructed to think about . Neuroscientist Divya Chander concludes, “We can now look into the brain and actually see what it is you are seeing,” and “imagine where this technology is taking us … We can now read brains without opening them .”
During that same year, Dr. Toshimasa Yamazaki and his team of the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan found a connection between sound waves and brainwaves, and they were able to read certain words from people’s minds without them saying anything . Yamazaki has stated that this technology could empower people who are speech impaired. He did not address the more sinister potential of the technology that governments will have the potential to spy on people’s minds. We may call this type of intrusive surveillance for “cognitive spyware.” In the future, cognitive spyware will likely be able to decode intent before an action has been undertaken, and thus we could be punished for thought crimes and crimes without any physical component based on intent.
At the University of California, researchers have developed a “Brain Decoder Device .” Although the device is far from being rolled out globally, the objective is clear: it is to monitor what people are thinking. The lead author of the study, Dr. Brian Pasley, has stated, “If you’re reading text in a newspaper or book, you hear a voice in your own head,” and “We’re trying to decode the brain activity related to that voice .”
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has been given considerable government grants to develop Next-Generation Nonsurgical Neurotechnology. Although the majority of their projects are kept in the dark, it has been revealed that they are working on “a nonsurgical interface between the human brain and technology .” The goal is to develop a way for humans to “brain control” machines, i.e., an interface between humans and artificial intelligence in order to control robots, cybersecurity systems, weapons systems, drones .
In addition to large corporations and the military, Tesla founder Elon Musk through his company Neurolink is also working toward creating a brain-machine interface system, connecting the human brain to an external device via implants. Musk envisions that brain implants could lead to a future of “superhuman intelligence” by means of symbiosis with artificial intelligence . “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence ,” he has also said. As animal experimentation has been successful, and monkeys can now control computers with their brains, human trials will begin in 2020 . Elon Musk has warned that super-powerful computers could soon overtake humans, and in order to safeguard us against such a scenario, human biology must be merged with artificial intelligence . Facebook, Inc. is similarly investing heavily in this domain. One of the projects they are working on is “smart glasses” that “superimpose computer-generated images over the real world” . Mark Zuckerberg has stated, “The goal is to eventually make it so that you can think something and control something in virtual or augmented reality .” Eventually, this type of technology will enable us to control devices with our minds rather than, for example, type a message on a smartphone or check emails on a laptop. Perhaps smartphones will even be replaced entirely by wearable technology.
If we can control machines with our minds, we are approaching a domain in which machines may also control our minds directly or indirectly. It is well established that people change their behavior when they know or believe there is a chance they are being monitored. It follows that people will modulate their thinking patterns and thoughts if they know or expect that government agencies are eavesdropping on their minds.
Albeit brain decoding technology is still considered “extremely primitive ,” in some years or decades from now, it will most likely mature, and the cost, efficiency, and accuracy will diminish considerably. When or if that happens, police officers may start to be equipped with “cognitive spyware” glasses, just as today where Chinese police officers wear glasses with facial recognition software. Thought reading software might even become as abundant as cameras are today and perhaps be integrated into smart glasses, smartphones, and found on light poles, in airports, on street corners, in government buildings, etc. Thought reading software is simply an extension of the technology embraced by the majority today. For example, Microsoft’s digital assistant, Cortana, is enabled on millions of computers and smartphones. The digital assistant will appear and be ready to assist whenever its name is said in proximity to the device . In order to accomplish this task, it registers all sounds and conversations.
Getting the majority to embrace new technology and even pay for their own surveillance does not appear to be difficult. Usually, certain benefits are offered by using a particular technology. These benefits are often a veneer covering the true intentions behind the software. In the case of the Pokémon GO game, a highly successful surveillance software, millions of people were actually paying for their own surveillance; surveillance can be made trendy if disguised as a game . Smart meters are touted as devices that are more accurate than analog meters; in reality, a smart meter can act as a surveillance system . The success in regards to smartphones is unparalleled, and billions of people now have one. Surveillance cameras and other equipment are advertised as needed for capturing criminals, but regular people are treated as criminals, and the technology can be used for excessive mental and physical control. The efficiency of a social crediting system largely depends on advanced technology. It follows that advances in brain decoding technology and other types of spying equipment will be integrated into social crediting systems to monitor as much of physical and mental activity as possible.
Cryptocurrencies are reported on in the mainstream news on a daily basis, and most people have heard of bitcoin and possibly even ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency by marketcap. The obscure, underlying technology of cryptocurrencies is called blockchain technology or distributed ledger technology. Chinese President Xi Jinping has called the technology for an “an important breakthrough” and allocated extra funding for it . A growing list of countries, China, Russia, Venezuela, Estonia, Japan, and others, has announced their intention of launching a national cryptocurrency . Futurists have predicted that blockchain technology will have a considerable impact upon a long list of industries, including banking, real-estate, healthcare, voting, copyright information, and journalism. Some have ambitiously touted it to be the “new Internet .” Blockchain technology eliminates the need for a middleman and trusting a centralized management, as protocols, computer code, and cryptography ensure trust in the network. With middlemen eliminated, blockchain technology enables people to interact with large peer-to-peer networks, and it has the capability to transform and reshape society and economy by making the world more decentralized.
A blockchain is a digital concatenated record of transactions. The name derives from the fact that information is stored in a series of blocks, whereas a block typically contains a predetermined amount of data, for instance, one megabyte of transactions. These blocks of data are connected to form a chain, hence the name “blockchain.” A peer-to-peer network of computers validates transactions against the previous blocks. This means that to alter a particular record, for example, in order to put a spurious bitcoin into existence, it would require altering all subsequent blocks. Because data is spread out over a peer-to-peer network, single points of failure are eliminated; thus, blockchains are decentralized.
The concept of blockchain was put onto paper by a person or group using the name Satoshi Nakamoto, and in 2009 he or they created bitcoin, a decentralized and pseudo-anonymous cryptocurrency that has since become extremely valuable . Cryptocurrencies have provided an outlet for circumventing the conventional banking system and government restrictions. However, a public cryptocurrency is simply one implementation of blockchain technology, and it appears to be an ideal tool for enabling totalitarianism, especially if IoT, blockchain technology, and a social credit system are combined.
Blockchain technology, if embraced by world governments, may become an integrated part of social crediting systems through tokenization and monetary control. For instance, the Chinese government may create a national, digital currency, and by means of facial recognition linked to one’s virtual cryptocurrency wallet, the need for physical cash is eliminated. Proponents of a cashless society could argue that it would eliminate a country’s shadow economy, and put an end to funding of illegal activities and terrorism as every record of every transaction is stored in the blockchain. A government-enabled blockchain-permeated society also fosters social engineering as dissenters, lawbreakers, and others could, in an instant, be cut off from services, if they venture outside the government established parameters.
Blockchain tokenization is a process by which real-world objects or certain types of behaviors can be digitally represented on a blockchain. For instance, a $30 million real estate property was tokenized in 2018 . A token is a unit of value that is recorded on the blockchain. A token economy may be introduced in a social credit system to “build vibrant ecosystems through the use of tokens that can incentivize behavior .” Blockchain technology could, therefore, “create something that might enable the coordination of human activity at a much larger scale than has been possible before .” For example, a climate token where anyone who engages in climate-friendly behavior is rewarded, and those who do not contribute to the maintenance and provision of the climate are punished by losing tokens. Unemployed people could receive unemployment tokens for carrying out certain activities, but also have tokens removed from their digital wallet for not sending out enough job applications, etc. Perhaps a certain amount of tokens needs to be earned before a person is qualified for certain jobs. The applications of blockchain technology are considerable as even industry leaders BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Ford, and Toyota are developing blockchain technology for their products, especially for autonomous vehicles . In 2018, Daimler AG, the parent firm of Mercedes Benz, experimented with a small-scale token-based rewards system to encourage eco-driving. Those who followed the rules were rewarded with MobiCoins, which the driver could then use for a variety of services, like VIP access to DTM Race events . Token economies open up for a combination of blockchain technology, IoT, and a social credit system. Modern blockchains are fast, efficient, and operating in real-time, and are considered superior to traditional methods of storage. Therefore, if blockchain technology is connected to IoT, the result could be a near-complete, digital record of one’s interaction with the world. In conclusion, blockchain technology may enable decentralized and autonomous totalitarianism.
In favor of a social crediting system, it can be argued that extensive surveillance may reduce violent crime and overall improve people’s moral character, and if the rules, regulations, and punishments are codified into law by a democratically elected government, then a social crediting system is sound. However, as we shall see in the following section, these arguments do not stand scrutiny or justify a totalitarian regime.
Murders and other violent crimes committed outside the law are relatively rare phenomena compared to the violence meted out by governments. In fact, history profusely demonstrates a distinct correlation between the power of a government and atrocities . The more powerful a government is, the more capable it is, and more likely it is to kill its own citizens or foreigners. Throughout history, Chinese governments, like most other governments, have systematically killed their own or other populations through violence or deprivation. For the past century alone, Dr. Rudolph Rummel, whose specialty was democide or death by government, has calculated that the Chinese governments murdered more than 80,000,000 unarmed civilians, while governments murdered 262,000,000 worldwide . This massive and staggering figure is nonetheless deceptively conservative as Rummel ignored numerous democides by successive US governments and other governments he favored, such as the approximate 30% of the North Korean population that was killed by US bombing and chemical warfare . The reason for this neglect can presumably be traced to his palpable American jingoism and his unshakable adoration for democracy. Having not learned from studying the history of government-sanctioned democides, genocides, and holocausts, Rummel vehemently supported President George Bush, who told 935 lies about Iraq between 9/11 and the war of aggression against Iraq in March 2003 . Notwithstanding this “technicality” and that the Iraq war violated international and US law, he labeled the War on Terror, “George Bush’s democratic peace foreign policy [93, 94].” He, furthermore, advocated destabilizing the North Korean regime through assassinations and military force, even if it would kill a million people, in order to democratize the country . Thus, in 2014 when it was well known that the War on Terror had killed millions through violence and war-imposed deprivation, Rudolph Rummel died as a warmonger and as an inciter and intellectual facilitator of genocides and democides . Rummel, despite having a profound knowledge of state-sanctioned violence, never questioned the institution of government and naively went along with the fallacious and widespread notion that we need democracy and elect the right people in order to prevent wars, genocides, holocausts, and democides . In any event, Rummel’s overall conclusion cannot be challenged: “Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely .”
Governments, whether they are democratic or dictatorial, have a monopoly on violence, lawmaking, and money printing. Corporations, in particular, the top players of what constitutes the psychopharmaceutical complex and the industrial-military/security complex, control by economic means the force of government in order to create or protect their monopolies. Corporations are able to bribe, coerce, or manipulate governments into granting them unparalleled powers, which without government would not have been possible, for instance, the power to enforce fluoridation and vaccination by law, and inflate military spending and in the process make war and related matters very profitable businesses. In 2018, the world’s military expenditures approximated two trillion dollars worldwide . War is so profitable that the British have invaded 193 countries, Australia 85, France 82, the US 72 (52 after WW2), Germany 39, Japan 30, Russia 25, Canada 25, and Israel 12 . The so-called democratic peace theory, which holds that liberal democracies exercise peaceful foreign relations, is empirically false. While war is profitable for corporations, governments force taxpayers to give up their property in order to finance wars. Government is a control mechanism used to extract wealth from the masses. The well-being of voters or humanity, in general, is not a priority of governments. For instance, since September 11, 2001, about 29 million Americans have died avoidably from “all kinds of ‘life-style’ or ‘socio-political choice’ reasons (smoking, vehicle crashes, alcohol, etc.);” yet, US governments have spent about $6 trillion on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan [100, 101]. In lieu of trying to save the lives of 29 million Americans at home, the industrial-military/security complex has been enriched, and millions have been murdered in the Middle East and North Africa.
Even if elected officials paid heed to the opinion of the majority (an impossibility due to diversity of opinions), their existence is nonetheless illegitimate as it is made possible through taxation without consent, which enables them to maintain power. However, taxation is never a sufficient revenue source for governments, so massive loans are necessary. In 2019, the total world government debt surpassed $70 trillion, around $10,000 for every person in the world ; the government is the most economically irresponsible institution in history. Taxation without consent is theft as it violates people’s property rights, but becomes robbery when the instrument of force is introduced. In an essay on taxation, professor of philosophy, Michael Huemer, describes what it means when a government “taxes” citizens: “[It means] that the government demands money from each citizen, under a threat of force: if you do not pay, armed agents hired by the government will take you away and lock you in a cage .” Lysander Spooner, a 19th-century philosopher, is noted for saying, “If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized .” In his book The Constitution of no Authority, he elaborated on taxation as robbery regardless of the pretensions and number of people involved: “Taking a man’s money without his consent, is also as much robbery, when it is done by millions of men, acting in concert, and calling themselves a government, as when it is done by a single individual, acting on his own responsibility, and calling himself a highwayman. Neither the numbers engaged in the act, nor the different characters they assume as a cover for the act, alter the nature of the act itself .”
When we take a closer look at taxation, it becomes clear that it is the greatest single facilitator of most democides, genocides, and wars as these are primarily financed through taxation or even used as the active agent to starve populations to death. For example, under British occupation, the Indians were overtaxed and “despite a very high birth rate, the Indian population did not increase between 1860 (292 million) and 1934 (292 million),” and it has been estimated that 745 million Indians died avoidably from deprivation in this period . It gets worse because the British occupation started in 1757 and ended in 1947, during which “1.8 billion Indians died avoidably from egregious deprivation” pursuant to Dr. Gideon Polya, one of the world’s leading experts on avoidable mortality . Similarly, through taxation, world governments have financed their obsession with holocaust-weapons. In 1986, governments had an estimated 70,300 active nuclear weapons ready to be launched enough to kill all humans on earth multiple times; taxation is not for the benefit of the people, but for the enrichment of the elite .
Making matters worse is that governments are dedicated to secrecy. For example, between October 1, 2013, and September 30, 2014, the Obama administration classified 77.5 million documents, despite promises of transparency . Similar trends are apparent in other countries, with the difference being that the US is relatively forthcoming regarding their secrecy. You will never fully know or understand what your government is doing behind the scenes.
With the possible exception of religion, if any other institution had murdered more than 262,000,000 people in one century alone (democide only concerns unarmed civilians, not soldiers), it would have been abandoned by now; yet, people ignore the atrocious history of governments that continues to the present and proclaim their faith in elected officials to solve problems, the most dangerous of all beliefs.
If we make the false assumption that democratic governments represent the prevailing opinion of their respective populations, then the people should, technically speaking, be held accountable for actions undertaken by these officials. For example, in 2016, the US dropped at least 26,171 bombs (a “low” estimate admittedly) in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan . These 2016 atrocities were committed under the authority of Barack Obama, the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize winner who during his presidency oversaw the bombing of “wedding parties, funerals, kid’s soccer games, hospitals, schools, people in their homes and walking their streets, and farmers tilling their fields [110-115].” If populations started being personally responsible for the actions of state officials, such as spending time in prison for war crimes, then the institution of government would presumably be abandoned rapidly.
Governments’ abysmal humanitarian track record should be ample evidence for us to conclude that a social crediting system will, with little doubt, lead to atrocities. If, on the other hand, we believe that our elected government can and will solve problems for the benefit of the masses, an absurd belief, then as Voltaire said, “we shall commit atrocities .”
About the writer: Søren Korsgaard, author of America’s Jack the Ripper: The Crimes and Psychology of the Zodiac Killer, is the editor of www.crimeandpower.com and webmaster of www.paulcraigroberts.org. Support Søren’s work by making a one-time donation at crimeandpower.com/donate.
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