2018-06-09 12:38   参考消息网  

Is Cyber Socialism Worth a Try?


Thomas Malone 托马斯·马隆

(continued) In other words, a cyber-socialist economy would decide how to allocate human labor, food, and other resources in a very different way from the system that prevails in capitalist economies. Instead of mutual agreements between buyers and sellers in a market, decisions about resources would be based on societal norms that are embodied in the way you're rated by other people and in the algorithms for computing reputations. Also, unlike a purely market-based economy, a cyber-socialist economy would explicitly take into account people's needs and abilities, not just what they consume and produce.

Would a system like this take substantial resources to operate? Yes. And would it be subject to many kinds of abuse? Yes. But our current systems also have problems like these, and it's not obvious that the difficulties of a cyber-socialist system would be worse than what we have today. And if it worked well, this kind of economy—in contrast to a capitalist economy—could allocate society's resources in a way that many people would consider fairer. It would also likely reduce the extremes of material wealth between the rich and the poor. So it seems to me worthwhile to think further about how a scenario like this might actually be implemented in a way that could be feasible and desirable.

Intriguingly, China is already experimenting with something it calls a social credit system, which has some of the characteristics of the scenario we've just seen. The Communist Party has said that it wants to roll out a nationwide version of the system by 2020, so this may be a harbinger of much bigger things to come.

For starters, the system keeps track of financial behavior, such as whether people keep up with their insurance premiums, tax payments, and credit card bills. The system is also expected to include information about various kinds of social behavior, such as cheating on subway fares, jaywalking, causing disturbances on airline flights, and violating family-planning limits.

For instance, in China, if your parents are over 60, the law requires you to visit them regularly and ensure that they have enough food; children who fail to fulfill these filial duties might be reported in the system. In the long run, the system may also include data about various kinds of online behavior, such as how many hours you play video games per day, how courteously you interact with other users in online forums, and how reliable the information you post is.

All this data will then be used to compute various“social credit” ratings that will lead to many kinds of benefits and penalties. People with high scores, for instance, may have access to luxury hotels, certain government jobs, favorable loan rates, and “green lanes”that entitle them to receive faster government services or faster security screening at airports. People with low scores might have limited access to good jobs, favorable mortgage rates, and good schools. They might even be unable to stay in certain desirable hotels or eat in certain restaurants.

The government planning documents for this system say its goal is to “allow the trustworthy to roam everywhere under heaven while making it hard for the discredited to take a single step.”

For the purposes of this discussion, I think the key point is that new information technologies are changing the political calculus of how to organize large groups. Could these new technologies allow, on a vastly larger scale, the kind of decision making based on norms and reputations that was common in ancient hunting-and-gathering communities? Could they, for instance, allow a new form of large-scale cyber-socialism to compete effectively with market-based economies? We don't know for sure, but experiments like China's social credit system will certainly provide fascinating indications about what might be possible.










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