One of the big appeals of Netflix’s techno-horror anthology Black Mirror is that it always feels borderline plausible; Charlie Brooker and his team are experts at teasing out the implications of modern technology and finding the right ways to twist them into outright horror. The series can’t always stay all the way ahead of the curve that keeps it firmly in science-fiction territory, though, as revealed—for the latest time—by a new Wired article about a new kind of social currency that’s gaining prevalence in China, and which closely resembles the dystopian popularity scale established in the show’s third season premiere, “Nosedive.”
The technology in question is called Zhima Credit, and it’s part of a much larger app that Chinese smartphone users use to make more than $5 trillion in mobile-based payments per year. According to Wired’s Mara Hvistendahl, Zhima combines the usual stuff that goes into a credit score—bill payments and the like—with more nuanced social data, like where you shop, and (worryingly) who you’re friends with. Higher ratings allow you to do things like rent a car without a deposit. (Shades of the apartment discount Bryce Dallas Howard’s character is angling for in the Black Mirror episode.) Meanwhile, the Chinese government—never especially happy to see such a major aspect of its citizens’ life move out of its control—has been experimenting for years with a similar system of its own, with much heavier consequences; people rated a “D” in the trial systems the government has tried have found themselves placed on no-fly lists and banned from other forms of travel.
The whole article is a very creepy look at the ways data collection and online economies are already starting to spread weird tendrils into our day-to-day lives; it’s also a lot like MeowMewoBeenz from Community, in case that takes off some of the old Black Mirror edge.