01 Feb I participated in a Social Credit System experiment: My Year in the Simulation Part 2
As much as mankind seeks a society free from all the pain and suffering that comes from disorder and violence, the seed that leads to all of this will always be there. So if one day, someone creates an algorithm to weed out only the best that humans have to offer, do be wary. The seed of disorder and violence will eventually filter in, it will grow and flourish and the algorithm will inevitably fail. It will always end this way. And that’s because we are the seed. And there is no escape from the seeds of mankind.
Osiris believed that it could fabricate trustworthy, reliable, happy humans using positive reinforcement and a social credit system. The researchers at Osiris believed that they could sell this concept to some of the most advanced nations on earth. But when I saw the young man throw himself from the fifth floor window, I knew the simulation was doomed. I knew other things had filtered into the system.
More worrisome to me, if I were to believe what the note said, I had already been kept for a longer period of time than what I had signed up for. And as much as I loved my life inside the simulation, I couldn’t help but feel like I was missing out on the real world outside of the island. It’s like being in a dream. As much as you love a good dream, you still want it to end. You still want to wake up.
Let me tell you a little bit more about the simulation. First, it is not a virtual reality world. At least, that is not what we were led to believe nor what we perceived when we first arrived to the island. The simulation consisted of Osiris watching, monitoring, rating and averaging everyone’s scores using its algorithm developed by Dr. Pleitez and his colleagues. There were 5 brackets within the point system.
HIGH / 5 = 2000 MEDIUM / 4 = 1500 NEUTRAL / 3 = 1000 LOW / 2 = 500 DANGER ZONE / 1 = 499 and under
Note: Anything below a score of zero required an immediate trip to the Osiris clinic.
When we all started out, we were each given 1000 points which made everyone Neutral / 3. From there, it was up to us to either increase or decrease the average as the scores were rated against each other. This meant that the score to reach a certain bracket was constantly changing. As time went on, all of the bracket minimums increased.
On a regular day, my points would be distributed like this:
Wake up on time: +20 Brush my teeth: +8 Eat a healthy breakfast: +17 Check the Osiris social media network: +10 Not click “like” on most posts: -10 Cycle to work: +11 Get to work on time: +40 Attempt to start conversation with coworker at lunch: +12 Eat pizza for lunch: -17 Cycling home after work: +11 Watching Nat Geo after work: +5 Watching it for three straight hours: -14 Skipping dinner: -20 Brushing my teeth at night: +12 Checking Osiris social media network before bed: -5 Liking Participant 48’s post: +5 Going to sleep not too late: +10
Day 44 Total: +95
As time went on, the surveillance, monitoring and rating increased as Osiris’s algorithm became more advanced. By the second month inside the simulation, Osiris was rating the amount of brush strokes we made while brushing our teeth. It rated how long you studied a post on its social media network before liking it. It rated the quality of the people you associated with. On one particular day, I was shocked when Osiris removed 15 points from me for disliking a participant’s outfit without me having said anything. I thought Osiris had become so advanced that it could now hear our thoughts. After consulting the central office about this disturbing and invasive occurrence, I was told that Osiris’s latest algorithm knew how to decipher subtle facial movements and interpret them as feelings, thus being able to rate emotions.
Some might say that emotions make us human. It seems almost impossible to separate yourself from emotions. And yet, the simulation consistently encouraged us to be happy, positive, always looking at the bright side of things. If you were not smiling, the system assumed you were not giving it your best effort to enjoy life and to also make it pleasant for others. In fact, being depressed would cause your Social Credit Score to drop so low that ejection from the simulation was almost guaranteed. Showing signs of anxiousness would do the same. These emotions and feelings were not considered to be trustworthy or reliable under the Osiris simulation, which in turn meant that they were not considered helpful in any society. By the end of the second month, almost everyone inside the simulation walked around with a perpetual, fake, unnerving smile. A smile void of humanity.
Of course, the ultimate proof of the flaws within a system like this was what happened on the day the man jumped from the window. As we all stood in shock and horror, looking at his lifeless body on the pavement, some of us began to smile. It was a sinister scene. A man crushed against the pavement on the ground surrounded by people who were smiling; people who didn’t know anymore how to react because all they sought after were higher social credit scores. I didn’t know anymore if this was a flaw of the simulation or a seed of violence flourishing in a mutated form.
I began my plan to investigate the note by placing a complaint at the clerk’s office. My complaint was about disagreeing with the way Osiris rated real human emotions. I explained in writing that I didn’t find it particularly helpful to a society as it felt like happiness should be genuine and not something forced onto us. It seemed okay to portray happiness on social media, but to actually be forced to live it without cause seemed cruel. The clerk took my complaint, read it over and when she finished, she gave me the biggest smile I had ever seen. I wasn’t sure if this was a sign that she agreed with it or if she was just trying to gain more points on her score. She informed me they would get back to me soon with an answer.
That night, as I counted all my scores from the day, I got my answer. I had lost a whopping 500 points. Guess they didn’t like my complaint. It was the most I had ever lost and it actually made me fall into a lower bracket. In this lower bracket, I could no longer be allowed to work at the Osiris central office. I was furious. I let my rage flow uncontrollably. It was crazed. It was as if I had forgotten how to be angry and by doing so, I no longer knew how to control my anger once it came out. I only remember a blur of punches to the walls in my room and a river of emotions flowing out of me. Eventually I must have fallen asleep from all of the energy spent.
In the morning, I had a message on my Osiris social network inbox. I had lost some more points and the system had witnessed my loss of temper. So it had a new job set up for me where I could practice my “compassion.” I was assigned to work at the Osiris clinic as an assistant to the nurse. She was participant 48. I wasn’t really sure why working at the clinic as an assistant was in a lower bracket within the system, until I worked my first shift there.
I had to clean up vomit. I had to clean up blood. I had to listen to people excessively cry from pain. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who had forgotten how to control any emotion after spending weeks smiling and “happy.” I had to enter information meticulously into the computer so that Osiris could give the nurse the correct instructions for the patient. But the worst part of working at the clinic was taking care of patients who had clearly entered some form of psychosis. They spoke about things they were seeing; things that could not have been real, horrifying things that just couldn’t exist. They came in looking disheveled, paranoid and anxious. It made me think of the young man who gave me the note. I wanted to believe that this was an effect of the stress caused by being constantly watched and monitored, but something told me otherwise.
Whenever these types of patients came in, Osiris prescribed a medication called Dumoxx. Once the patient took the pill, they mostly calmed down and returned to their regular life inside the simulation. Something I did notice was that all the patients suffering from these bizarre and disturbing visions were participants with extremely low scores.
After getting accustomed to the flow of things at the clinic, I decided it was time to start back up my investigation that I had placed on the back burner. I was in charge of typing down all of the medical history of the patients into Osiris. As I asked the questions, I would add my own questions.
“Do you ever have a hard time telling what time it is?”
“How long do you believe you have been here for?”
“Does it ever feel like you’ve been here for longer than you think?”
Each time I asked these questions, Osiris would deduct points from my Social Credit Score. My SSC was becoming dangerously low but I couldn’t stop because many of the answers only fueled my need to investigate more.
“I feel like it has been a long time.”
“To be completely honest, I have no idea how long we’ve been here for.”
“Sometimes I can’t even remember my life before this all began.”
As I spent my days investigating the concept of time within the simulation, other things were occurring that I had completely ignored. Seeds of the sinister kind were filtering in on a much larger scale. We began to receive more and more patients that came in with bruises and wounds. Most of the time, the patients did not want to speak about what had happened to them. But finally, one day, a patient felt safe enough to confide in us.
“It was my coworkers. I’m a pretty lazy person when it comes to healthy eating and the sugary and fatty foods here are so good that I haven’t been able to help myself. My score has suffered. So my corworkers have been shunning me for some time now and the simulation has been increasing their scores each time they shun me. Last week my coworkers started to do weird things,” he paused, his hands shaking, “They started to hide my food at lunch. The simulation gave them points for that because they were said to be helping me to lose weight and to be better. But I felt humiliated and horrible. They did it again this week so I went to confront one of them. As I told her that it wasn’t right what they were doing, one of them punched me in the back. And then another one. And then one more. I could hear their wrist devices going off, earning more points with each punch or kick they delivered. And they were all smiling. The system thought they were defending her so they all earned points.”
The patient burst into tears. I checked his score and his score was actively going down as he recounted his horrible experience.
“Why don’t you just leave the simulation?” I asked.
“I’ve tried, but I don’t know how.”
This was news to me. I was under the impression that it was easy to leave. It worried me but I tried not to think too much into it. We felt awful for him and began to treat him immediately. After attending to his wounds, Osiris prescribed him Dumoxx. By the time he left the clinic, he had a small grin forming on his face. We never saw him again.
As time went on, participants were becoming more thirsty for points, provoking the system to evolve each time. They were becoming violent. An upper class of oppressors with large grins on their faces began to emerge. The simulation was encouraging them and rewarding them with more points, making them more powerful within the system. It started to look like the real world, except it was worse on every level. Everyone was your competition.
The day you are rewarded by a society for being cruel, for being an oppressor, for treating others like you own them, that is the day the society is doomed to fail.
One day, the seed that always sprouts arrived at our door. Someone had received 1000 points for killing a woman who was planning to secretly leave the simulation. I had to clean her up. This was the second dead body I had come across while at the simulation. I had to smile while doing it. But as I wiped the blood from her nails, I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked out of the clinic and ran to the central office. After they denied me access to speak directly with Dr. Pleitez, I stood there screaming about all the horrible things happening inside the simulation.
I could hear my points going down on my wrist device. And then, as my score barely lingered by a thread, I became paralyzed. They say the strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown. I didn’t know what I was looking at. The things I saw were not natural. I knew I had to take whatever was inside Dumoxx to make it all go away.