I just watched the episode 3.1 Nosedive of Black Mirror [Wikipedia]. I was impressed by the philosophical deepness of the TV show so far, but this episode impressed me in particular due to its relevance in our society.
Nosedive shows a society which is obsessed with rating. A rating can be incredibly useful, whenever we check Google Maps for a nice place to go out, a movie on Netflix, a hotel, an online service, or product on Amazon, we tend to base our choice on the rating of other people. Every major service nowadays has a way for customers to leave their feedback. Feedback often consists of an optional comment and a rating from 1 to 5.
In short, rating allows us to separate the wheat from the chaff on a daily basis. It adds credibility to a product or service and is a good way customers can protect their wallet, not buying low-quality products or fraudulent services.
But what would happen if we’d apply rating to our daily social encounters? That is, instead of applying rating to goods and services, we’d implement it with people? At first, the idea may sound unfamiliar but not too bad. It could have dramatic consequences, though. Imagine what would happen if we would live in constant fear of bad rating. That obsession would naturally alter our behavior.
Suddenly our social encounters would be heavily based on game theory. “How do I have to behave so that other people give me 5 stars?”, would be the first question we’d ask ourselves. Fake-politeness would be the firs natural gesture.
Remember, once the rating is given, you can’t change it. And you can’t know the rating the other person has given you before you give her your rating. This exact system is set-up in the long distance ridesharing service Blablacar by the way, creepy?
People could become more and more frightened to speak their minds due to the fear of bad ratings. Just as in Nosedive, after every encounter on the street or at work, we’d exchange ratings either on our phones or directly through a VR device, perhaps implanted on our retina.
You might argue that rating would enable us to protect ourselves from dangerous people. That would be true if our ratings were based rationally and justly based on the aggressive behavior of other people, but we are not rational most of the time. And even if we were, let’s suppose our rating would be perfectly fair, there is still this philosophical question.
If a person can’t hide her past, how is she supposed to get a another shot?
Do we just deny that person a recovery, a second chance? Boundless rating could cause a dramatic downward spiral just as the one Lacie experienced in Nosedive.
And once that poor person would hit the ground, nobody would want to speak to her, because after all, people would look through their artificial retinas and think, “speaking to a low rated person is dangerous” or “I don’t want to be associated with low ranked people!”
Let me know in the comments, which implications do you think would represent problems or benefits?
Also published on Medium.