Digital Dictatorsby Ron Matsen
Who are the most powerful people in the world today? If I had asked that question twenty years ago, you would not be wrong to list the leaders of the major superpowers like the United States, Russia, etc. In that context, power was broadly defined as both economic and military might. The Bible predicts that in the end-times, a powerful leader will arise and dominate the world. Many Bible prophecy scholars have wrestled with the identity, method of control, and even the reach of this future leader.
At the core of today’s world is a digital dynamo that is growing at an alarming level. Connected by the World Wide Web, these all-knowing data devices collect, categorize, and cross-correlate an incalculable amount of information on us all. From bank accounts to medical records, from every phone location to every text or email sent, almost all our personal information is being gathered and stored in a global cauldron for nameless parties to poach at their will. Therefore, this shift to a digital world has caused our perception of “power” to change.
The Digital Dilemma
Most people have become comfortable with the fact that their personal finances are stored and controlled in a digital system. In a sense, we have become comfortable to “sleep in the mouth of the lion.” Not long ago, I drove to a local gas station that had an on-pump payment system. When I put my debit card into the machine and entered my PIN, the screen read back, “Card Declined.” I was shocked as I was confident that I had more than enough money in my account. Then it occurred to me that at that point, my entire financial freedom was suddenly set to zero, and I could not “buy or sell” without my digital account being unlocked. Fortunately, it was quickly rectified, and the jaws of the lion let me roam freely (for the moment).
The Financial Credit Score
I have lived outside the United States for the past thirty years. During that time, my wife and I borrowed money, bought cars and houses, and used credit as most households do with no issues, problems, or questions. Upon our return to the USA in January of 2022, I was surprised to see that a credit rating system had sprung up and was being used to assess my financial strength automatically. I quickly came to understand that your credit score is, for better or worse (and often worse), one of the more important numbers in your adult life. It dictates if you can get a loan and what rate you’ll pay. It could determine if you can ever own your own home. It might even determine if you get that dream job.
But how did this important number come to be? “In 1956, engineer Bill Fair teamed up with mathematician Earl Isaac to create Fair, Isaac, and Company, with the goal of creating a standardized, impartial credit scoring system. Within two years, they had begun selling their first credit scoring system. The current FICO score system debuted in 1989 and has become the industry standard.” Today, most people look to the online companies TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian to see what their FICO rating is.
What seemed strange to me is that I could not find any detailed definition of how this all-important number is developed. Therefore, I discovered that gone are the days when you could be assessed as a person by a person and where you could understand the criteria required to successfully achieve your financial objectives.
As I sat at the customer service desk in my local bank, I realized that more than fifty years of my financial history and performance were wiped out, and I now must kneel before the new invisible Credit Tzars and hope that their “system” will give me a favorable score as it appears that the all-important credit score is a mystery held close to the chests of these nameless Credit Data Dictators.
The Social Credit Score
Social ranking systems have been around for as long as civilization itself to categorize or highlight differences in social groups. History has shown us that because they are all based on subjective criteria, they can become the basis for unfair discrimination.
In 2014 China implemented a Social Credit system. This system is a broad regulatory framework intended to report on the trustworthiness of individuals, corporations, and governmental entities across China. The consequences of a poor social credit score could be serious. It may affect travel prospects, employment, access to finance, and the ability to enter contracts. On the other hand, a positive credit score could make a range of business transactions much easier.
In 2018, former U.S. Vice-President, Mike Pence, sounded the alarm bells about China’s social credit system, stating, “China’s rulers aim to implement an Orwellian system premised on controlling virtually every facet of human life – the so-called “social credit score.”
Many Americans might find the power of China’s social credit system astonishing. But people in the USA are already beholden to a similar system by stealth — it’s just established and enforced by private companies instead of the government. For example, “Life insurance companies can now base a person’s premiums on the content of their social media feeds.” Airbnb and Uber have millions of listings that limit their services to undesirable customers. A ban by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube (to name a few) is a regular occurrence as they ban the undesirable and unworthy. This formal exclusion is without any appeal process. The most disturbing aspect of the American social credit system is that these punishments are all levied outside the official justice system and, therefore, can be as punitive as the punisher wants. Thus, you can see that the Social Credit Digital Dictators are already exercising their private power to discriminate at will.
The Medical Metadata Score
Doctor and hospital records are changing. The paper medical records that we have been familiar with, along with the rest of the “written” world, are becoming electronic —that is, written, maintained, and retrieved as digital data. COVID-19 expedited the use of electronic data collection and sharing. By 2019, a vaccination passport had increasingly become the only ticket of entry into restaurants, gyms, and indoor performances. The problem was how much data these passports should contain.
While living in New Zealand until mid-January 2022, I saw the implementation of personal contract tracing. The thought here is that it is only a short step away from electronically verifying vaccination and linking the mandated contact tracing. Here are a few of the requirements that are levied on business owners and their patrons in New Zealand:
In the United States we see the possibility of a similar system being prepared for deployment. “Because of many emerging “after entry” benefits, federal and state governments, insurance companies, and medical institutions are heavily promoting the adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMR).”
“Despite benefits such as improved patient care coordination and access to patient information could bring, the electronic medical record (EMR) in its current state poses significant barriers to infection preventionists (IP) work efficiency during a pandemic. The 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic underscores both the importance of IPs to the healthcare system and the need for an ever-strengthening partnership between IPs and information technology (IT).”
Robert M. “Bob” Wachter, MD, is an academic physician and author. He is on the University of California, San Francisco faculty, where he is chairman of the Department of Medicine, the Lynne and Marc Benioff Endowed Chair in Hospital Medicine, and the Holly Smith Distinguished Professor in Science and Medicine. Dr. Wachter declares, “Starting now and lasting until forever, your health and healthcare will be determined, to a remarkable and somewhat disquieting degree, by how well the technology works.” He goes on to say, “Informatics is the field of medicine that concerns itself with “the interactions among and between humans and information tools and systems.” He summarizes his finding by stating, “more data-driven, automated healthcare will displace up to 80 percent of physicians’ diagnostic and prescription work.”
Simply put, Dr. Wachter is simply declaring what may be necessary and inevitable concerning the private health data being ultimately in a centralized repository. How secure can this personal data be in an interconnected worldwide database? Once again, we are left with nothing other than an automated IT system to offer its medical assessment by an IT algorithm. In this scenario, the Digital Dictator may be the AI (artificial intelligence) that crunches the data and delivers the diagnosis.
What’s Your Score?
It is not a stretch to see that all these personal rating systems could soon be consolidated into a centralized database that would allow the elite to monitor and control the masses. As we have already seen, governments can freeze personal bank accounts based on non-financial violations. In effect, a digital passport could be the natural byproduct giving the digital dictators total power over the people.
The Social Media Score
Although we can do little to change the course of the above, social media is an area of great interest to the ministry of Koinonia House because it constitutes an important point of access to our friends and followers.
The emergence of social media platforms in the early 2000s presented everyone with a portal through which its users could quickly communicate with a private subset of their friends. Koinonia House launched its Facebook page in 2014 and immediately accumulated approximately seven thousand page-likes. By 2016 the page had gained more than forty-five thousand page-likes. At this apex of exposure, we saw our posts reach more than one hundred thousand people with an average of one thousand interactions per post. As of 2022, we have less than thirty-nine thousand page-likes, and our posts reach around eight thousand people with an average of one hundred interactions per post. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that our “reach and interactions” have dramatically decreased since 2016. It is interesting to note that 2016 was a watershed year for the social media enterprises because they started to moderate and mute members with which they did not agree. As you can imagine, the past six years have given us time to assess our place on these platforms as we recognized that we are most likely being marginalized to the point of almost being invisible.
In 2012 we launched the Koinonia House YouTube Channel. During its modest beginning we attracted about seven thousand subscribers. By 2016 that number had risen to almost fifty thousand. By the end of 2019 we had breached the coveted one hundred thousand subscribers. Currently, our YouTube channel has more than one hundred eighty-six thousand subscribers.
The viewing statistics over this time is interesting in that they should track the increase of subscribers:
As you can see, our overall views are on a steady downward slope while our subscribers are continuing to increase. We also observed that up until 2016, a newly posted video would average thirty to fifty thousand views in the first year. Our recent videos struggle to get ten thousand views in their first year. Like Facebook, YouTube seemed to be dialing down the recommendation of our videos and making them harder to find in their search engine.
All the above seems to indicate that the KHouse social media platforms are now being held back and even blocked. As a side note, KHouse has offered 46 videos for free view through the Amazon Prime website.
In recent years Amazon has taken down all our videos without explanation which should raise some eyebrows.
When young David was preparing to meet Goliath, he did not consider the strength of the giant’s armor, his experience at fighting, nor even the lack of encouragement from his own countrymen. David knew he was on a mission that was God appointed. We see that he approached his enemy with five smooth stones. In military terms, it would be called asymmetric warfare. That is, moving outside the expected rules of combat.
We can see that the uncontrolled digital world is becoming more and more hostile to the point that it appears that the voice of Truth might be silenced. But, as David did not look to his own strength, so too we are seeking a way to face and defeat these Goliaths of the digital age. Soon, you will see significant changes in our social media efforts. We do not want to “throw good money after bad” by continuing to pour our limited resources into a down-turning marketplace for us. Instead, next month we will be releasing a new means to directly communicate with all our KHouse family.
The KHouse TV App is coming to iOS, Android and Roku soon!