Big Data in Little China

Robb SmithCognitive, Conversations, Perspectives, Politics, Video, Worldviews 5 Comments

Are there fundamentally different ways for countries to progress into and through modernity? After all, the western model has been dominant for 200 years because of its success in doing so. But might Big Data — as controlled either by strong central states, private monopolistic businesses, or both — allow new forms of social regulation that can drive the evolution of non-western societies into modern values and beyond?

These are some of the huge questions that were brought up as Jeff Salzman, Ross Hostetter and Robb Smith looked at China’s efforts around its new “Social Credit Score,” a set of social monitoring and ranking systems that evaluate the behavior, personal characteristics, social relationships and legal conformance of Chinese citizens in order to steer its society and determine benefits within it.

Though seemingly diametrically opposed to a philosophy of individual liberty as that found in the west, it may be less so than it appears, with western versions of “social credit scores” piling up in the databases of private companies: models different by type but perhaps not much by degree. Western social credit scores—from GPA and SAT scores to social media followers— clearly have dramatic effects on people’s lives.

Even more striking, could the two grand development paths of the 21st century as posed by the US and China, actually highlight the emerging dialectic for the entire Earth over the next hundred years, with each biasing a pole of a fundamental integral polarity: a western version that privileges the individual, its agency, wholeness and rights, and an eastern one that privileges community, communion, a part and its responsibilities? Join us as we challenge our own western-centric biases as we look at China’s Social Credit Score, what just might grow to become one of the most important (and controversial) innovations of the next few decades.



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Robb Smith

About Robb Smith

Robb Smith is a leading thinker on the Transformation Age and the global Integral movement. He is the creator of the augmented leadership platform Context, co-founder and CEO of Integral Life and founder of the Institute of Applied Metatheory.

Ross Hostetter

About Ross Hostetter

Ross brings over 30 years of experience in conflict resolution, coaching, legal work, spiritual development, teaching, and communication to the Legal Evolution Group. His custom-designed leadership training and consulting practice uses complex problems as a springboard to an expanded view of who we might become.

Jeff Salzman

About Jeff Salzman

Jeff Salzman worked with Ken Wilber for several years in building the Integral Institute. He is a co-founder of Boulder Integral, the first bricks-and-mortar venue dedicated to the development of integral consciousness. These days Jeff provides integrally-inspired commentary on politics and culture on Integral Life and The Daily Evolver.


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    Excellent discussion! Feeds my mind and soul. Observing and listening to you three gives me hope in my challenge to converse with others from a more Integral perspective; rather than the knee jerk reactions I often express when reading or watching the news. Sometimes it’s lonely out here in the red, orange and murky green pool. Sooo grateful for Integral Life and your podcast topics Jeff, and well, the internet.

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    Regarding how China will evolve, having their child go to an American college is still the highest goal for newly wealthy Chinese parents. Education is highly valued in Chinese culture and English will continue to be the dominant language in scholarly publications. Our universities still dominate the top 20 in the world. Chinese overseas students are the highest number on virtually all US campuses. Granted, they are studying engineering and sciences, but they are getting more and more immersion in or exposure to green life styles. Also, many of these students (as well as youth in China) are only children (one child policy) aspiring to brake the mold of the old family system and gain orange independence. For many years Steve Job’s biography was china’s best selling book.

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    Love your discussions…keep them coming. I’m feeling movement in the energy pool surrounding my life with family, friends and the planet at large. Feels good, looks promising, might be an illusion, but hey, the experiment of evolution is infinite, complex and diverse. This stage in the geopolitical and social and personal development is exciting, terrifying and a tad nuts. Glad I sit here in the comfort of my sunny office drinking bullet proof coffee. One day I may have to leave this space actually engage on a deeper scale and actually visit China. Was not on my bucket list.

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