Forget 1984, and focus on 1999: the year “The Matrix” debuted in theaters.
Is it possible that Xi Jinping, the current president of China, saw the film during its original run, and was so inspired by the image of one person, one pod—of all the world’s peoples stripped, stacked, and sedated in isolation chambers—that he scribbled his own rendition of these translucent amniotic sacs, shaped like giant spearheads with venous tracks of metal and rubber; is it possible that Xi saw a dystopian world of mass compliance as his model of utopia?
If so, I have seen the future—and it works for us.
If Xi fully implements his social credit system, it will be a triumph for conformity in China, and a permanent victory for creative thinkers throughout America.
It will be the merger of man and machine, of government by machines—the rise of the machines, to mix cinematic metaphors—where algorithms are the ultimate authoritarians, where 1.4 billion people are an abstraction: a number that is easy to calculate but impossible to conceive, a number that permits diversity of dress but not diversity of thought, a number that constitutes a majority but not a constitution with rights for sizable minorities of Christians and critics with a conscience.
It will be a disaster for China.
It will deprive China of what it needs: intelligent people, wise people, good people. It will force people to flee, or die trying, as conformity leaves no room for dissent, as art descends into agitprop and science succumbs to the limits of the least creative scientists.
Let China build its surveillance state so we may watch Beijing’s live feed of people who survive without living.
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