Several weeks back, we conducted a workshop for World Usability Day in Hamburg. During the session, we employed the Disney Creativity Strategy, a three-step approach utilized by Mr. Walt Disney to craft his stories and dreams. Through this process, we imagined a future where social behavior receives equal or greater recognition compared to monetary value.

Typically, we assess our wealth and socio-economic status based on money, as it serves as the primary medium of exchange in the global economic system. However, true richness as human beings is not solely defined by monetary wealth. Nevertheless, money is the currency used to access essential services such as healthcare, education, and insurance. This reliance on money as a measure of value has fostered a culture centered around financial pursuits, potentially contributing to global inequality among communities.

What is the concept of inequality? In essence, “inequality” stems from disparities, which primarily concern social aspects, and diversity, which pertains to economic factors. When you link these concepts together, it forms the foundation of what we refer to as the global socio-economic system.

Unequal Scenes by Johnny Miller
by Johnny Miller

The aerial photograph of Cape Town captured by Johnny Miller as part of the Unequal Scenes Project vividly portrays the consequences of inequality, stemming from both disparity and diversity within a system that fails to prioritize essential human values crucial for fostering meaningful relationships. Consequently, while certain communities (on the left) are integrated into the system, others (on the right) are left excluded.

Another worsening of inequality and disparity could potentially arise from the emergence of AI. While it is important not to adopt a solely pessimistic outlook on our future with AI, it is evident that many tasks currently carried out by humans for financial compensation may eventually be delegated to artificial intelligence, which operates without remuneration. This shift could leave a significant portion of the population without access to employment opportunities. Therefore, it is imperative to consider alternatives, including the exploration of alternative global currencies in addition to traditional money.

Currently, we have the opportunity, and perhaps even the responsibility, to imagine a future global socio-economic system that incorporates our fundamental human values—how we interact, behave, and relate to one another. This vision aligns closely with the fundamental concept of the Social Credit Score (SCS) system. Similar to the historical introduction of paper money in ancient China, the concept of the SCS system was first conceived in China and has since been adapted in various forms elsewhere. For instance, the United States has adopted a Merit-Based System, particularly under the administration of Trump, to assess immigrants seeking visas. Similar programs also exist in Canada and Australia. The SCS represents an experimental approach that is scheduled for implementation in China by 2020, with other groups considering its gradual adoption.

What is its functionality? It facilitates the assignment of a “score” to all citizens by a governmental system, considering various trackable activities. However, it does not currently permit individuals to assess each other.

What comes next? Currently, each individual possesses a specific sum of money, but in the future, it is likely that we will also possess a certain number of points.

What’s the current situation? A similar concept already exists within the framework of our existing system: we undergo evaluations when opening bank accounts, applying for loans, or seeking rental accommodations (known as Schufa in Germany), among other scenarios. As with any significant initiative, opinions vary, with some viewing it positively and others anticipating negative consequences. Currently, it’s challenging to predict the outcome of future developments. However, we can contemplate the values that might govern such a scenario and how we will assess each other based on them. Indeed, the Social Credit Score system could undergo various iterations in the future:

1 – One possibility is that it could offset financial limitations, thereby empowering those who are economically disadvantaged. This means that individuals might have the opportunity to obtain goods by partially paying with money and partially with their SCS. For instance, even if someone cannot afford access to university, their SCS could automatically qualify them for a scholarship based on their social performance in school.

2 – It could provide access to certain services while diminishing the influence of monetary wealth. It’s conceivable that individuals may need to attain a particular SCS score within society to gain access to certain goods. For instance, even if someone has a substantial budget to buy a home in a desirable area, they might be unable to do so if their SCS score is insufficient for that particular community, which values factors beyond mere monetary wealth.

3 – It might entirely replace money, prioritizing human values over economic ones. We could potentially inhabit a system that emphasizes social aspects over economic ones. For instance, one might have the option to cover the cost of an expensive doctor’s visit using SCS scores, with money potentially being phased out or utilized solely for particular transactions.

These are just the first ideas, we developed in our workshop. And worth a big thank you to our dear participants, who contribute to the big question of our time, how to tackle the challenges of a future where money might be not the only value. They and we took the first step into a more human-first future.

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