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What if you could improve your social credit score by reading this entire article? Would that be motivation? Well, you would have to know what a social credit score meant. And you would have to actually have such a score.

You don’t have such a score now, but you may one day. The Social Credit System is a proposed Chinese government initiative to develop a national reputation system. Though it is still being developed, the intent is to assign a “social credit” rating to every citizen. The score would be based on government data regarding their economic and social status.

It sounds like some science-fiction horror story of the future. When I first heard about this real plan, I thought of the 2016 episode titled “Nosedive” from season three of the British science fiction anthology series Black Mirror which is shown on Netflix.

‘Black Mirror’ – Netflix

In that episode, people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have. The scores impact their socioeconomic status. The protagonist, Lacie, is obsessed with her ratings and through a series of interactions with different people and has a rapid reduction in her ratings.

In this future-that-looks-like-today society, they use eye implants and mobile devices so that everyone shares their daily activities. You can also see someone’s current average and that has significant influence on the way they are viewed.  Lacie’s 4.2 rating prevents her from getting a luxury apartment which requires a 4.5 or better rating. Lacie tries her best to game the system.

The proposed China system is not only a mass surveillance tool that uses big data analysis technology, but is also a way to rate businesses operating in the Chinese market.

A Chinese “super app” called Alipay is already assigning users a three-digit score that works as “credit for everything in your life.” This “Zhima Credit” scale of 350-950 assesses people’s worth beyond finances and is meant to serve as a “credit system that covers the whole society.”

The Chinese government’s “Planning Outline for the Construction of a Social Credit System (2014–2020)” focused on four areas: honesty in government affairs, commercial integrity, societal integrity and judicial credibility. The rating of individual citizens is considered to be “societal integrity.” The plans are to have credit scores for all businesses operating in China.

In news story I heard, it said that you can gain or lose points for how well you separate and recycle your trash. It was unclear how this is monitored – trash collectors, your neighbors, credit police?

Eight companies were picked by the People’s Bank of China in 2016 to develop pilots to give citizens credit scores, including the giant Alibaba Ant Financial Services, which operates Sesame Credit. Ant Financial CEO Lucy Peng has said that Zhima Credit “will ensure that the bad people in society don’t have a place to go, while good people can move freely and without obstruction.”

In an example of one person who started with a 600 score and was able to rise to 722, his higher score entitled him to “favorable terms on loans and apartment rentals, as well as showcasing on several dating apps should he and his wife ever split up, and with a few dozen more points, he could get a streamlined visa to Luxembourg.”

Though scores are not visible on a person (an augmented reality vision) and you can’t currently access other people’s scores on the app, your score is nicely color coded, so a 710 sees a “calming” blue background and a 550 will be greeted by an “alarming” orange tone.

Social credit also involves looking at your friends, and if they are all high-score people, that helps you. Bad credit friends are not a good thing.  Sorry Lacie, but we can’t be friends any more. Your score is bringing me down.


credit score

An “alarming” score on Sesame credit score



Hall of the Bulls

In 1940, four teenage boys and a dog named Robot stumbled upon Paleolithic drawings in a cave in Lascaux, France. A precise date for the art is difficult to determine but scientists used carbon dating to estimate the age of some charcoal found in the caves, and according to that method, the drawings are about 17,000 years old.

In a cave approximately 66 feet wide and 16 feet high and connected to a number of smaller chambers there are about 2,000 drawings and engravings, mostly of animals: horses, bison, red deer, stags, cats, and aurochs — large, black cattle-like animals that are now extinct.

The chambers have been given evocative names: the Great Hall of the Bulls; the Chamber of Felines; and the Shaft of the Dead Man. In addition to the figures, there also appears to be an Ice Age star chart: clusters of stars that resemble known constellations like Taurus the Bull, the Summer Triangle, and the Pleiades.

Werner Herzog’s film, Cave of Forgotten Dreams,  introduces us to these images from 30,000 years ago, painted during the last ice age by Cro-Magnon artists. The film, part history lesson and part inquiry into the nature of human creation. Herzog says that  “You sense somehow this is the origin of the modern human soul; this is the origin of art.”


Tang Dynasty mural of bodhisattvas found at the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang, China.

The Diamond Sutra is the world’s oldest book bearing a specific date of publication, 868 A.D. It was printed on a 16-foot scroll using wood blocks. It was discovered in 1907 in Turkestan, among 40,000 books and manuscripts walled up in one of the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas.

Early Buddhist monks made their way from northwest India to inhabit the Mogao Caves which came to be known as the “Caves of a Thousand Buddhas.”


The Cave of a Thousand Buddhas is located just outside the town of Dunhuang, also spelled “Tunhuang.”

The Diamond Sutra is a collection of Buddhist teachings ( sutra comes from Sanskrit and means teachings or scriptures) set up as a dialogue between the Buddha and Subhuti, one of his elderly disciples.

It is short and can be read, memoried and recited in an hour.

“As a lamp, a cataract, a star in space
an illusion, a dewdrop, a bubble
a dream, a cloud, a flash of lightning
view all created things like this.”
(Buddha speaking in the Diamond Sutra as translated by Red Pine)

In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha declares that the sutra will be called “The Diamond of Transcendent Wisdom” because wisdom can cut like a sharp diamond through illusion. In the sūtra, the Buddha has finished his daily walk with the monks to gather offerings of food, and he sits down to rest. Elder Subhūti comes forth and asks the Buddha a question. What follows is a dialogue regarding the nature of perception. The Buddha often uses paradoxical phrases such as, “What is called the highest teaching is not the highest teaching”.  Like many of the later Zen koans, the Buddha is generally thought to be trying to help Subhūti unlearn his preconceived, limited notions of the nature of reality and enlightenment.

All conditioned phenomena
Are like dreams, illusions, bubbles, or shadows;
Like drops of dew, or flashes of lightning;
Thusly should they be contemplated.

The caves were forgotten until the year 1900, when an itinerant Taoist monk named Wang Yuan Lu happened upon them and began to slowly restore the caves. When he eventually unsealed the caves, there were more than 50,000 texts and paintings. Unsure of what to do with all the manuscripts, he was told to seal the cave back up.

An archaeologist, Aurel Stein (a Hungarian working for the British)  convinced Wang Yuan Lu to part with a huge amount of manuscripts and left the Caves of a Thousand Buddhas with 24 cases of manuscripts and five cases of paintings and relics, and in return, gave Wang just £130 and the promise that he wouldn’t tell anyone what Wang had done. The Diamond Sutra was among these 7,000 manuscripts.

Stein was knighted in England but was rightly hated in China for stealing national treasures and later scholars came and took more of the treasures, even chipping murals off the walls.,

A page from the Diamond Sutra, printed in the 9th year of Xiantong Era of the Tang Dynasty, i.e. 868 CE. Currently located in the British Library, London which says it is "the earliest complete survival of a dated printed book."

Two Eastern summer Moon festivals share a common theme of marking those who have departed.

In the Chinese Moon calendar, on the 14th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the Gates of Hell open, and ghosts pour forth from the Nine Darknesses into the sunlit world. This Hungry Moon is the reason for Hungry Moon festivals and traditions.To placate the dead, Hell Money (fake paper money) is burned, offerings are made, and paper boats and floating lanterns are set out to give direction to wayward spirits.

Though many spirits simply seek out the comforts of their former homes and the company of their loved ones, there are some rancorous spirits also roam the streets, seeking revenge on those who have wronged them, before and after their deaths.

Offerings of ginger candy, sugar cane, smoky vanilla and rice wine might appease the ghosts who give off their own scent of white sandalwood, ho wood, ti, white grapefruit, crystalline musk and aloe.

These hungry ghosts are often thought to be lost or disturbed souls. Unlike normal spirits, a hungry ghost is thought to have been greedy in life or to have been forgotten by his or her descendants.

In some traditions, these ghosts are the spirits of those who have died tragically, violently, or wrongfully. They are hungry during the time of the seventh moon to seek revenge against those who have wronged them.

On the seventh lunar month, hungry ghosts are free to actively haunt or harass the living for up to a month-long period.

There is a 2008 film, Seventh Moon, which follows an American newlywed couple as they face the horrors of the seventh lunar moon of Chinese myth. The filmmaker Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project) used many of the actual legends and much of the folklore surrounding the seventh moon and the Hungry Ghost Festival, the exotic locales of rural China, and his own interpretations of the Hungry Ghost.

Lanterns floating in Hawaii

In Japan, this month brings Obon, the 3-day Festival of Lanterns. This Buddhist and Shinto celebration honors the dead, and homes, altars, shrines and tombs are cleaned and decorated. Gardens are hung with lanterns to light the way of the dead so that they can join their families for the festival.

Obon was originally celebrated around the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar. Obon celebrations vary in different parts of the world. In many regions of Japan, Obon is celebrated from August 13 to 16. In some areas in Tokyo, Obon is celebrated around July 15th, and it is still celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month in the lunar calendar in many areas in Okinawa.

Obon (also just Bon) is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honor the departed but has evolved into a family reunion holiday during which people return to ancestral family places and visit and clean their ancestors’ graves. The spirits of those ancestors are supposed to revisit the household altars. It has been celebrated in Japan for more than 500 years and traditionally includes a dance, known as Bon-Odori.

In the United States, the “Bon season” is an important part of the present-day culture and life of Hawaii. Bon Odori festivals are also celebrated in North America, particularly by Japanese-Americans or Japanese-Canadians affiliated with Buddhist temples and organizations. Buddhist Churches of America temples in the U.S. typically celebrate Bon Odori with both religious Obon observances and traditional Bon Odori dancing.

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