Thinking Out Loud

May 30, 2019

A World of Social Credits

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:57 am

Yesterday Uber Technologies announced changes to its ride-share system insofar as it is affected by ratings that passengers give its drivers, and the drivers give the passengers.

It prompted the announcer on the talk radio station that’s on when I drive home to be reminded of an episode of Black Mirror in which every single interaction is tied to a rating system, including such trivial things as paying for your fuel at the self-serve station or picking up milk at the convenience store. People are constantly identified and the rating is quickly punched in at the conclusion of each transaction. Things like being a blood donor are obviously weighted higher for consideration of a person’s social credit score.

Early on in the episode, a woman goes to rent a car only to be told something like, “We only rent to sevens or higher.” She must then try to find away around the system, and my wife, who has seen the episode, says at that point the story gets darker.

I have always liked — and often used — the Max Headroom phrase “20 minutes into the future.” From my perspective, many of the things science fiction dreams of happening in a very distant future are often, relatively speaking, just minutes away from being reality.

Anything transactional in a goods-and-services sense always reminds people of the words of Revelation 13:

It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.

When BankAmericard and MasterCharge (today’s VISA and MasterCard) were first introduced in the U.S. some Evangelicals claimed this was the forerunner of the mark of the beast. (The same, but to a lesser degree, in the UK with the introduction of Barclaycard.) It was a similar reaction when UPC barcodes were introduced — somewhere I have a prototype print of the circular type of barcode that was never used — and then the same discussion once again when microchips for dogs and cats were first made available.

But each of these discussions focuses on the how of the technology, but not so much on the what.

What if your ability to conduct transactions isn’t determined so much by how much is in your account or the limit of your available credit, but instead by other factors, such as the social credits? What if, like the woman in the TV show, you can’t rent the vehicle for reasons other than financial? Uber stated that below a certain point customers may stop having access to the Uber app. People were calling in with opening lines such as, “Hi, my name is Dan and I’m a 4.87.”

The talk radio hosts spring-boarded to a discussion of Uber and Lyft drivers refusing to take people to certain destinations. What if your car breaks down and your conservative fundamentalist Uber driver refuses to take you to Joel Osteen’s church? Or what if the atheist driver refuses to pick you up at Saddleback to give you a ride home? (And why are they working on Sunday?) What if the fish on the back of your car caused you to be down-rated by people you weren’t even dealing with at arm’s length?

I would argue that the potential for market disruption — not to mention blatant discrimination — here is huge, and the insidiousness of it makes the issue of bakers refusing to bake wedding cakes for certain customers look tame by comparison. 


Update: There’s a reader comment below that bears highlighting. The link is to a New York Post story from May 18th which begins:

Imagine calling a friend. Only instead of hearing a ring tone you hear a police siren, and then a voice intoning, “Be careful in your dealings with this person.”

Would that put a damper on your relationship? It’s supposed to.

Welcome to life in China’s “Social Credit System,” where a low score can ruin your life in more ways than one…

 

January 1, 2010

Bottom Drops Out of Donations at Saddleback: $1M Debit Crisis

The bigger they are, the harder it gets during a recession,  as USAToday reports:

Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Community Church

Evangelical pastor Rick Warren appealed to parishioners at his California megachurch Wednesday to help fill a $900,000 deficit by the first of the year.

Warren made the appeal in a letter posted on the Saddleback Church website. It begins “Dear Saddleback Family, THIS IS AN URGENT LETTER.”

“With 10% of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated,” the letter reads.

Still, Warren said the church managed to stay within its budget, but “the bottom dropped out” when Christmas donations dropped. “On the last weekend of 2009, our total offerings were less than half of what we normally receive…”

[continue reading the story at USAToday Religion]

Related story at Godvertiser blog discusses the announcement — just one day earlier — that Warren’s magazine is discontinuing its print edition and going digital.

December 23, 2009

Link Letter

Art Linkletter was famous for doing something on TV, but I can't remember what

You’ll never know unless you click on these links, right Art?

  • I never thought the day would come when I’d link to John MacArthur’s blog, but he does a good job of separating out the nuances between “Word-Faith” doctrine and “Prosperity Gospel;” perhaps as only a non-Pentecostal can do.   All this follows the passing last week of Oral Roberts, and is a rebuttal to a (linked) Christianity Today article by Ted Olsen.   Check it out at Grace to You.
  • Speaking of Prosperity Gospel, and how it raises lifestyle expectations, The Atlantic magazine asks the question in a lengthy, in-depth article, “Did Christianity Cause The Crash?”

    Demographically, the growth of the prosperity gospel tracks fairly closely to the pattern of foreclosure hot spots. Both spread in two particular kinds of communities—the exurban middle class and the urban poor. Many newer prosperity churches popped up around fringe suburban developments built in the 1990s and 2000s,…precisely the kinds of neighborhoods that have been decimated by foreclosures… Zooming out a bit,…most new prosperity-gospel churches were built along the Sun Belt, particularly in California, Florida, and Arizona—all areas that were hard-hit by the mortgage crisis. … “financial empowerment” seminars that are common at prosperity churches…pay lip service to “sound financial practices,” but overall they would send the opposite message: posters advertising the seminars featured big houses in the background, and the parking spots closest to the church were reserved for luxury cars.

    Read the whole article here.

  • New Blog of the week:  Redeem the Time by David Mercier.
  • Rob Bell item of the week:  “Christians Shouldn’t Fear Controversy Over Doctrine” by Drew Nichter at Associated Baptist Press.
  • Quote of the week: “Good preaching is like a belly button, every person has their own idea of just what it should look like.”  – One of several observations by Clint Cozier, who marks the occasion of the end of his Presbyterian pastorate in Grand Rapids by starting a blog.
  • YouTube video of the week:  “O Come All Ye Faithful” by the online sensation, Pomplamoose Music.   The music’s great; the video itself is excellent.    If you like it, which you will, you can check out “Always in the Season” at this link which is a combo music video and World Vision fundraiser.  (It means “grapefruit” in French.)
  • Speaking of Christmas, why are the genealogies of Jesus in Luke and Matthew so different?   Grant Osborne answers that one in “Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather?” at Christianity Today.
  • Wanna see if you could make the cut for your church’s handbell choir?   Handbell Hero is the liturgical version of Guitar Hero.  Okay, look at the first four keys of center row of your keyboard:  A, S, D, F.   Those are your bells.   Ready?  Click here.
  • YouTube runner up:  The Amazing Grace House. The display has 50,000 lights and is computer controlled by 180 channels.  (I think this was done last year, too; but this is a new video.)
  • Congratulations to Stephy at the blog, Stuff Christian Culture Likes which is now part of Beliefnet.
  • By the way, just to update you — especially our Canadian readers — our iKettle got a couple of direct donations yesterday that bypassed the site, and were picked up by the Salvation Army yesterday.  They totaled $250, which brings us to $380, but still $620 short of our $1,000 goal.   You can still donate (securely) here.
  • Some of the blogs with larger readership are ‘monetized,’ that is to say, they make money because they accept advertising.    The key to this has been the Beacon Ad Network, and your organization or business can reach 450,000 blog readers (guaranteed!) by clicking here.

HT: Pomplamoose at Zach’s.

Today’s cartoon is another from Jon Birch at ASBO Jesus.  Click the image to link the site.

June 4, 2009

Economics Without Consequences

Truth or ConsequencesA couple of days ago I wrote about General Motors and suggested that if the government is stepping in to take over the operations of GM to save it from bankruptcy, surely it sets a precedent for other iconic companies. A comment posted wondered why the U.S. government didn’t do what it did with Bell, where it broke the company up into several Baby Bells. I also mentioned WalMart in passing.

What if something did happen to WalMart? Would the government simply let it die? Not if GM is any indication. But what if GM, and WalMart, and Mircosoft, and Coca Cola, and Major League Baseball, and Starbucks, and MacDonalds; what if they all were teetering on the edge and the government was having to step in to save them all? And what do you call it when the government owns a sizable portion of the industry taking place? Not capitalism, that’s for sure.

The problem is — as I stated already — we want to live in a world without consequences. The next generation to take over the world of business and commerce had its earliest interaction with the world of consequences around the topic of sex. Don’t want disease or pregnancy? Just use a condom. Already pregnant? Just have an abortion. In debt over your head? Declare bankruptcy. Don’t like your spouse? Get a divorce. Don’t like your job? Just quit, you can always go on welfare. Did something less than honest? Just get a good lawyer.

A world without consequences. But what if everything we ever did could come back to haunt us? Apparently this isn’t a new thought for me. Here’s what I posted on this blog exactly one year ago.

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The part of the world where I live has finally got around to banning the use of cosmetic pesticides and herbicides on commercial and residential lawns. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take effect until the current season of chemicalization ends. Anyway, you’d think that as an environmentalist I would be thrilled, but I’m not for two reasons.

First, there’s the phone call I got tonight from a telemarketer telling me what a terrible thing the government did, and hoping that I will join the people who are getting as much chemical spraying done in this, the final season.

Second, and more important, I think it could take twenty years before the true impact is known. This stuff is not filtered out in our drinking water (as it’s fully dissolved) and there are obviously going to be some — hopefully not many — long-term effects that are going to show up in today’s children; aside from the short-term effects (such as environmentally triggered asthma) that we’re already seeing.

Even if you never sprayed your own lawn, if you ever hung your sheets outside to dry, some experts say you possibly absorbed the same amount of toxic chemicals through your skin as you slept as though you had sprayed your own lawn.

What I’m wondering is, if twenty years down the road, the people who perpetrated these crimes against our air and water might be tried for their actions in a manner that some were tried for war crimes years after the war. I mean, who’s to say that as the “green” agenda moves forward, the things that were done in the last fifty years by the weed spray companies and their allies are not regarded as truly criminal? And would such an action be limited to those who actually applied the products, or could the aforementioned telemarketers be found as complicit in their actions?

I hope it doesn’t come to that. But if it does, I hope the guilty are appropriately punished. Because they did not act in ignorance… they knew the truth all along.

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Well, that was a year ago.   Consequences.   They’ll catch up to ya.   What did Jesus say about sowing and reaping?

May 8, 2009

Truth In Advertising

Filed under: Christianity, economics — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:44 pm

Found this at the blog, Digging The Word.

calf4gold from diggingtheword dot blogspot

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…Okay, so it’s originally from Sacred Sandwich.

December 3, 2008

The Total Money Makeover Scam

Filed under: Christianity, economics — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:03 pm

dave-ramsey1Each day, I access data from Ingram International which tells me which books did the best in their Spring Arbor division, the Christian book side of the company.   On Tuesday (12/2) the book Total Money Makeover finished 5th for the day; one if its better showings.

It just occurred to me that in today’s economy, at $24.95 hardcover, the only financial crisis this book is aiding might be the author’s own.  Though published in 2003, there is still no scheduled paperback

September 28, 2008

Solving the U.S. Economic Crisis

Filed under: economics, Humor — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 4:07 pm

If the situation is as bad as this:



Maybe they should try this:

Think of the administrative duplication that might be saved; or consider Canada, with a larger land mass but only ten provinces.  Or the business model of the last decade: mergers and acquisitions.

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