The Game of Life: Visualizing China’s Social Credit System
In an attempt to imbue trust, China has announced a plan to implement a national ranking system for its citizens and companies. Currently in pilot mode, the new system will be rolled out in 2020, and go through numerous iterations before becoming official.
While the system may be a useful tool for China to manage its growing 1.4 billion population, it has triggered global concerns around the ethics of big data, and whether the system is a breach of fundamental human rights.
Today’s infographic looks at how China’s proposed social credit system could work, and what the implications might be.
The Government is Always Watching
Currently, the pilot system varies from place to place, whereas the new system is envisioned as a unified system. Although the pilot program may be more of an experiment than a precursor, it gives a good indication of what to expect.
In the pilot system, each citizen is assigned 1,000 points and is consistently monitored and rated on how they behave. Points are earned through good deeds, and lost for bad behavior. Users increase points by donating blood or money, praising the government on social media, and helping the poor. Rewards for such behavior can range from getting a promotion at work fast-tracked, to receiving priority status for children’s school admissions.
In contrast, not visiting one’s aging parents regularly, spreading rumors on the internet, and cheating in online games are considered antisocial behaviors. Punishments include public shaming, exclusion from booking flights or train tickets, and restricted access to public services.
Big Data Goes Right to the Source
The perpetual surveillance that comes with the new system is expected to draw on huge amounts of data from a variety of traditional and digital sources.
Police officers have used AI-powered smart glasses and drones to effectively monitor citizens. Footage from these devices showing antisocial behavior can be broadcast to the public to shame the offenders, and deter others from behaving similarly.
For more serious offenders, some cities in China force people to repay debts by switching the person’s ringtone without their permission. The ringtone begins with the sound of a police siren, followed by a message such as:
“The person you are calling has been listed as a discredited person by the local court. Please urge this person to fulfill his or her legal obligations.”
Two of the largest companies in China, Tencent and Alibaba, were enlisted by the People’s Bank of China to play an important role in the credit system, raising the issue of third-party data security. WeChat—China’s largest social media platform, owned by Tencent—tracked behavior and ranked users accordingly, while displaying their location in real-time.
Following data concerns, these tech companies—and six others—were not awarded any licenses by the government. However, social media giants are still involved in orchestrating the public shaming of citizens who misbehave.
The Digital Dang’an
The social credit system may not be an entirely new initiative in China. The dang’an (English: record) is a paper file containing an individual’s school reports, information on physical characteristics, employment records, and photographs.
These dossiers, which were first used in the Maoist years, helped the government in maintaining control of its citizens. This gathering of citizen’s data for China’s social credit system may in fact be seen as a revival of the principle of dang’an in the digital era, with the system providing a powerful tool to monitor citizens whose data is more difficult to capture.
Is the System Working?
In 2018, people with a low score were prohibited from buying plane tickets almost 18 million times, while high-speed train ticket transactions were blocked 5.5 million times. A further 128 people were prohibited from leaving China, due to unpaid taxes.
The system could have major implications for foreign business practices—as preference could be given to companies already ranked in the system. Companies with higher scores will be rewarded with incentives which include lower tax rates and better credit conditions, with their behavior being judged in areas such as:
- Paid taxes
- Customs regulation
- Environmental protection
Despite the complexities of gathering vast amounts of data, the system is certainly making an impact. While there are benefits to having a standardized scoring system, and encouraging positive behavior—will it be worth the social cost of gamifying human life?
Mapped: The Top Podcasts on Spotify Across Countries
Podcasting is now a billion dollar industry, attracting big names and audiences to match. Here’s a global look at the top podcasts on Spotify.
The Top Spotify Podcast Across Countries
We are amidst the breakout era of podcasts. Since the beginning of the smartphone revolution, the digital audio format has picked up serious traction with audiences all over. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that there will be 132 million podcast listeners by 2022.
Today, there are 850,000 active podcasts available in 100 languages, with over 30 million episodes to tap into—perfect if you have an afternoon to yourself.
Worldwide Podcast Chart-Toppers
The data in this infographic comes from Spotify, the top global streaming service in the industry by paid users. How do the top podcasts fare on a per country basis?
|Country||Top Podcast||Honorable Mention (Second Highest)|
|Canada||The Joe Rogan Experience||Call Her Daddy|
|France||Choses a Savoir||Mythes et Legendes|
|UK||The Michelle Obama Podcast||The Joe Rogan Experience|
|Germany||Gemischtes Hack||Fest & Flauschig|
|Italy||Blu Notte - Fisteri Italiani||Mushio Selvaggio|
|U.S.||The Michelle Obama Podcast||Call Her Daddy|
|Australia||From The Newsroom||The Joe Rogan Experience|
|India||The Michelle Obama Podcast||Purijagannadh|
|Ireland||The Joe Rogan Experience||The 2 Johnnies Podcast|
|Mexico||Leyendas Legendarias||La Cotorrisa|
|New Zealand||The Joe Rogan Experience||Call Her Daddy|
|Argentina||Concha Podcast||Entiende Tu Mente|
|Austria||Verbrechen||Fest & Flauschig|
|Brazil||NerdCast||Café da Manha|
|Chile||Tomas Va A Morir||Matriarcalmente Hablando|
|Colombia||DianaUribe.fm||Dani 3Palacios Podcast|
|Denmark||Morkeland||Her Gar Det Godt|
|Norway||Friminutt med Herman og Mikkel||G-punktet|
|Philippines||Sleeping Pill with Inka||Adulting With Joyce Pring|
|Poland||Kryminatorium||Ja I moje przyjaciółki idiotki|
|Spain||Nadie Sabe Nada||Entiende Tu Mente|
|Sweden||P3 Dokumentar||Sommar & Vinter i P1|
|Netherlands||Zelfspodcast||Man man man, de podcast|
Many of the top shows around the world follow a familiar interview or conversational format, but there are trends that deviate from that formula. In particular, there are a number of podcasts focused on health and wellness as well as current events.
The early beginnings of podcasting were dominated by upstart content creators, but as the market has matured, big media outlets and A-list personalities have been vying for listeners’ attention in an increasingly crowded field. As it stands now, two podcasts from America carry a large presence in foreign markets, and the two big personalities—Michelle Obama and Joe Rogan—stand a notch above the rest.
The Rogan-Obama tug of war in the podcast realm has had its back and forths. Obama pulled ahead in many countries in August, but in September the pendulum swung in favor of Rogan.
Follow The Money
In 2015, ad revenue in the podcast industry was a minuscule $69 million across the board. It’s expected to reach over $1 billion by 2021, and to grow further from there.
The podcast boom is powered by younger generations, and both millennials and Gen Z represent a sizable portion of the total podcast audience globally. In particular, demographic listenership numbers experience a big drop after the 35-54 age bracket.
Flexibility and variety are key features that are helping fuel the growth of the medium. One can keep up with serious world affairs or listen to Call Her Daddy—a podcast on sex and relationships by Barstool Sports, another podcast that frequently tops the charts.
Top Podcast Publishers by U.S. Audience
When it comes to key participants in the industry, National Public Radio (NPR) sits on the top spot with over 26 million unique monthly audience members. In close second, iHeartRadio holds a whopping 494 shows.
|Podcast Publisher||U.S. Unique Monthly Audience||Global Downloads & Streams||Active Shows|
|New York Times||13,102,000||145,961,000||15|
|Cumulus Media/Westwood One||6,473,000||40,912,000||115|
|This American Life/Serial||5,924,000||22,722,000||2|
|All Things Comedy||4,890,000||28,770,000||58|
|American Public Media||3,362,000||17,997,000||50|
|Fox News Radio||2,518,000||13,633,000||34|
If you’re bullish on podcasts, many in the top 20 are publicly traded entities who either stand alone, or are part of a larger corporation. Notable stocks include the New York Times, ESPN as part of Disney, and Warner Media as part of AT&T.
Spotify Today and Tomorrow
Spotify’s direct listing IPO was initially met with a lack of confidence, due to Big Tech’s entry in the space, as well as the profitability and monetization concerns that typically plague the music industry as a whole. However, the company has done well in abating those concerns, especially if you consider Spotify’s stock price, which has doubled in the last year. An impressive 21% of Spotify’s monthly active users engage with podcast content.
In addition, a wealth of personalities have entered the podcasting space. These big names suggest that the competition is dialing up.
In recent months, an exclusive deal between Spotify and Joe Rogan, valued at over $100 million took the podcasting world by storm. This is quite a monumental step for the podcast timeline, and one that suggests more deals could follow as Spotify looks to lock people into their platform with exclusivity deals.
Here’s What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020
A lot can happen in an internet minute. This graphic looks at the enormous numbers behind the online services billions use every day.
What Happens Every Minute on the Internet in 2020
In 2020, an unfathomable amount of digital activity is occurring at any given moment. This ongoing explosion in activity is the aggregate output of 4.5 billion internet users today, a number that’s projected to increase even further in coming years.
This powerful visual from Domo helps capture what happens each minute in today’s hyper-connected internet era, and it’s actually the eighth edition produced since the year 2012.
What can we learn from the evolution of what happens in an internet minute?
How Times Have Changed
Over its relatively short history, the internet has been a catalyst for both the rise and demise of new companies and platforms.
By looking at which brands have appeared in the graphic in earlier years, we can roughly chart the prominence of certain tech segments, as well as observe brands with the most staying power.
As you can see above, platforms like Tumblr, Flickr, and Foursquare showed some promise, but eventually got omitted from the graphic as they dropped off in relevance.
Meanwhile, tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, and Google have had impressive staying power, evolving to become some of the biggest companies in the world. In the process, they’ve caught up to longer-standing titans like Apple and Microsoft at the top of the food chain.
The New “New Thing”
Not surprisingly, much of the internet landscape looks different in 2020. Here are a few of the digital hot spots today.
Nearly $240,000 worth of transactions occur on Venmo per minute. This has served as a catalyst for parent company PayPal, which evolved along successfully with fintech trends. PayPal’s stock now trades at near all-time highs.
Even before COVID-19 resulted in shuttered storefronts and surging online orders, e-commerce was a booming industry. It’s now estimated that $1 million is now spent per minute online. Amazon ships an astounding 6,659 packages every minute to keep up with this demand.
In a predominantly remote-working environment, tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams host 208,333 and 52,083 users each minute respectively. Particularly in the pandemic era, it seems that this trend is here to stay.
The accelerated world we are in today means that many companies do not sustain a competitive advantage for as long. Social media companies have dwindled as observed above, and this is similarly reflected in the average lifespan of an S&P 500 company.
A typical company’s tenure on the S&P 500 is expected to shrink rapidly in the next few years:
- 1964: 33 years
- 2016: 24 years
- 2027E: 12 years
Companies are shaving anywhere between 15-20 years off those highs, with estimates of further declines. This metric symbolizes the rapid evolution of the business landscape.
What Lies Ahead
It’s seemingly easy to forget mankind is still very early in the developments when it comes to the internet. But in this short period, its rise to prominence and the broad digitization of the world has left us with a very eventful timeline.
If the last decade serves as a reference point, one can expect further and intensifying competition among tech companies. After all, the reward—winning in today’s digital economy—reaps much greater value.
All signs point to internet activity advancing to further heights, if not because of 5G and its associated breakthroughs, then perhaps due to the steady rise in people gaining internet access.
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