Why the Black Mirror Got It Wrong

If you haven’t seen the Nosedive episode of the Black Mirror, reading this will spoil it for you. So, consider yourself warned.

The episode puts us in the middle of a society where every interaction between people gets a zero-to-five star rating. Your overall rating is accessible to anyone and everyone, and it determines your status in the society. The show brilliantly illustrates how this setup can result in a dystopian nightmare. People chase ratings, not substance. Most interactions are fake and superficial. A simple mistake results in an avalanche of downvotes from people who you thought were your friends. etc. etc.

This concept seems eerily similar to what we are doing with Credo. In fact, the way we learned about the episode was from a few friends calling us up and saying “Have you seen this?!” Just like in the Black Mirror, Credo would let people rate people they deal with, and just like in the Black Mirror, these ratings flow into an overall reputation score. But (surprise!) — we don’t want to create a dystopian society. Instead, we want to make interactions between people simpler and less stressful. So — what gives?

There are many different subtleties that we can get into, but at the end of the day, there are 3 main things that we think the Black Mirror got “wrong”:

First, in the show, pretty much any interaction warrants a rating. Took a ride with someone on the elevator, here are 4 stars for you. Set next to someone in a café but didn’t smile — here are 2 stars for you. Not so with Credo. Passing interactions don’t count. We don’t think that people should be able to rate anybody they like (or dislike). Only people who have significant basis for assessing your trustworthiness should be able to rate you. For example, people with whom you’ve had financial transactions (e.g. buying/selling, hiring, ranting etc.). These people are well positioned to say whether you are true to your word or not.

Second, in the show, it seems like the amount of interaction has no bearing on the weight of the ratings. With Credo, this is also not the case. Ratings from people with whom you deal a lot should have much more influence on your overall score than ratings from people with whom you dealt only once. For example, landlord and tenant should have a fairly high influence on each other’s score. While ratings resulting from a bicycle sale should have a relatively low weight.

Lastly, in the show, ratings are public. Meaning everybody can see how person X rated person Y. On the one hand, this makes people unwilling to give poor ratings to people with high scores for fear of low “retributory” ratings. On the other hand, it creates enormous social pressure to “follow the crowd” — if everyone downvotes someone, you don’t want to stick out as the only one who didn’t (for the fear of being downvoted yourself). With Credo, all ratings are anonymous — neither the person you rate, nor anyone else sees how you rated them. This encourages honesty, and makes people behave more like individuals and less like a mindless crowd.

Most importantly, however, with Credo, we are not trying to create a rating that would assess people as human beings. We want our reputation score to represent just one quality — your trustworthiness. Credo score does not care how funny, smart, good looking etc. you are — only: how good you are at keeping your word. Trying to get such information is nothing new in our society — we do it all the time when we ask for references, or want to run a credit check. We just want to make this information more fair, readily available, and put you in control of your reputation.

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