Since Genomics first developed these self-learning algorithms, and the media stirred their readers into a frenzy of fear that robots would take over the world, there have been fail-safes built into the upgrading process. The continuous improvements in the AI for selecting matches are buffered offline pending human approval by the Board, and the Insights team then gets told about the updates at their Monday morning meeting.
“Good morning, team,” Jade always started on a positive note, “we’ve had an approvals update from the Board this morning, and I want to run through them before we agree this week’s targets.”
Nobody showed much interest in this standard opener, since it was the same every week at their briefing meeting. Jade always got the updates from the horse’s mouth, since her dad, Stan, was the Director with oversight of the Software Development Department as well as Insights, and he had final say on each improvement to the software. He probably called her up on Sunday nights to give her the week’s updates.
“Update 15.2.27 has added a Rational Persuasiveness PQ to the battery on conformism. It has loads of elements, but in essence it says that if you are sensible yourself and you score well on persuading others to your point of view, you are more likely to encourage safe, secure and predictable behaviour in your partner, and that’s gotta be good, right?” That was one of Jade’s favourite Americanisms, which she probably learned on a motivational training course for middle managers. Ellen was sick of being told what had to be good, and she was sick of finding more and more of the approved adjustments to the PQ revolved around promoting conformism.
“Yes, but what about creativity building people’s success, which would lead to greater wealth, allowing us to up the premiums?” This was from Magda, who was the most commercially driven analyst in the room. This was an old debate in the Insights team. If people could be helped or pressured to make more money, they would be better able to afford higher premiums, allowing for a wider G-Match trawl with higher shared PQs. In Ellen’s mind, it would also lead to their being able to afford slightly more reckless behaviour which might militate in favour of a more exciting or exotic lifestyle. Ellen always wanted to see more change, brought about by differences between people and allowing more individualism into society. She hated the drive towards sameness.
“Come on Magda, it’s not all about thrills and spills you know. Some of us want to settle down and have a secure future.” Jade would say that, seeing as she was getting engaged to Jasper, the man of her dreams.
“Sorry Jade, I agree with Magda. I’m not against having a secure future. God knows, it’s been unsettled enough this year for us all. It’s just that I want the playing field to be a bit more level in the game between control and free choice, so we can at least believe that we decided on someone or something. I don’t know who’s been rating my matches, but they’re not giving me anything to raise my heartbeat.” Ellen happened to glance at her wristband and saw her PQ go up from PQ78 to PQ78.5, presumably on the back of that sentiment being non-conformist. She’d have liked to ignore it, but she was short of money again this month and couldn’t afford any premium hikes.
“Still, that sounds like a good addition to the battery, Rational Persuasiveness. Sounds firm and manly,” she added. Her wristband PQ reverted to 78.
Ellen knew that Jade would be evaluating her ability to separate her personal views from her role in Insights, and that this sort of disagreement would form part of the appraisal process during the upcoming rendundancy planning. It had happened before with Insights Analysts who were single and hopeful, when they began to choose potential matches based on their own aspirations, or even began to store candidates’ profiles in private files of possible matches for themselves. Jade knew full well that Ellen had such a file, but that alone wasn’t an issue, since the analysts often raided their private files for clients, to boost a match score and get it right, so they could make their bonus in a particular month. Ellen regularly used her private file to boost matches, but unlike Magda, she didn’t seem to be doing it at critical times to make bonus. More often it seemed she just wanted to find someone special for an applicant, on romantic grounds. Jade would look down on such a weakness.
In the last few months, since the election, Zurich had been reacting more and more to political pressure, emanating from the Department of Domestic Security, rather than simply trying to minimise insurance claims. The newer elements of the algorithm ensured a more conformist population, and non-conformism was penalised where it hurts, in people’s bank balance, for stepping out of line. Not that everyone towed the line. The news was full of stories about deportations for criminal activities, especially for the wholesale deactivation of people’s chips by hackers who charged substantial sums for the service.
Rather than combatting the crime itself, the DDS just decreased the thresholds on deportable crimes, which drew far more targets into the net, ensuring a new supply of soft targets who would cost less to arrest and deport. You didn’t need to be subversive any more to be deported. You could have a non-conformist streak which didn’t result in anti-social behaviour, but which meant you were at risk of being unpredictable in some way which would affect the safety of others or their level of anger. Psychiatric issues which resulted in irritating, noisy outbursts over long periods of time might not directly harm anyone, but could incite others to become more confrontational or irrational. High scoring ‘difficult cases’ could be swept into the deportation net quite easily and find themselves in a cell and loaded onto a transporter before they’d been properly assessed. It didn’t deal with the core problems of criminality, but it satisfied the short-term targets under which the DDS operated. Deportations had, in this way, become big business. The Government funded the DDS, and used the figures it generated to spin horror stories about numbers of deportees and level of criminality, which had a ‘positive’ effect on most people’s level of conformity and caution, subduing them and discouraging individuality.
Last summer, they had raised the level of people’s fear with news of riots in city centres to a point where older people’s stress levels were impacting medical costs. They did this, knowing the consequences, in order to strengthen the lobby for euthanasia. It was hard to know whether riots actually took place, as nobody spent time on the streets unless they were homeless, but it was simple enough for stock footage to be doctored to suit the online bulletins. Then Zurich altered its map of safe zones, to remove all city centre areas deemed to be flash-zones, whether or not anything had happened in them. The change came after a lot of hype, and consequently was given the rubber stamp by the DDS. Re-zoning meant that they could withdraw any financial support for the private security services policing these areas, and also stop the housing market from overheating, as unsafe zoning pushed home owners out of cities.
Unfortunately, those in power were not simply looking for a safety-conscious populus which would minimise health and security costs, but were also trying to manipulate the markets, since there was a substantial stock market trade in PQ points. Countries willing to take subversives and high risk deportees actually traded PQ quotas on a mass market level, in the same way as carbon credits became a tradable market in the past. If your scores rocketed because of inappropriate activity, the insurance companies could have you deported to Somalia, Afghanistan or the USA, which were the countries most prepared to take planeloads of deportees in exchange for deals on powergen or other commodities, from countries with a trade surplus. Deportation had been a global business for much longer than PQs had existed, and not all countries had adopted The West’s PQ model for assessing cases. In response to the growing number of migration crises, driven by droughts and inhospitable climates in Africa, Southern Europe, large swathes of central Asia and Central America, NATO had agreed that countries of origin were not allowed to refuse the return of their citizens from countries to which they had fled. This ruling overrode all others. If refugees from a war or an ethnic cleansing spree were in danger of extermination on their return to their homeland, but the country to which they had fled insisted on their return, NATO was obliged to back the decision with military support. Countries no longer had to put up with immigrants who they didn’t want. However, if the refugees could be re-classified as deportees by the country of origin, and a commercial arrangement was agreed with the country receiving them, the return was not essential.
There was also a futures market in deportations, which was driven by strategic changes in the algorithms, and government crack-downs on subversion. The brokers dealt in global risk analysis which formed a central plank of every government’s market strategy. The politicians were all in the pockets of the same global conglomerates, accepting favours for rubber-stamping policy changes which reduced insurance costs and pressurising the insurers to take on new risk which had previously been state funded.