Bloody hell, another Redliner.

He pushed by me on the sidewalk, head covered with a fraying hoodie flecked with paint. My Personal Rating Display showing a large negative number floating above his head, minus 10,000 and counting. It ticked downward with each step he took, plunging into new territory.

I checked his outbound data, no video stream. Not even pings to any friends or neighbors asking for help. Eye of the storm, swirling towards greater negativity while SocRate tagged him as “Incorrigible”. Incors were not worthy of public services, job placement or basic rights.

The thinking was, encoded in the massive nets of the Social Ratings intelligence, that Incors were like an invading virus. They consumed resources unchecked, infected others with their views and harmed productivity. Not being productive was the same as spitting in the collective face of humanity. SocRate had no tolerance for disruptive citizens.

The Redliner walked across the street against the signal, netting a few thousand kays on his rating. Somewhere deep in the city, drones were launching from rooftop bays. The weapons they bore would make short work of any resistance. I wondered what made someone do that. Just wandering until the drones tagged you, then the slow wail of the meatwagon inbound to process your cooling corpse.

Sometimes Incors make a last stream to beg for pozzies, but with how the nets are set up you can’t broadcast for long with a declining rating. I doubted even someone that far negative could even start one in the first place. The only ones that got to me were the marginal cases.

There was a stream just last week of a girl that had a low green rating. For some reason, those around her decided it was time to shut her out. Her stream was third-person from an orbiting cam, voice cracking while she begged for anyone in her contact network to help. Burning social cred like wood on a fire, plunging her SocRate number to the red as the data costs overwhelmed her credit.

You can intervene, but then SocRate keeps one of its billion eyes on you. I was feeling generous, and even sent a few kays of green pozzies to her, but they were eaten up by the unrelenting streaming costs from her frantic bandwidth usage. Somewhere, an internal counter added up my contribution. My personal rating got hit, but only by a small amount.

Saving Incors isn’t encouraged.

She was huddling in the park with the stream still going, singing a song to herself when the drones came. The feed cut before they tagged her, but I knew she was dead. Voice halted between a beat in the notes, last word hanging in the air as the stream stuttered into pixelated chaos.

That’s life, I guess.

You had to pick your alliances carefully. You couldn’t take a random chance on a stranger. It took time to get to know people and trust they wouldn’t betray you. That might seem like a high price to outsiders, as few there were, but it was worth it in my opinion.

I would take it any day over the lawless past, where anyone could do horrible things without the thought of consequences. The tales of the old legal system horrified me. People with the most paper credits – an obsolete monetary system – could use it to extract whatever they wanted or delay any undesired outcome.

SocRate took that system and tagged it, bagged it and churned it into fine dust. Long gone were deals settled for monetary payment while victims suffered. You couldn’t afford to be a Incor anymore, and I preferred it that way. Sure, there were some outliers like the marginal ones, but that couldn’t be helped.

I walked up the street, on the way back to my apartment. I scrolled down the contracts list, sub-vocal commands picked up by my hardware and pushed to the lenses in my eyes. I had a few yellow exclamation marks, notes on services that would get a neg rating if they didn’t satisfy the agreed terms.

It went both ways, if I failed to pay for some reason – say a busted interface or spoofing a positive rating – then I would get a negative number registered with SocRate. I didn’t have much to worry about, the only open contracts were from roommates and the company I leased my space from.

You had to keep on top of things, or else a single negative event could turn into an avalanche. Say if I didn’t pay my lease, my neighbors would see the neg on my account every time they looked my way. I’d run the risk of being pegged as a “freeloader”, even if I paid my lease later. It was more the principle than the numbers.

Accrue a few events like that and then your immediate circle would shrink. There would go any cushion for emergencies and unexpected neg ratings. If you got into marginal or negative territory, then you’d be on the run from SocRate itself. It cost total strangers more to neg you, but when you’re deep red some would do it just for the thrill of social justice.

Distributed systems kept the whole thing in check. SocRate didn’t have a central location with servers humming with data. The ancient methods were long gone, replaced by entanglement and quantum dots flipping bits over planetary distances.

Some people still tried to cheat. Usually by gathering a few co-conspirators together and forging connections to each other. Rating parties were illegal, subject to immediate zeroing of your rating and getting tagged by drones. It didn’t matter if you were uprating your friends or negging enemies, SocRate would pick it up in a heartbeat.

In the city center they played a loop from a ratings party. Showing the instant redlining of their accounts and the frantic pleas for help as the drones closed in. I had seen it a hundred times, but always picked up something new with each viewing. It was glorious, swift justice and a strong social fabric.

In the center square, underneath the social compact declaration and the commemorative SocRate mural, edicts were etched into large bronze tablets. Two granite drones perched above, inlaid with fine metals. Citizens would pass in winding queues and trace the letters with their fingers, polishing their surfaces to a mirror finish.

Green is life.

Red is death.

In SocRate we trust.