Kudos is a Black Mirror nightmare brought to life

Chris Burns - Nov 20, 2017
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Kudos is a Black Mirror nightmare brought to life

The same crew that tried bringing an Uber-like model to city busses is now attempting to replace server tips with digital ratings. Instead of an amount of cash given to a restaurant server after friendly, prompt, helpful service, they’d instead receive some stars in an app. The Black Mirror episode Nosedive is about almost exactly this same thing.

There’s also an episode of the TV series Community which centers on a similar set of circumstances. That episode is called “App Development and Condiments.” In the episode, a community education school devolves into a futuristic dystopia due to a beta test of an app which allows students, teachers, and faculty to rate one-another. It ends up being extremely absurd and more than a little bit funny.

Something very similar appeared as an app back in October of 2015, and we did not find it funny at all. By the time the app launched, it was all opt-in, largely due to public outcry over the HIGH potential for digital harassment would that the app were released with every person ever onboard right from the start.

The Black Mirror episode Nosedive features a society obsessed with ratings. One a person finds themselves on the wrong end of a low rating, there lies the potential for an avalanche of ratings based on precedent. It’s ultimately the user sending the rating who decides how they rate the recipient, and there’s currently no negative result for any rating at all – the consumer isn’t rated whatsoever.

Not that a rating on the user would be any more helpful. Rating retaliation is a problem in Uber as much as it is in any other app with 2-way ratings as such. Behavior modification, and the like, remain a problem when ratings are involved.

As of publishing time for this article, the team behind Skedaddle (bus-mapping-app…thing) and Kudos have made no mention of an opt-in or opt-out system. As such, by default, every single person anyone would potentially want to rate would be in the app as soon as anyone adds them. Further – Kudos mentions opening Kudos “for all businesses.” That’d mean giving the power of this platform to businesses and corporations rather than the people.

If this system gains traction, businesses could potentially require, or strongly imply, that workers need to use Kudos ratings instead of accepting real money tips. As the Kudos site says right this minute: “Kudos will become essential infrastructure for real businesses today — from ridesharing to coffee shops to restaurants — and become the backbone of web 3.0, blockchain-based businesses tomorrow.”

The plan is to run this system on blockchain, which means the core is decentralized – but the implementation and updates of the app and/or web-based interface wouldn’t be. Much like the Community episode, those that’ve garnered the highest ratings would be regarded higher in society. Those that’ve fallen might not be able to get jobs.

The potential for cheating this system is great, large, massive. The potential for massive social breakdown looms also.

“Workers will no longer be rewarded with clunky, antiquated and discriminatory tips,” reads one description of Kudos. “Kudos are rewarded proportional to a 1-5 rating tied to each transaction.” They suggest this would be a system “consumers can trust is not manipulated by ads and falsehoods.”

But anyone can rate any person whatever they wish. Much like the early days of eBay, one bad rating could mean an entire account is poisoned forevermore. There’s no election system with which judges are chosen, and mob rules would be entirely in effect. With a “rewards” system in place, there’s no reason why a user wouldn’t exploit the system to gain loyalty points while the businesses and workers they rate either thrive or dive at their whim.

In other words, I’m not a fan.

You can learn more about Kudos over at KudosProject right now. Please judge fairly.


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