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Wild Systems

Rating the Reputation Economy

A ten part series exploring the design of an invisible technology: money.

Our online reputation permeates throughout our digital world. With every website we visit, comment we leave, person we “friend”, spammer we flag or badge we earn, we leave a trail of how well we can or can not be trusted. Though it may not seem like it, our reputation is becoming a valuable currency that is hard to earn and easy to lose.

In recent years, this reputational currency has manifested itself through the Silicon Valley backed sharing economy, also referred to as platform capitalism by some critics. Companies like Airbnb and Uber rely on trust, reputation and peer reviews in order for their marketplaces to self regulate. The way users are rated by others on the platform has a direct correlation to how much money they can make from their apartments, or how many people demand them as a driver. A five star review is fast becoming the next hundred-dollar bill, a new symbol of reputational wealth.

Since the dawn of credit (and debt), the reputation of a person has been used as a measure of their trustworthiness. This is an indicator to the creditor (usually a bank) of how likely a person is to pay back the debt they owe, usually plus interest. Credit scores are a calculation of a persons credit “worthiness”. Your credit score can be a very important measurement in life. It can decide whether or not you can buy a house with a mortgage, it can be the difference between you getting a job or not and it can affect your ability to find your one true love. That’s right, your credit score could hold you back from finding Mr or Mrs right. How? With a new Chinese system called the Sesame Credit.

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