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Got this idea from Antarctica in the Legend series by Marie Lu

Imagine that we've become so technologically advanced that every person, ages 3 and up, has an implant in their head that tracks everything you do. You get points or reputation when you do good things such as get a good grade on a test, do a good deed for someone, etc. and you lose points when you do bad things like cheat, lie, etc. Also, your points are visible to everyone else (through holograms that come with the implants) just like on SE. Also you are judged by how many points you have, but it does not necessarily determine how successful you will be. For government positions, it is elections, but people will be more likely to vote for you if you have more points. The implant doesn't punish/reward you for your thoughts.

Bad things examples (I don't thing that the good things are very controversial)

  • Any type of crime (from today)
  • Not loyal to the government (this one's a bit controversial)
  • Getting a bad grade

How would society act differently? Would people work harder? What other things would change?

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    $\begingroup$ How are slander and libel laws applied? Do you get to see who downvotes you? Are there fines or punishments for gaming the system? What defines "gaming"? If you upvote your SO for a backrub, and they upvote you for doing the dishes, is that 'gaming' the system? In which case the voting system disproportionately represents the most social of people (or those who take the most tests, or, whatever) $\endgroup$ – user3082 Mar 4 '15 at 9:03
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    $\begingroup$ This is explored somewhat in Cory Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom - see "Whuffie": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whuffie $\endgroup$ – Rob Church Mar 4 '15 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ Not a perfect fit, and obviously taken to humorous extremes, but: smbc-comics.com/?id=2286 $\endgroup$ – Lunin Aug 3 '15 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ Also see Freedom™ by Daniel Suarez. $\endgroup$ – JDługosz Apr 10 '16 at 9:41
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So, basically, what you're saying is that people can gain/lose points, but the points don't actually matter? In that case, I would say people's point values would just be like another part of their resume: maybe employers worry about it, maybe they're just looking for someone with good interpersonal skills. You said points would factor into elections by swaying voters, but I'd think extramarital affairs or nonconformist religious views would be far more damaging to a candidate's chances of getting elected than a lower point value. Even more simply, supposedly people often pick candidates because they're taller than their opponents, or pick a car because it has the most cup holders: even with a definite point system saying how good someone is, people will still make irrational decisions based on criteria that really shouldn't matter.

Not only that, but without a sophisticated means of discovering where the up/downvotes are coming from, it would be very easy to cheat. An entire business could spring up, with thousands of employees ready to upvote whoever can pay for the privilege, and downvote whoever has rich enemies. Unless there was an enormous amount of regulation, point values would become useless pretty fast.

You could solve the above problem by only giving up/downvote privileges to appointed people (let's call them moderators), but this raises another potential problem: who gets to decide what's worth an upvote? If there are laws on such things, I'd think only really patriotic people would care about the point system, while others would chalk it up to propaganda and government regulation. If, on the other hand, points were handed out by individual choice, moderators or users would have way too much power, and the cheating I mentioned would become a huge problem. Keep in mind that in such a system, point values don't just let you do more on a Q&A site; points can earn you respect, which means power.

Another potential problem is with age. Point values on SE usually correspond to seniority rather than virtue: the people with the highest scores have simply been around the longest. In the real world, we can already tell who's been around longest: they have grey hair and wrinkles.

But honestly, for these reasons and others, I don't think the point values would matter all that much. Points are just an artificial representation of real-world attributes; if you really want to judge someone's character, you need to dig deeper. Anyone who did judge people based on their point value would be like someone who judged people based on their race, gender, economic background, and so on.

But this answer leads to a somewhat contradictory conclusion: if you think I'm worth listening to because I have over 1000 rep, then you're doing it wrong. This is just what I think, and hopefully someone else can provide a better answer if you find this one lacking.

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    $\begingroup$ @DaaaaWhoosh: I totally want to argue that my answer is better, just because I have more points than you! It'd be so meta. Maybe I'll post it on Worldbuilding Meta and see what happens! =p $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '15 at 6:21
  • $\begingroup$ Nice answer, but I'd replace atheism with religious views. $\endgroup$ – Dennis Mar 4 '15 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Dennis Good point, I will do that $\endgroup$ – DaaaahWhoosh Mar 4 '15 at 16:26
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Your question has a tripping point: "Also, you are judged by how many points you have." The way that statement is implemented has far more of an effect than any other detail. For example, if there is a 50 point government sanctioned minimum to comment on an election, there will immediately be a market for cheap ways to quickly and artificially acquire 50 points. The ability to close a discussion at work (500pts) would be quickly farmed by everyone.

I would also expect to see dirty things like gangs doing "run by"s where they quickly downvote someone's answers a few dozen times, just to ruin their reputation.

On the other hand, if it is a social contract sort of thing, where everybody not only pays attention to points, but has a great interest in cultivating its validity, you have a situation like "honor" in feudal Japan. You seek to cultivate honor, and there are well accepted paths to take, but they're not always straight forward.

SE seems to take a third approach. Points are fun, but there's not many places where they really interact with the world, so there is little incentive to break the system. Area 51 is pretty smart that way.


If you think about it, what you've really done is create something that has both aspects of a currency and a free goods

  • It scores on a single dimensional metric scale. Someone who does one monumental task is given the same value/score as someone who does a bunch of small tasks. Someone who only does desirable tasks has the same value/score as someone who only does undesirable tasks (thank you moderators!).
  • It is freely creatable with little effort. As long as you've logged in, an upvote is virtually free. Compare this to currency, which is a scarcity economy -- in order to give a coin to someone you must lose a coin.

Now, one solution to your system is that you are judged by your reputation, but just barely. When it is clear that reputation has little to nothing to do with how you want to interact with someone, people will ignore it. Remember, most people like to interact with people who aren't one dimensional.

If you want your society to actually pay attention to these, a little feedback is needed: we're going to want a society which has an interest in these reputations being valuable. They're going to have to change their perceptions and actions to make this reputation system more valuable than it actually is.

One of the first things I'd expect to see is dramatic clothing choices. Different groups are going to have different opinions on how reputation should be used. There's no way there will be agreement, so the best society can do is break into subcultures. Each subculture would have its own way of managing points. Clothing choices would be a natural augmentation to the point system to show which reputation group you belong to. Dress like a type A personality executive, and it's expected that you'll get 1k to 2k a day, or its a sign you're off your game. Suspend enough disbelief to give Tibetan monks VR implants and reputation, and they would treat it different. If you see someone in orange cloth with 8 or 9 rep, they are likely quite the pious soul.

I'd be interested in seeing a Dali Lama like character in such a world. The world would naturally seek to give him many reputation points, and he would be too humble to not accept them. There might even be a giant ceremony where his fellow monks kindly downvote him so that his numbers don't get too high.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1. If you want an idea of what would happen if points had actual real-world use, just look at the neareast MMORPG. $\endgroup$ – March Ho Mar 4 '15 at 6:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MarchHo Annnnd, what do you see in MMORPGs? Not everyone has a WoW account. Nor cares to. $\endgroup$ – user3082 Mar 4 '15 at 9:02
  • $\begingroup$ @user3082 anything of any importance is "min/maxed" and every loophole is exploited. As a result, most MMO designers are forced to create exponentially bigger content (numerically) to keep people interested in gaining their MMO's version of "points." $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '15 at 15:20
  • $\begingroup$ Ahhh, grade-inflation - for a real world semi-equivalency $\endgroup$ – user3082 Mar 4 '15 at 22:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user3082 that's a good real-world comparison. I think the only difference is the magnitude. Grade-inflation is a slow march from an average of 3.5 to 3.9. The absurdity of the MMO inflation is more like a slow march from 3.5 to 390,000 with two really hard "grade renormalization" events part way through to try to gain control of the situation =) $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon - Reinstate Monica Mar 4 '15 at 23:06

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