Interviewer: Thank you for taking the time to meet with me today Dr. Becker.
Dr. Thomas Becker: My pleasure.
Interviewer: I would like to start from the beginning, if we may. There are several different theories on the origins of Rating Inc., but as one of the foremost experts on the company, you seem to disagree with all of them, without offering a theory of your own.
Dr. Becker: I do not necessarily disagree with the theories themselves… I just believe that we should focus on what we know and not waste our time weaving exotic tales to fit whatever hidden agendas we might have.
Interviewer: The director of the C.I.A. was recently quoted as saying, “They know more about me than I do about them.” As one of the most secretive companies on the planet, what do we know?
Dr. Becker: We know that their lawyers are very very good! (laughs) Most of what we know has already been published countless times. James Fairchild was born in 1994 in Oakland, CA to Martha and Edward Fairchild. He was home-schooled, but apparently his genius was evident from as young as age 3. His mother died from breast cancer when Mr. Fairchild was 15 and his father died 4 years later in a car accident. In 2015, Mr. Fairchild released the game “Rise”, which became an overnight sensation. As far as we know, he designed every aspect of the game himself, right down to the code. Just about every social media and gaming company on the planet attempted to hire him but he quietly refused each offer. Little known fact: Mark Zuckerburg offered him a 2% stake to join Facebook! On March 4th, 2017, Mr. Fairchild registered Rating Inc. as a for profit company in the state of California, listing himself as sole owner. Using the profits from Rise, he has made Rating Inc. the most profitable, and some would say powerful, company on the planet.
Interviewer: Many have argued that the level of privacy Rating Inc. has enjoyed is not safe.
Dr. Becker: Yes, and Rating Inc.’s lawyers have argued that privacy is not only their right, but also essential to maintain the integrity of their business. And so far the courts have agreed with them. But my question is this, if we do not know the criteria by which they judge, how do we know that the result is accurate?
Interviewer: Now, obviously the system used for rating is extremely well protected, but what do we know about it?
Dr. Becker: There have been several leaks from the company over the past few years, but I would like to stress that we have no way of knowing the validity of the information.
Interviewer: Fair enough. What information did those leaks provide?
Dr. Becker: The word that seems to pop up over and over again is “balance”. Several reports say that the system is built like a pyramid, with the most important social factors creating the base that everything else is built upon. One insider said that the system is built to change with the level of importance society places on different factors. This would seem to give credibility to apparent differences in the systems of different countries. Extensive surveys have shown that Rating Inc. changes the variables in different regions. For instance, in the U.S., physical appearance and popularity seem to have a greater effect of a person’s rating than in say… China, where family history plays a stronger role in the final rating. We have also heard that the system balances hard data, calculated by a computer, with factors that rely on opinion.
Interviewer: Could you elaborate on that?
Dr. Becker: Okay, but again I remind you that this is all speculation. Let’s see.. They could calculate your wealth based on your income compared to the median income of the country or region you live in. That would be factual data that is not influenced by human opinion. But in order to calculate how attractive you are, they would need someone, or a panel of people, to look at you and make that decision based on height, weight, body shape, straight teeth, unibrows, high cheek bones… I mean it could be anything, but you can be sure that they have a system laid out with weighted measures to come up with a hard number that applies to your rating.
Interviewer: There have been rumors that Rating Inc. uses or accesses cameras and/or microphones to monitor behaviors. Many believe that social behavior is included in the rating. Do you feel as though there is any truth to this?
Dr. Becker: I don’t see why not. If they feel like they can classify a person all the way down to a number, who’s to say they would not invade privacy to do it. If you are going to reduce the sum of a person’s life into a single rating, wouldn’t it have to include things like their character, adherence to laws, and even social etiquette? We have seen evidence of this, but because we do not know all the factors involved in rating, there is no way to prove that the decreases were tied to those reasons.
Interviewer: Many of the elderly and conservatives are against rating. And you yourself have gone on record as being opposed to it. Can you share why?
Dr. Becker: It is not healthy to focus more on what others think of you than who you really are. No one should be able to tell another human that they are better or worse than anyone else. We all have different things that we can offer to humanity. Some of them are hidden and no matter how well a company can watch you, can not be seen.
Interviewer: Those in favor of getting rated might say that it is a choice and not mandatory. Just like getting a tattoo, no one has to, but those who choose to have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits and/or consequences of it.
Dr. Becker: Allow me to clarify one thing. I am not opposed to the legality of Rating Inc. I am opposed to the idea itself. My nephew fell in love with a beautiful young lady. Her father told him that he would not let her marry anyone below a seven. He worked all year, doing everything he could think of that might raise his rating, and when he went to get rated he walked out with a 6.9! My nephew had to wait another year to marry the love of his life because one man trusted a corporation’s opinion of him more than his own daughters.
Interviewer: But your nephew did eventually get to marry her. Some would point out that if there had not been an unbiased system, then that father might have never thought your nephew was good enough to marry his daughter. There are countless stories of ratings helping people in that way. People can see a politician’s rating before they vote. Employers can ask for a candidate’s rating before hiring them. And people who might be dismissed because they have bad acne or a speech impediment can be seen for who they are as a whole person. Rating has given many people chances and opportunities that would have never been afforded to them otherwise and provides a fair system that makes many things in life more convenient.
Dr. Becker: Convenient? Yes. But the question that no one seems to want to ask is what price are we willing to pay for that convenience? What do we have to give up to get this life of simplicity? But please, I did not come here to argue.
Interviewer: Very well. Rating Inc. allows a person to get rated a maximum of once per year. Is there any evidence to help us understand why that is? Would it not be more profitable for them to allow people to get rated as often as they are willing to pay for?
Dr. Becker: It would appear that way, but let’s look at the facts. As of last week, the wait to get into a rating center was approximately 47 days. Imagine how long that would stretch out to if citizens could get rated as often as they like. There is already an outcry for more rating centers. This would only increase if people could get rated as often as they like which could potentially create some very negative feelings toward Rating Inc. But I do not think that is the issue that concerns them.
Interviewer: What is the issue then?
Dr. Becker: Privacy. It is the core issue that everything leads back to.
Interviewer: How would increased rating affect the company’s privacy?
Dr. Becker: A shorter duration between ratings gives us a better idea of the variables used to rate and their weight in the final rating. The more information we have on the system used, the easier it is to copy or manipulate the system for a better rating.
Interviewer: Speaking of copying… Several companies have attempted to begin rating systems and have failed to reach the popularity and overwhelming market share that Rating Inc. enjoys. What has made Rating Inc. so untouchable?
Dr. Becker: Accuracy. People argue about their own rating all the time, but how often have you really gotten to know someone who has been rated and come to disagree with their rate? This has been the deciding factor in their success. And if that ever waivers, it will also be the deciding factor in their demise.
Interviewer: The divide between those for and against rating seems to be growing wider each day. What effects do you think rating will have on our society in the next twenty years?
Dr. Becker: I am no fortuneteller. I have no way of knowing what the future holds. But I do know this. The fundamental idea of rating cannot easily co-exist with those who refuse to be submitted to that system. Trust and suspicion do not make happy bedfellows. I would look for warning signs. When the government allows a citizens rating to be on official documents it’s time to be afraid. There may just come a day when a person will be forced to choose between being a part of a society that defines them by a number or facing…
Copyright © 2012 Adam Drake
Author’s Note: This story is part of a short anthology. If you enjoyed it you can read the rest of the stories here.