The evolution of technology: we are left to use implanted microchips.
(Stevens L, 2017)
As our technology era evolves, our electronic devices still grow smaller and extra compact. People were used to big computers in the early 90s, and early 2000s, which later on changed to small computers, smartphones, and smartwatches, but as we speak, many have taken it further, by adopting the usage of microchip implants. Electronic devices that are small in size to almost that one of a grain of rice, but still could hold the key to many aspects of a person’s life. For example, they emit radiations that can help in controlling other electronics or help identify the owner. These devices, you can imagine, are implanted in your body, usually in between the thumb and forefinger (Schwartz, 2019) (The Future of Microchip Implants in Humans, 2019).
In Sweden, a country recognized for its technological innovations, lots have already implanted microchips into their bodies. Numbers are to increase from thousands, and double, as this country’s citizens are eager to experience much of what these RFID microchips hold. The leading Swedish provider of the devices, Biohax International, was founded six years ago by former expert body piercer, Jowan Osterlund, and is still conceived to be dominating this market. According to NRP, Osterlund mentioned that “Having different playing cards and tokens verifying your identification to a gaggle of diverse systems, simply, doesn’t add up.” He further adds that chip implants can help streamline everyday tasks through more advantageous connectivity. (Maddy, 2018)
The fashion has even stuck on the US With Three Square Market, a Wisconsin primarily based vending-solutions company, that was told to have surgically implanted chips into over 50 volunteers employed at the corporate in 2017. Later on, this raised concerns amongst US citizens and different companies to be violating people’s privacy and imposing control over employees (Weiss, 2018).
As mentioned above, yes, the world is evolving; there is a need to advance technology and use it for the greater good. But there is always a concern about who invents, who controls, and who becomes the victim. When telephone inventors like Alexander Graham Bell or Antonio Meucci enlightened us with their beliefs of phones, did they tell us that they would once be used by governments and Intelligence Agencies to control and violate our privacy rights? In the case of these microchips, what problems are they solving? Are they vital? What will the future look like if people continue to adapt to them?
Cases of the implants
Adi Robertson, The Verge’s senior reporter, has been covering technology policy, video games, virtual and augmented reality, biohacking, tech history throughout her career. In fact, she is also a major example of people who received a body implant in the early 2010s. She published an article titled “I HACKED MY BODY FOR A FUTURE THAT NEVER CAME,” which includes her life story, of how in fall 2012, she implanted a rare earth magnet in her right ring finger. She mentions that, in that time, magnets were one of the most accessible forms of DIY biohacking, a niche subculture riding the start of a massive mainstream publicity wave.
According to her testimony, when she first got it, she wasn’t disappointed, but things, later on, changed after the implanted magnet in her body started loosening and lost its conductivity. In that case, the sexiness of what she was after was gone; she could no longer attract other magnets, screws, and other small metal objects with her finger or pull metals (Adi Robertson, 2017).
She later had it pulled out, and in that case, she stayed with a scar. Anytime she would feel a need for another implant, the decision of where to put it would include her whole body, excluding where a microchip was once implanted (Adi Robertson, 2017).
Many like Robertson, have felt a need to try the technology not just by magnets, but with RFID microchips and their reasons vary. In Sweden, many people who have adapted to the technology can use it for payment processing, opening doors, accessing their homes, simple tasks like switching on lights, accessing offices and gyms are as comfortable as swiping their hands against digital readers. They also can be used to store emergency contact details, social media profiles, or e-tickets for events and rail journeys within this country. According to NPR, In 2018, the procedure of receiving that implant cost around $180 (Maddy, 2018).
It is one way comfortable, since for a best-case scenario, nowadays, a person who is just walking by, carries at least three credit or debit cards with them, some cash, phones, passports, IDs, and other crucial things like those. Who wouldn’t like the sexiness of one thing like a small device that can replace the burden of carrying those documents and cards? Plus, not only would you be replacing them, but you would also be having an ability to program your chip with extra functionalities that can help you place calls when you swipe your finger, switch on lights at home when you tap your arm, and more than that. Looking around, the bigger picture is more of easing life than sexiness only, but the question is, “is it vital?”.
Are they vital (Impacts)?
One side effect of having a surgical microchip implant is, one day, the chip might malfunction, get expired in a certain way, or stop functioning not just as a magnet, and what you would have to do is remove it or have it replaced. Here we are talking of something that will enter your body, and that might need to be removed one day. In 2004, A company called Verichip got FDA approval for its health-care-oriented microchip implants, even its research indicated that 90 percent of Americans weren’t comfortable with their technology due to fear (Weiss, 2018). Biologically it might not highly negatively impact your health. Later on, Verichip indicated that different from other animals, for humans, embedding active RFID transponders within cancerous tumors could even be an effective means of treatment. But still, the burden of always having something that is emitting some radiations, and providing information wherever you are is a significant issue.
Case of rights
When it comes to the case of information collecting and providing, Jowan Österlund, mentioned that people should not worry about that. He said that since there are already legal frameworks like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that are there to make sure the world doesn’t misuse the technology (Schwartz, 2019). In fact, Europe is the continent with the highest adopters of technology as different from other continents or countries like the USA. But again, the world we live in is full of secrecy and nepotism, if a government can spy on its citizens just by phones, imagine a source of information like an implanted microchip that will never cease to emit information they need. It is like playing nice while you know, in the end, you are gonna be the victim.
For example, In 2015, a woman was fired after deleting an employee tracking app that was used to record her movements, even when she was not at work (Kravets, 2015). Well, that is the USA, which usually considers an employer of employees. In that case, in the absence of clear regulations that would help maintain people’s lives, many institutions would turn aside to their benefits that would later one be out of control.
Alternatives to implants
While still looking on the alternatives side, Neuralink, Elon Musk’s Corporation that started in 2016, is developing ultra-high bandwidth brain-machine interfaces that can be used to connect humans and computers (Neuralink, 2019). On the other hand, too, Brain-Computer Interface (BCI) is a trending topic nowadays. One would say implanted microchips have got their competitors ahead. From Bryan Johnson’s Kernel, Elon’s Neuralink, we also have other companies like a New York-based company called CTRL-Labs. These companies are focusing on ways to access, read and write from the brain without invasive implants, and how to do it for a mass market, and they are succeeding (Alice Lloyd George, 2018).
One would predict that in the future, for you to unleash the power of that of an implanted microchip, you won’t have to hurt or get your body pierced for that. Instead, easy ways like usage of wearable smart devices like watches or bracelets, or smart glasses would help even more. They are comfortable; they can be removed and be worn at any time, which increases their trustworthiness of security and comfortability.
Chips are spreading, are you getting one too?
Concluding, the demand for implanted microchips in Europe is rising, while other markets are not (Adi Robertson, 2017). In the age of technology where we are left with choices that indicate how we are conceived in the society, would you like to see yourself implanted with a microchip? How about your friends? They need to regulate the usage of these devices either if they are wearable or not since each one of them has various effects, either negative or positive. People need to make sure that they will stay healthy, and human rights to privacy and freedom are respected before making a choice.
Adi Robertson. (2017, July 21). I hacked my body for a future that never came. The Verge; The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2017/7/21/15999544/biohacking-finger-magnet-human-augmentation-loss
Agence France-Presse. (2018, May 13). Thousands of people in Sweden get microchip implants for a new way of life. South China Morning Post; South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/news/world/europe/article/2145896/thousands-people-sweden-get-microchip-implants-new-way-life
Alice Lloyd George. (2018, November). Thomas Reardon and CTRL-Labs are building an API for the brain. TechCrunch; TechCrunch. https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/01/thomas-reardon-and-ctrl-labs-are-building-an-api-for-the-brain/
Kravets, D. (2015, May 11). Worker fired for disabling GPS app that tracked her 24 hours a day [Updated]. Ars Technica; Ars Technica. https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/05/worker-fired-for-disabling-gps-app-that-tracked-her-24-hours-a-day/
Maddy, S. (2018, October 22). Thousands Of Swedes Are Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin. NPR.Org. https://www.npr.org/2018/10/22/658808705/thousands-of-swedes-are-inserting-microchips-under-their-skin
Malibongwe Tyilo. (2019, September 23). The human microchips are here. Would you implant one? Daily Maverick; Daily Maverick. https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2019-09-23-the-human-microchips-are-here-would-you-implant-one/
Neuralink. (2019). Neuralink.Com. https://www.neuralink.com/
Schwartz, O. (2019, November 8). The rise of microchipping: are we ready for technology to get under the skin? The Guardian; The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/nov/08/the-rise-of-microchipping-are-we-ready-for-technology-to-get-under-the-skin
The Future of Microchip Implants in Humans. (2019, August 27). Thomasnet.Com; Thomasnet. https://www.thomasnet.com/insights/the-future-of-microchip-implants-in-humans/
Weiss, H. (2018, September 21). Are You Ready for a Medical RFID Implant? The Atlantic; The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/09/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-the-microchip/570946/
Stevens, L. (2017). Will microchips be used in athletes to prevent doping? BT.Com. http://home.bt.com/tech-gadgets/future-tech/microchips-in-humans-to-prevent-doping-11364220161232