In 2017, when employee volunteers at Three Square Market, a Wisconsin-based technology company, agreed to have microchips implanted in their wrists so that they could access the company’s lunchroom vending machines without exchanging money, some people tittered.
At best, it was viewed as a publicity effort to draw attention to the firm and its work in the microchip industry.
So where are we with human microchip implants two years later? Well … not so far along in some ways, and yet things may be poised for a sea change in the not-too-distant future.
And actually, it has less to do with human microchip implants as a convenience as it does with their potential to revolutionize health monitoring and medical diagnoses.
Biohax International, a Swedish-based company founded more than five years ago, is further along on the development curve than most other developers in the field. According to a report from Thomas Industry Insights, thousands of Swedes now have microchip implants, and the number is expected to continue growing at a robust pace.
At present, Biohax chip implants can house anything from emergency contact information to FOB and other access capabilities for cars, homes and even public transportation.
But the next frontier looks to be in healthcare. At present, prototype microchips are being developed that will enable continual monitoring of a person’s vital signs – things like glucose monitoring and blood pressure monitoring.
It isn’t difficult to imagine a day when certain patients are prescribed potentially lifesaving microchip implants that will serve as “early warnings” to nascent health emergencies.
There could be a downside, of course – there nearly always is with these sorts of things, it seems. What does a world look like where physicians, insurance companies, employers or credit card companies make implants a mandatory condition for service or employment?
How far of a line is it to go from that to being part of a “surveillance state”?
And even if the situation never came to that, would people who demur from participating voluntarily in the “microchip revolution” be somehow walled off from the benefits microchips could deliver – thereby becoming “second-class citizens”?
The ethical questions about human microchip implants are likely to be with us for some time to come — and it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.
Do you have particular opinions about the “promise and peril” of microchip implants? Please share your thoughts with other readers here.
2 thoughts on “The promise — and peril? — of microchip implants for people.”
Surveillance is an inevitable byproduct of knowledge. Achieve understanding of something, and next thing you know, we’re monitoring it.
It’s uncomfortable to picture human beings as machines ruled by warning lights, of course, alerted from within to “check engine” or “inflate tires”, but increased awareness will surely lead to better health outcomes for us.
Think about it: The side of the road is no longer littered with broken-down cars the way it once was. And people don’t drop dead in public as often as I remember from childhood. Monitoring is generally good — and more convenient when it is inanimate.
Nobody likes being watched, of course, especially by a device. An automated freeway will give out a traffic ticket whereas an understanding Highway Patrol officer might not. (And there is, of course, a lot that dictators could do with implanted microchips to oppress a population. The Chinese already track your behavior with cameras and give you a social acceptance “score”.)
But we greatly benefit from watchfulness, even so. Most crimes are now solved by cameras. A chip implant for this or that is merely the next step in convenience and progress.
The Peril is the Promise
In a society, where poison pills are called ‘cookies’, where Kool-Aid has come to signify a mass poisoning, and where the term “Privacy Declaration” translates as “This is how we will be using your personal data to our advantage.”, in such a society, it is an unwieldy whopper to swallow, when we are told anything might be to our long-term benefit.
Of course, when we take that fictional tour into the fictional average American’s home and life and look at what in there actually is to their long-term advantage, we will get an approximation of a very low percentage. Even the rich or well-off person (upper 10 percent maybe?) has a life full of very little that makes them happy. And there is method in that madness. You see, I am a very happy person and I don’t need a refrigerator. I have one. So don’t try to sell me one. In fact, when I tell you what made yesterday one of the happiest days in my life, you will find nothing anyone could have sold me. Here goes:
After sleeping under the stars – literally – in an opened tent behind our house (between house and garden), we woke up to light wafting clouds of so many swept shapes and characters, not even Giambattista Tiepolo or William Turner could possibly dream them up this way.
Then we milked our four Mama-goats, two of whom, for the first time with a decent yield after we had separated the kids from them for the first time the night before.
Then we, Vajra Ma and I, had breakfast and then finished the last touches on my latest play “Murder on Fifth Avenue” (no, it was not the butler), I printed it out and spiral-bound it and we drove into town to share it with a friend, Billy DaMota.
All through the day, I felt consistently really elated and hopeful. A red letter day and it is not an “A”.
What’s my point here?
As I said, no shred of any data about me “shared” (another lie) with anyone or any organization did contribute or could have possibly contributed to my happiness, and thus to my health. The “data thing” is not about me and my happiness or even contentment but about how an anonymous corporation can use it to their benefit. In fact, the way data is used, except maybe the tracking number of a package, serves the diametrically opposed objective of stealing my contentment so as to make me belief that some product or service someone is trying to take my money for will bring it back.
A chip implanted, anywhere in my body, will no doubt serve the same purpose, use data for the implantor’s benefit, with maybe a handful of medical emergency purposes. Blood pressure is not one of them, neither is blood sugar. so maybe it won’t even add up to five. Convenience is not a purpose. I have a blood pressure measuring device. I know when I’m dizzy from insufficient or excessive sugar, and all of it can be managed by self-discipline. Hey Siri, is convenience a purpose? Aaah, yes! I’m sorry, not having to do something is a wonderful thing. Leaves more time for my Facebook community. Vital functions? Do I have them? Do I need them? Ask my telemedicinator.
Sure, I’m going a bit far afield here. But, not really. There is no sci-fi in imagining a chip that will make me feel good, depressed, high, contented, Yes, Dear. Of course, Dear. I would never think that, Dear. Why think at all, Dear.
That’s not what you wanted to hear.