Convenient Or Risky? First Implanted Microchips Promise The Public To “Make Their Life Easier”

The future is here, folks. 

No matter how creative you might consider yourself, technology advancements seem to be much faster than your mind- everything that was once believed to be pure fiction, a perfect idea for a sci-fi movie, is already happening somewhere in the world.

Think about it- robots were a fascinating phenomenon just a few decades ago- and now, people are losing their jobs due to machines designed to perform their tasks in a more efficient ( and less expensive) way.

Believe it or not, thousands of people live with implanted microchips already!

Yup, someone with a microchip in their hands might have walked past you, without you even noticing it!

According to proponents of these devices, they ease life. Yet, many others question the safety and security of microchips.

Implanted microchips are increasingly popular in Sweden. They have been around there since2014, and people use them to enter their homes, offices, and gyms, as tickets, to take the train, to store emergency contact details, and for social media profiles.

Jowan Osterlund, former professional body piercer and founder of microchipping company Biohax International, agrees that the implanted microchips make people’s lives easier:

 “Having different cards and tokens verifying your identity to a bunch of different systems just doesn’t make sense. Using a chip means that the hyper-connected surroundings that you live in every day can be streamlined.”

The technology has been adopted by thousands of Swedes, and this wealthy nation has a high level of trust in their companies, banks, large organizations, and their government.

Unlike people in Stockholm, the Swedish capital, who have welcomed this technology, many other places doubt its usage, implications, and convenience.

Urs Gasser, executive director at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, says:

“This experiment has so far happened in a wealthy country, among very digitally savvy people. And while having a chip may play out nicely for well-educated people in Sweden who are part of a digital hub, I question how this will play out for, say, a worker in a warehouse.” 

Implanted microchips have their pros and cons.

Proponents of microchips explain that their benefits are numerous. They claim they are safe and low-cost, and serve as an additional way to identify people.

Plus, people no longer need to carry all their cards, keys, and other items that are easily lost with themselves all the time.

Implanted microchips also increase the security of various facilities.

Yet, this just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the microchips are capable of.

Professor Kevin Warwick, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Coventry University, the first-ever person to have a microchip implanted in his hand back in 1998, maintains that the benefits of this technology for the industry are multiple:

 “There’s the potential of this technology to help dementia patients. An implant could enable sufferers to operate a virtual fence, thereby giving them much more freedom to wander on their own. Conversely, the implants could be used to restrict movement, to act as a tag for prisoners either as a means to stop them leaving an establishment or rather to indicate when they try to enter somewhere off-limits.” 

On the other hand, the primary concern of the opponents to the microchips is the location-tracking capability, which they lack, as well as the potential for hacking.

Smartphones already provide plenty of our personal data, but this is an option every one of us can turn off.

One cannot just unplug this technology as it is implanted into the body.

Human enhancement and bioterrorism researcher Richard Wordsworth warns that the potential dangers of these chips being hacked could outweigh the benefits:

 “Why does this matter for a chip that opens the door to your office? It probably doesn’t. Where it absolutely does matter is in the context of, for example, digital health devices – implants that might be used to monitor patients’ medical conditions or provide regular doses of medication from a built-in drug reservoir.” 

He cautions that hackers could be able to tamper with those functions, like turning off someone’s pacemaker or delivering a lethal dose of a drug.

He is also worried about updates- technology keeps improving, so people would have to remove the chip from the hand and implant a new one whenever this happens.

When it comes to the United States, implanted microchips are not widely accepted. They are even illegal in some states, like Nevada. Arkansas, New Jersey, and Tennessee are all drafting legislation surrounding the microchips.

Yet, some companies have had them implanted.

For instance, employees at Three Square Market in Wisconsin had a voluntary microchipping party, and those who decided to receive them can now operate the vending machine, printers and access the building with just a tap of their hand.

When the event was shared on social media, they were harshly criticized. Judging by the response to their experiment, implanted microchips won’t become mainstream in America anytime soon.

Osterlund has had a chip in his hand for more than six years now and claims that concerns about these microchips are not that valid:

 “Microchips are inert and passive, basically like swipe cards that you can’t lose. So I find it ironic when people with an iPhone and a Gmail account get on Facebook to scream about privacy just because they’re freaked out by the incision.”

He agrees that it seems the fear isn’t actually about the tech itself, but more so the inability to turn it off:

“The fear we feel in relation to microchips is less about a particular technology and more about that technology in the context of power and uneven power structures, like employer and worker. And when those dynamics are implanted in our bodies, there is a line we cross that simply feels different.”