In the film “Bicentennial Man,” Robin Williams portrays a futuristic robot that – through a programming fluke – portrays emotions more discernibly “human” than his electronic counterparts. At the movie’s end the android is in fact declared “human” in a world where man has melded with machines through artificially generated organs and continuous blood replacement.
When the movie was released in 1999 the events depicted therein seemed preposterous. But not to Ray Kurzweil, who envisions a day in the not too distant future in which humans will become so machine like and machines will become so human that the two will be virtually indistinguishable. Already, we are moving in that direction.
Biohackers (also known as cyborgs or grinders), modify their bodies to not only provide functionality where none existed, but to extend their sensory capacity beyond normal limits: “In tattoo parlors and basements around the world, people are turning themselves into cyborgs by embedding magnets and computer chips directly into their bodies.” To combat degenerative hearing one researcher invented a device which converts Wi-Fi signals into sound. Other uses include (1) brain implants that turn color into sound waves – enabling color blind persons to see the spectrum; (2) fingertip implanted magnets which detect true north; (3) implants that function as ear buds that can directly “hear” cell GPS directions.
Uses yet to be unveiled include RFID pills that communicate directly with doctors; digital tattoos that serve as lie detector tests, embedded chip implants that titillate erogenous zones, silicon chips which detect dangerous episodes in Alzheimer patients as well as ones that control memory, mood, and stave off mental trauma in the military.
Biohackers revel in the Sixth sense provided by technology, that beyond the benefits initially deemed restorative. Recipients described bionic ear implants providing “echolocation” sensing (through vibration) to indicate whether someone is approaching, and how close they are. Contractors enabled with embedded magnets are able to locate wall studs, others can “hear” heat, detect microwaves, magnetic fields and Wi-Fi signals that would otherwise go unnoticed by our provisionary five senses. Biohacker Rich Lee explains the information cornucopia his implants provide: “It’s almost erotic when you feel something totally unexpected when there was no sensation before.” Although currently in the realm of novelty, one Swedish company has RFID chipped its workforce – with implantable chips unlocking doors, and used as payment for things like copies and cafeteria purchases. Sjobold, a representative of the Swedish Biohacking group explains: “We want to be able to understand this technology before big corporates and big government come to us and say everyone should get chipped – the tax authority chip, the Google or Facebook chip . . . we’ll all be able to question the way the technology is implemented from a position of much greater knowledge.”
The specter of what firms can do with RFID is mindboggling. Already, RFID chipped festival “bracelets” provided by RFIDENTIKIT allow concert management to view a photo of each guest, their purchased level of access, where they have visited within the venue, and whether or not they have VIP status “all from one central dashboard.”
The field of sub-dermal implant is so new its use within firms is virtually unregulated.
The following futuristic scenario (the first installment of a blog trilogy) is for a new employee in a fictional “chipped” company (e.g., “C*TEGYM”) who is viewing an introductory video on their first day at work.
“C*TEGYM welcomes you to its headquarters. Know that all of you sitting here were hand-picked, and carefully selected from the country’s top tier colleges and universities. Today you begin a journey in which you’ll be groomed, coached, and prepared for great things within our company. In a few minutes, you’ll leave with your assigned mentor who will train you over the next several months in the C*TEGYM Way. This will occur directly after undergoing our brand new “initiation” procedure. It’s a proud rite of passage where you’ll be identified with our proprietary insignia – one that will both ensure your safety, and permit you to access secure areas within any C*TEGYM location. We were chosen to be the industry leader in this new cutting edge technology, mandated by the Electronic Safety Employment Act, which we’re sure will become the industry standard.
The pending law will require RFID implant for everyone in companies of 50 or more employees. After a three year trial period – at which point a Congressional committee will make its final assessment – ChpCh*m™ and C*TEGYM managers, along with an independent investigation committee, will testify before Congress. The task force will interview employees, investigate audit trails, talk to biotech experts and have doctors physically examine test site workers. If their report to the President is positive, the pending law becomes permanent. Electronic ID is supposed to replace antiquated social security numbers that are easily stolen, and to prevent white collar crime from occurring.”
The announcer on film raised his hands in front of him, and like a priest offering a blessing, he said: “We look forward to all of you being family members for a long time. We here at C*TEGYM want you to feel right at home.” He even smiled benevolently.
Brightening lights revealed a stranger. He introduced himself as Stan D., Director of Information Technology.
“I was a little alarmed myself when I first saw this film. The company’s all over this chip implant business because now it gets a break on liability insurance. Actuaries love the fact our employees can be easily traced and notified in a crisis, mustered for easy access – especially the ones overseas. And implantation’s a snap; you’re given a mild sedative in what looks like a Balinese spa. Another benefit is that you’ll be able to use EZCk*ut, which allows your chip to act like an electronic wallet and relay messages to your SMART phone. We’ll load your medical insurance, results of genetic testing, and your employment information on it as well.
Edwin, our senior VP is a board member of ChpCh*m™ – a large manufacturer of RFID (radio frequency identification) chips. His appointment to that post is not mere coincidence. C*TEGYM is a multinational conglomerate (MNC) in which the test market (and later acceptance) of any potential product is huge. As senior vice president he’s part of an interlocking MNC directorate of firms that’ll quickly follow suit. Successful penetration will guarantee ChpCh*m a worldwide monopoly in the RFID market. The benefits of RFID are too numerous to ignore; some of these include unique inventory tracking, enhanced supply chain control, just-in-time stocking, and store shrinkage that’s virtually nonexistent. If everything goes smoothly, ChpCh*m anticipates an IPO by the end of 2021. It just recently obtained FDA approval for sub-dermal implant.”
Chipping at C*TEGYM Inc. was deemed a condition of employment.
Stan escorted me down a wide hallway lit by what can only be described as “mood lighting;” incandescent yellow lights, electric candles, and the reflection from tiny watt bulbs encased in Parchment marble wall sconces. Double French doors flew open the minute Stan approached them.
“Hello Gracine. I’ve told Blanche this experience is the closest thing to paradise east of the Pacific. I want you to take good care of her. Make her feel right at home.” Gracine nodded in a back in forth way, in that ambivalent East Indian manner I’d seen many times. What looked like a “no,” but what could really mean “yes.”
“Don’t you worry, she’s in good hands,” she assured him, as the beveled glass doors shut in second hand motion by themselves.
A white lab coat greeted me with a half nod. “Hello Blanche, I’m Dr. S; good to have you as part of the C*TEGYM team! I’m going to be your guide for the identification procedure. Follow me.” I scurried down back stairs to a private room, one that radiated lavender fragrance and the soft sounds of Enya wafting from in-wall speakers. A soft buttery glow descended like the aurora borealis. The doctor’s voice mesmerized me. “Blanche, I’ll need you to disrobe and put on this Turkish cover-up, then lie on the leather chaise. The technician will see you shortly.” He pointed to a silver metal tray on the counter. “Take the orange pill with a big swig of water; it’ll relax you.”
I lay down, closed my eyes, thinking about how soon I’d make my way to the executive suite. “Ms. G, you’re wanted in the World Bank board meeting; Ms. G, can I get you a coffee? Ms. G, Time Magazine would like to interview you next week!” This initiation didn’t seem half bad – not at all nearly the dreaded ordeal I’d imagined minutes earlier.
Two smiling faces interrupted my reverie – Dr. S and the other a technician, who inserted a short IV tube into my arm. “This will only take a few minutes; you might feel a small stick… were the last words I remember.” I awoke to Gracine rubbing my right hand. “We have to keep the location of the chip a secret,” she said. “C*TEGYM South America found out the hard way that letting people know its exact location can be a disaster. Some of our employees had their arms wacked off at the wrist.”
Exactly where was this chip, and what were its side effects?