[Translation] the growing popularity of microchipping: are we ready to let technology under the skin?
It is impossible to exclude emotional or psychological response to new technologies, especially those related to body modification
With the spread of the implants experts worried about the strengthening of surveillance and exploitation of workers. Supporters of the technology call these fears irrational.
August 1, 2017, the company employees Three Square Market from Wisconsin, specializing in vending machines, lined up in the dining room of the company on the implantation of the microchip. One by one they gave their local tattoo artist, protalkivaya implant size with the rice in their flesh between thumb and forefinger. To the procedure agreed 41 employees, and they all received gift t-shirts with the inscription “I chipped it”.
Wholesale of implantation, organized by the management of the company, coincided with the long-term development plan, which includes cashless payments for vending machines to snack in the workplace could be bought, simply sweep a brush. A highly publicized “party chipping” proved to be an excellent marketing tactic, and this story wrote all of the media from Moscow to Sydney.
However, not all brought to this event the attention was positive. After that, the authors of some comments on the company’s page in Facebook encouraged employees to quit. The company’s page in Google is flooded with negative reviews. Christian groups convinced that the implants fulfill the prophecy about the End of the world as “mark of beast”, has accused the company of being a Antichrist.
Jovan Osterlund, Swedish tattoo artist and piercing specialist, whose company, Biohax provided Three Square Market with microchips, with interest watched the scene.
For Osterlund implants are not radical or innovative. For many years he lived with this, and got implants to hundreds of other young Swedes, keen on technology. For this community chip refers to the seamless fusion of biology and technology. They used implants to gain access to the coworking, payment for use of the gym, and even for travel on the train. Opening Biohax, Osterlund was hoping to bring this concept to the world market.
Three Square Market was a test, the first company in the United States, publicly offered to employees implants. But highly emotional response, linking these devices not only malicious surveillance, but also with ideas about technopolises, raises the question that Osterlund still trying to find the answer: is the world ready to let the technology under the skin?
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Implants of a microchip, in fact, is a cylindrical bar-code that when you scan transmits a unique signal that penetrates through the skin layer. Basically, these chips are used to organize products, warehouses, identification of cattle and lost Pets, although in human subjects was also conducted.
In 1998, Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics reading University implanted a chip in his arm for demonstration of the ability of the procedure and to explore the ideas of transhumanism, according to which the merger of technology with the body is the next step in the evolution of mankind.
First Osterlund heard of microchipping a few years after the beginning of the project to Warwick when his friend copied the chip my dog and implanted it under the skin. They both belonged to the group of fans of body modification in Sweden and often experimented with new technologies, such as clamidia and piercing of the nasal septum. “Chip the dog was used for drawing, so my friend could go to the vet and pretend to be there own lab, or something like that, told me Osterlund. But the idea that implants can do more stuck in my head.”
In 2013, Osterlund came across a German company that sold the industrial-grade microchips in the Internet. Unlike chips implanted animals, and is able to pass only the ID number, these devices operate with a data transmission Protocol NFC, which can be programmed to perform simple tasks.
Osterlund ordered a batch of chips and wrote a simple program, thus linking it to Samsung 5 with a microchip that when he took the phone in hand, he was automatically dial his wife. At the first attempt of implantation of Osterlund damaged the fuse of the chip during sterilization. The second attempt succeeded better when he touched the phone, he automatically started a call to his wife.
“It’s like my body turned to the Internet, he said. It was my own moment of johnny Mnemonic“.
Delighted, Osterlund contacted his friend, Hannes Sjoblom, community-based Swedish transhumanist. Sjoblad was impressed by the experiment Osterlund, and invited him to hold a demonstration in “Epicenter” – coworking in engineering school in Stockholm, where Sjoblad was “in charge of disintegration”.
Osterlund keeps microcephaly implant
Other innovators and startup founders from the “Epicenter” interested in implant Osterlund, and soon they Sjoblom began to organize the evening “beer chips”. Osterlund implanted microchips in the process of making alcoholic beverages, and shared ideas about possible applications of the abilities of the cyborgs.
“”Epicenter” quickly adapted to the biochip, and we were soon opened the front door and printed documents with the help of implants, told me Sjoblad. – All this happened on a voluntary basis and it was very good.”
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Today Osterlund and Sjoblad own their own businesses associated with the microchips. Biohax Osterlund aimed at simplifying the identification of and access to the digital world, and offers replacement endless passwords, keys, tickets and cards littering our lives. “Chip and everything is on this single, tiny device that is impossible to lose”, — he said.
Business Sjoblad, Dsruptive in the University in the South of Sweden, coming to the microchipping as the extension industry of wearable devices for tracking health. Sjoblad believes that placing the device under the skin, not wearing it on the hand type Fitibt, it is possible to improve the data collection process. “Swipe your iPhone over it and you will get the content of oxygen in the blood, the temperature profile, patterns of heart rate and respiration, he said. – For people seeking to optimize your health, this is a whole new level.”
There are other companies that extend the capabilities of microchip implants, in particular, Dangerous Things from Seattle that sells various biostructure, including multi-colored LEDs lighting up under the skin. But Osterlund believes that Sweden will become the centre of innovations among cyborgs. “Government railway already supports these chips, and our country by 2023, plans to refuse from cash, ‘he said to me. – I think here you can see an example of how this can be done”.
But URS Gasser, Executive Director of Harvard’s center for Internet and community they. Berkman Klein, believes that within the Swedish technotainment on larger markets, will be a more complex process than believes Osterlund as with legal and ethical point of view.
“While this experiment was conducted in a rich country among the technically savvy people, he said. And if you go with a chip, it will be convenient for educated people in Sweden, belonging to the technical community, the question arises how it will change the situation, for example, for workers at the warehouse.”
Gasser believes that many people reacted negatively to the advertised event at Three Square Market because it symbolizes the imbalance of power in the workplace, and calls the dystopian images of an authoritarian employer, rachellovesmoosic and tightly controlling workers. “Looking at how employees chipped at work, people have wondered about what it means to be an employee, he said. Is the person who paid for the work or is the property of the company for which he works?”
Ifeoma Ajunwa, Professor of labour and employment of Cornell University, adds that it is important to evaluate all the consequences of microchipping in a context of increased surveillance of workers. In operation 2016, “Limitless surveillance of employees“, Ajunwa with her co-authors, Kate Crawford and Jason Schultz, suggests that new methods of data collection – tracing the history of the Internet, DNA testing, collection of data on health as part of health programs in the workplace not only for employers create a more personal profile data on each employee, but also seep into their personal and domestic life.
Ajunwa says microchips will deepen and broaden this dynamic. They have “the potential for a permanent and very personal track – they literally follow the worker everywhere. It blurs the line between work and family life.”
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Concern about the possible implementation of microchipping in the coming years show a few U.S. lawmakers, including Skip Daley, a Democrat from the legislature of the state of Nevada, which in March proposed a bill prohibiting forced chipping. Arkansas, new Jersey and Tennessee are also developing laws related to implants.
In a press release Three Square Market stressed that “the party chipping” was completely voluntary. But, according to Ajunwa because labor laws in the United States often play into the hands of the employers, workers can be subjected to coercion in cases of surveillance.
For example, in 2015 a woman was fired from work after she has uninstalled the app to track its movements, although at this time she was not at work. In another recent case was made public employer’s requirements for employees to donate their DNA once in the workplace was discovered human selection. Ajunwa said that, in the absence of clear labour regulation prohibiting inducement of employees to surveillance, “employees may feel the need to agree on chipping even in case of doubt”.
Tony Dunn, Vice-President of Three Square Market is in the process of implantation of the microchip
When I raised these questions in conversation with Ostersundom, he said that for a successful scaling procedure of microchipping you will need to create a new legal platform, in particular concerning the voluntary agreement. He believes that part of its success microchipping in Sweden is obliged to the strict laws governing labour and data protection – such, for example, as “General rules on data protection” (GDPR), creating an atmosphere of trust between the government and the society, the employer and the employee.
However, both he and Sjoblad suggest that most of the fear caused by the microchipping, is based not so much on concern about privacy, how many on an irrational prejudice against implants. “Microchips interten and passive, in fact, it’s a magnetic card that you can’t lose,’ said Osterlund. That’s why I find it ironic when people that have iPhone account Gmail, share on Facebook concerns about privacy just because you are afraid of injections”.
It is impossible to exclude emotional or psychological response to new technologies, especially those related to body modification. Gasser believes that this emotional response need not immediately reject, calling superstitious or illogical. “Fear tangible in relation to microchips, connected not so much with the specific technology, how much technology in the context of power and unequal power structures, such as the relationship of employer and employee, he said. And when this dynamic is embedded in our bodies, we move some kind of tangible line”.