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Ready for a microchip to control your body?

The throbbing chip may sound futuristic, but are you game to let it take over your whole life, asks Rajiv Makhni

brunch Updated: Apr 23, 2017 14:01 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Implanting a microchip in the brain is the ultimate plan
Implanting a microchip in the brain is the ultimate plan

You walk up to your office door and it automatically slides open for you – no security codes to tap in. Your car senses your presence, the doors unlock and the engine comes to life – all without you using a key. You pay for your movie and the dinner that follows, simply by standing there, no credit card, no cash, no wallet. Your child leaves for school with the driver, followed by a dance class and an evening out with friends. Every activity shows up on a location map, but without any phone, GPS or any other tracker device on your child.

Sci-fi movies and books have predicted it, Nostradamus had some pretty fantastic things to say about it and even the Bible (the ‘Mark of the Beast’ described it in the book of Revelation) may have had some observations on it. The microchip implanted inside the human body – the ultimate geek fantasy has become a reality now!

It’s real

Swedish start-up Epicenter implants its workers with a microchip the size of a grain of rice. No more identity cards. Just waving your hand opens doors, gives you access to printers, buys things from the cafeteria and logs your attendance. The implant itself isn’t a very big deal. No surgery, no time consuming complex operation. All it needs is a syringe pre-loaded with the chip. The chip is implanted into the fleshy area just underneath the thumb in a process that takes a second and is almost painless. This seems to be creating quite a frenzy, as more than 150 people have opted for the implant.

Digital RFID tattoos can monitor body temperature and UV exposure

All around us

And they aren’t the only ones. Multiple companies all around the world have the chip implant option and people seem to be opening up their hands in droves to become the first to have a semi-bionic hand. Massachusetts-based MicroCHIPS implants a contraceptive chip that allows a woman to turn birth control medicine on and off by remote control. There are now digital RFID tattoos to monitor body temperature, hydration levels and even UV exposure, all of it on your body with no fitness bands and smartwatches needed. But that’s just the beginning.

Brain tool

Elon Musk wants to take it to a whole new level and to a whole new location. In the brain! His new company Neuralink is working towards a brain implant that will emit tiny electrodes to treat brain disorders. But that’s just early stuff. The final objective is to have brain implants that turn you into a superhuman computer, providing the mental boost to take on the dangers of artificial intelligence and robotics taking over the workforce and making us redundant.

The microchip is even smaller than a matchstick

It’s here and now

It seems like the chip in our body is pretty much a given thing. That’s the next big thing, the holy grail, the tech that will make us superhuman. Our smartphone will be an implant as will all other physical forms of access and utilities we carry around with us. Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately this also opens a can of worms, the likes of which we’ve never seen before.

Chipped away

As with any radical breakthrough technologies, chip implant raises serious issues. The information these chips will generate are a hacker’s gold mine. Unlike your smartphone or your credit card, you can’t separate yourself from your chip when you want to. It’s right there, in you at all times. These chips could be a health hazard too. What if all the signals and radio waves and the processing taking place inside is proven dangerous for the human body, but only 20 years later? And while it’s awesome that you can gain access to your car or house, what if you’re locked out by your bank because you missed an instalment? The chip gives complete control of you to an outsider. And privacy would be deemed as a joke due to the amount of data this chip would give out. Where you are, who you’re with, how long you worked, how many toilet breaks you took and how fast you’re driving, it’s all there for the right people to tap into.

So give it some thought. The world of implantable microchips is just around the corner. Is a chip implanted in your body really worth it? How about opening the door by hand, how about fishing out a wallet and paying, how about starting your car with a key? Maybe, just maybe – we don’t need a throbbing pulsating flashing chip inside our body to do things we’ve done very well on our own for years.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, April 23, 2017

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