For years conspiracy theorists have warned of a secret plan, hatched by our rulers, to embed everyone with their own unique microchip. These chips will then serve as radio frequency identification (R.F.I.D) tags underneath the user's skin, like those currently used in pets or livestock. Some elaborate further and say that these RFID tags will be able to interact with our minds, alter our mood and allow us to access information in some way.
I first heard this idea in the early 1990's. Back then most people dismissed it, they either thought it too absurd to suggest or were, like me, under the impression no one would ever willingly accept such an obviously totalitarian technology. There'd be mass protests were such a plan to be implemented, went my logic.
Since then I've hosted a national radio phone in show on the topic. I've sat in a national radio studio with two members of the public who had RFID tags already embedded in them. Nice couple, they worked in a tattoo shop. I've even presented an hour long national TV show on the ethics of the matter with Professor Kevin Warwick, who develops biotechnology himself. A lovely bloke, once hooked his nervous system up to the internet as an experiment. Always friendly and keen to educate people about technology.
The thing is, despite being better placed than most to point out the reality of this technology, there's still part of me that thinks of it as kooky laugh out loud science fiction stuff. Even when I watch corporate videos like this one here, they seem like some mad attempt to troll the conspiracy subculture rather than a product about to become mainstream:
The issue has always been confused by the fact many claim this technology, and the debate surrounding it, was predicted by biblical prophecy. The best example is in the book of Revelation's infamous warning regarding "the mark of the beast":
And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.(Revelation 13:16 & 13:17 my emphasis)
In short this conspiracy theory contains everything needed for most to put it in the "kookie" drawer and forget about it, even if they think there's something in it. Biblical prophecy, religious conviction, a new but vaguely defined technology and the thought of a secretive cabal intent on tricking the entire world into accepting "Satan's mark". Were it not for the fact that there now appears to be a genuine attempt to bring some sort of identification chip technology into the mainstream I suspect that's where I would have left it. But I can't. It seems too important.
Here are some previous blog entries with examples from the last few months:
The response to these developments is interesting, if the roots of the idea really are to be found in the Bible. "Conspiracy theorists", and those sympathetic to the subculture, seem to frame the debate as a simple question of faith. "Would you wear the microchip?" is almost a trick question. Failure to answer "correctly" means you're not one of the faithful. You therefore cannot be saved, only condemned.
The result is that instead of unleashing a devastating series of counter arguments the subculture turns inward as its most important battle emerges on the horizon. Rather than engaging with the debate many of those who feel they were forewarned are instead recoiling at the idea there even is one.
I first noticed this problem around ten years ago when I hosted the aforementioned a phone in show for Kerrang Radio. The piece is mostly repeated for my podcast audience here:
On the podcast I've been trying to focus a discussion on the reasons why even "non-believers" should avoid embedding microchips under their skin. It's a tricky task. Lots of people think they sound like a great idea. Pull your mind out of this internet enhanced reality tunnel you're using right now and ask them for yourself.
EMAIL FROM A LISTENER:
Last Thursday morning, after finishing your podcast on my way to work, I bumped into a colleague. After the pleasantries, I delivered my proposition. He's a very technically minded and intelligent bloke, who works on the IT side of things. He's also a cynical chap and generally critical of our employer. Perhaps the kind of person who would be on "our" side on this one.
I came straight out with it:
"Ey, mate, I was listening to this mad podcast on the way in. The bloke was banging on about having microchips in yer 'ed. Would you have one?"
I was careful not to load the question or make my opinion overtly clear. Straightaway, my colleague replied:
"Oh yeah, imagine not having to fumble around for your pass in the morning. And you could reply to your emails as you're driving in. It'd be great".
I was shocked, but nodded in passive, dumbstruck agreement. Later, I had the same conversation with the office cleaner, a lady in her fifties. Her response:
"Ooh, it'd make things a lot easier though, wouldn't it? And I'd get to see what my granddaughter was up to, I don't hear from her as much as I'd like".
A third colleague, a mother of one, and 4 months pregnant with her second. I told her about the article I'd seen in "chat" magazine (or similar), suggesting it might not be such a bad idea to give newborns a chip, so we'd never lose them. She thought about it for a moment, and then talked about how terrible it would be to lose a child, and how she'd do anything to keep her new baby safe. Including inserting a chip.
Now, I realise a straw poll of three colleagues doesn't count for scientific analysis, but it does give me enough information to suggest my views are out of step with many of my colleagues, and that, when it comes to chip insertion, I might just be in the minority.
Consider the very real possibility that the MAJORITY of the population would willingly queue up to have a chip inserted. Then consider that this makes you, or "us", the minority, and if we're not careful, the "tin foil hatters", who the majority would look upon as the lunatic fringe.
Can't you just imagine hearing this:
"Oooor maayyte, what's wrong wiv ya, not 'avin yer chip in. Can't you see how GREAT they are"
My analysis of my colleagues responses suggests that they are motivated by fear, and, for want of a better term "ease". Firstly, the idea of losing a loved one, no matter how statistically small, is enough for people to cosy up to the reassuring teat of the state, in this manifestation, the chip. Plumb one in and you'll never lose your kids. The other factor, "ease", is that - get this bad boy in and my life will be so much easier. All those things I'll never have to think about. The third motivation is perhaps the thrill of information - having all that knowledge and data not at your fingertips, but literally inside your head at your command. For me the latter argument is the by far the most persuasive.
I think it's these three concepts that we need to develop strong arguments against.
So, Mr Nicoli, that's as far as I have manged to take my thoughts on the situation. Chips are bad, I don't want one, but most people seemingly do, and they don't necessarily want them for what I would call the "right" reasons, but of course that's a massive moral projection on my part.
My feeling is that we as a group need to develop a rational and coherent argument against the chip. And it's far, far, easier said than done. But to realise we are in a small minority by doing so is an important first step.
The best argument I can think of is that, once it's in there, there's no going back. Who controls the chip, and who are you giving that little bit more of your "self" to. I suppose those might be the first questions to ask of those willing for insertion.
Perhaps the other argument is to say - look at our fucking government. Rotten to the core, seemingly full of either bankers, crooks or pedophiles. You want them to get direct control of your consciousness? What about those corporations? All they want to do is make MONEY, and as the old saying goes - if you're not paying for it, YOU are the product. A chip is a data miner's dream.
The problem with taking this tact is that one tends to end up ranting like a mad man in the night and further alienating those who were already willing to be chipped.
It's so difficult to argue against the chip without sounding suspicious and judgmental of authority - and alienating the many who see governments as their protectors. However, as I'm sure you'll agree, I think it's absolutely essential for a healthy society that there is a significant voice which *is* suspicious and judgmental of authority.
Further, I'm troubled by the obvious comparison to the Levelers, who, according to my school history lessons, were portrayed as a bunch of semi-neanderthal thick heads who went around smashing up all the wondrous new machinery being rolled out around the dawn of the industrial revolution. Of course, they were presumably acting in self interest, but nonetheless, the comparison is a troubling one: Are *we* the Luddites resisting the step forward to a greater human consciousness? I suppose the question here is, who is controlling it? Shouldn't a greater consciousness lack central control?
So, over to you and your listeners. How do we develop a sound, solid argument?
Let's work on this together. I believe this is one of the most important debates for the immediate future of our species.
Let's not let this one slip through our fingers without a fight. I don't have an answer right now, but I promise you I'm ruminating on it.
The debate on my podcast continues. This blog post is intended to get you to add to it.
And also because I wanted to post yet another recent news story on the topic:
Customers at Halifax bank could soon be able to prove their identities online using their heartbeat, rather than a password.
A bracelet called a Nymi Band may be trialled which measures cardiac rhythms unique to each person to keep them logged in online - without having to remember passwords, codes and PIN numbers.
It can authenticate a user when they place their finger on a tiny metal plate fitted to the band, creating a circuit which can be used to check the user's electrocardiogram or "cardiac signature" against a stored one.
The user has access to a service for as long as they wear the band. If the band is removed, the electrocardiogram is re-read once the device is placed around the wrist again.
[... READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ...]
Other banks are experimenting with digital payment technologies. Barclays has released a band called bPay, which is worn around the wrist and can be used to make payments of up to £20.
Thoughts in the comments section, they will be used in the next episode of the podcast.
Thoughts in the comments section, they will be used in the next episode of the podcast.