Kidnap-prone execs are supposedly implanting Lo-Jack devices to track their movements.
How'd you like to avoid waiting in lines for the rest of your life? Breeze through everywhere like you owned the place. Watch lights snap on, doors open automatically, money pop out of ATMs as you approach. Never have to show an ID, buy a ticket, carry keys, remember a password. You'd leave stores loaded with packages and waltz right past the cashiers. You wouldn't have to carry a wallet. Ever. Family and friends could find you instantly in any crowd.
There's only one catch—you'd need to have a tiny little chip implanted in your body. No big deal. Just ask Kevin Warwick, a British professor who had a silicon-based transponder surgically inserted into his forearm last year.
You'd think from all the attention that the natty professor was jacking chips into his brain like some cheese-ball sci-fi android. Truth is, his modest implant simply turned him into a walking EZ-Pass.
Warwick's gizmo—a coil of wire and a few chips embedded in a small glass capsule about a tenth of an inch wide and a little less than an inch long—generates a 64-bit number when zapped by an RF transmitter. A receiver then looks it up in a database.
Animal shelters have implanted millions of these electronic IDs in cats, dogs, and birds. Metal tags can fall off, and tattooed numbers could be placed anywhere and are often hard to find—who wants to play slap-and-tickle with a snarling rottweiler?
A lot of us carry similar mechanisms inside ID cards, to open doors. But these can get lost, forgotten, or stolen and misused. And biometric devices like retinal scanners and fingerprint sensors are intrusive and imperfect.
Besides, people have been sticking all sorts of things in their bodies for years—pacemakers to fix broken hearts, silicone to perk up skinny chests, Norplant to prevent third-world countries from becoming fourth-world ones.
Consider the benefits. It would end password PINsanity forever. Sensors would wave chipped consumers through checkout lines and tollbooths. Contractors would build implant-friendly homes and offices with Gatesian gimmicks that could customize temperature, background music, and even images on wall-size flat-screen displays as you move from room to room.
It would help sort out newborn babies, Alzheimer's patients, amnesiacs, comatose (or worse) accident victims, and military casualties. In fact, there's an entire paranoid-delusional faction out there that believes the government is already chipping soldiers and prisoners. And kidnap-prone executives are supposedly implanting tiny Lo-Jack devices to track their movements.
Internal chips could measure irregular heartbeats and blood-sugar levels in diabetics. Or, as Warwick points out, chips could sense muscular movements so you could play air guitar, type on virtual air keyboards, move invisible mice. And Warwick won't make a lot of new redneck friends with his suggestion that gun buyers first get chipped before their weapons are delivered.
Computers are rapidly evolving into Internet terminals. When your chip goes in, you'll be able to walk up to any terminal in any office and log on instantly. Incoming phone calls and faxes will automatically be routed to wherever you happen to be. Of course, employers could also log your time in the john or at the water cooler.
If you don't think you're already being monitored, you're naďve. Your credit cards, telephone bills, supermarket club cards, Internet purchases, and public records like home purchases and car licenses already do a pretty good job.
How will they convince people to implant these chips? First, they'll hype the convenience of leaving your keys, credit cards, and money at home. Then they'll automate everything from cash registers to tollbooths so if you're chipped you can zoom through in a digital carpool lane. Me, I'll wait.