The future, like it or not, has arrived in a big way for 50 employees of the company, Three Square Market (32M), who have voluntarily agreed to have a rice-grain-sized microchip implanted in their hand between the thumb and forefinger. To 32M president, Curt Giles, the technology, already widely used in Europe, is inevitable. Others worry that what starts as a simple, efficient way to pay for breakroom snacks with a wave of your hand over a scanner could devolve into something more serious. Here’s the scoop.
If It’s Good Enough for Europe
The $300 microchips have already been in use across Europe for years, but the August 1 “chip party” at which the 32M employees will receive the implants by syringe in a process that lasts only a few seconds, is the first time U.S employees will undergo the procedure. The company employees 85, though 35 have declined to participate in the program. Giles assures them and the media there will be no hard feelings but also feels it’s pointless to try and ignore technology’s advance. “We want to be on the forefront of this,” Giles said. “This is something that’s coming.”
Initial uses for the chip will be the aforementioned breakroom payments, as well as the ability to open secure doors and log onto computers with the same simple swipe. Eventual uses would expand to include travel reservations, public transit, and medical information storage. With a sizable portion of the citizenry already paranoid about the loss of security in today’s world, the idea of agreeing to microchip implantation could be seen as the first step down a very slippery path. Michael Zimmer, internet ethics instructor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, warns about the potential of “function creep,” where technology implemented for one purpose becomes twisted around and used for something else entirely - like surveillance. A 32M spokesperson said that the chip data is encrypted and does not work off any GPS network.
The Bottom Line
Though microchip implants will soon see their first use in the U.S., don’t expect that this is an aberration. 32M won’t name names but says there has already been interest expressed by other organizations. Keep your ears tuned. This won’t be the last you hear of the microchip-in-humans debate. The science fiction tales of yesteryear have arrived and, like with many other difficult issues, humanity will have to wrestle with the morality, ethics, and unforeseen consequences of the choices made.