If you're familiar with the Star Trek spin-off television series, The Next Generation, starring Patrick Stewart, you know about the Borg.
A highly advanced and aggressive network of humanoid drones, the Borg is part organic, part artificial life. At birth, a Borg infant is implanted with chips and other biotechnology that gives it superior mental and physical abilities. The chips link the baby's brain to a collective consciousness, giving it seamless access to all knowledge assimilated by the Borg over thousands of years. The drone is collectively aware but loses its consciousness as a separate individual with free will.
The Borg travel in cube-shaped spaceships that seek out and assimilate technology. When a Borg ship encounters other humanoid forms, it captures them and converts them into Borg using the same technology that babies receive. Those who refuse “assimilation” are killed.
Returning to the real world, are we becoming the Borg? We are – and we're embracing the transition.
Consider Wisconsin firm Three Square Market (32M). Last month, it announced a voluntary initiative for its employees to have microchips implanted in their hands. The company that sells kiosks designed to replace vending machines wanted to showcase its kiosks’ ability to handle cashless transactions. Instead of paying with a credit card or a smartphone, a consumer could simply wave their hand across a scanner.
One analyst called 32M’s initiative a PR stunt. If that was the intention, it worked, because the initiative sparked headlines worldwide.
Unquestionably, “chipping” has numerous benefits. On a video posted on 32M’s website, a company spokesman outlined some of them, including:
No need to carry cash or credit cards to make payments
No need to carry keys or pass cards to enter a secure area
Identity theft protection; all data is encrypted, so that hackers can’t access it
Across the country and the world, implantable microchips are experiencing increased acceptance. Implantable radio frequency identification (RFID) chips are routinely embedded in domestic animals. An FDA-approved implantable microchip is available for Alzheimer's patients and other persons deemed incapable of caring for themselves. In Sweden, Epicenter, a hub for high-tech start-ups, has made implantable microchips available for its workers and the employees of companies headquartered there. Several of my clients have informed me they’ve considered chipping their children so they can be tracked if they are kidnapped.
Imagine a future where you can simply wave your hand across a scanner to pay for goods or services, open the door to your home, or identify yourself when you cross an international border. The technology for that future already exists, courtesy of a patent recorded by IBM. The patent application describes a process under which every manufactured product contains an RFID tag with a unique identification number. Each number is registered to the person who buys it. IBM also proposed that the government track people through their RFID tags using a "person tracking unit." This device could zero in on RFID tags and track people in any public place.
An obvious person-tracking unit, of course, is an implantable microchip. When these technologies converge, we will have developed something that begins to resemble a Borg technology prototype.
Undoubtedly, a world with most humans were implanted with microchips would be very convenient, at least most of the time. Microchips would replace all current forms of ID, so you would identify yourself at an airport or border crossing simply by swiping your hand across a scanner. Your chip would be tied to your bank account, so you would no longer need to carry cash. The chip could also include data on your family history, address, occupation, criminal record, income tax information, etc.
It's even possible that an advanced microchip could be equipped with a satellite modem to allow you to browse the internet anywhere on earth. This ability begins to approach the "collective consciousness" achieved by the fictional Borg.
But such a world could also evolve into the ultimate police state. At the touch of a button, your assets could be frozen, medical treatment denied, etc. The ultimate punishment would be to have your chip deactivated. In that case, you could no longer exist, since all personal and financial interactions would require verification of identity and confirmation of sufficient assets to be completed.
Proponents of implantable microchips tell us these concerns are misplaced, since our smartphones and other mobile technology are already collecting and sharing our personal data. They also deny such a nightmare scenario could come to pass, because implantable chip use is voluntary. But voluntary is not an appropriate word to describe something that might one day be required to merely exist as a human being. I have the option of eating at different times of the day, but eating is not voluntary.
An example of how voluntary could become involuntary is legislation that requires sex offenders receive RFID microchip implants instead of going to prison. The sex offenders could then be tracked by satellite. Avoiding prison would be conditional on the offender voluntarily receiving an implant.
What politician would have the guts to stand up to protect the privacy rights of sex offenders? Yet, by implanting microchips into the likes of sex offenders and other persons whose proclivities disgust most people, we start down a path that will be nearly impossible to reverse.
Lobbyists will funnel campaign contributions to politicians and urge them to expand chipping to parolees and ex-felons as a condition of release. Once this is accomplished, they'll argue that society would be safer if all convicted criminals had a chip implant. Next (for safety's sake, of course) lawmakers will require workers in high-risk or high-security occupations – soldiers, police, prison guards, drivers transporting hazardous materials, etc. – to submit to chipping. After that, chipping will expand to anyone meeting a certain profile – gun owners, persons working with children, etc.
You'll be reading a lot about implantable microchips in the future. When do-gooders and governments begin proposing their use to track society's undesirables, I hope that you have the courage to stand up for their rights. For by defending their rights, you defend your own.