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Posted by Tom Cheesewright on

Chips and Skin: The Mark of the Beast?

In a bid to get people thinking about the issues involved, one office development in Sweden is offering tenants exactly that option, and it has caused a bit of a stir.

This is one of those stories that captures the attention of radio producers and the public alike. After a couple of interviews on the BBC World Service on the topic (and a morning of local radio interviews to come), my Twitter account is as busy as it has been since I discussed climate change with Katie Melua on Sunday Brunch (an odd, if thoroughly enjoyable episode in my media career).

So why does this idea get people worked up? Well there’s the reasons I’ve discussed on the radio, and the reasons people have been discussing on Twitter.

For most people I think the one will be a natural human queasiness about inserting anything under the skin. We don’t like injections when they provide us with life-saving vaccines, why would we


choose to inject ourselves with a microchip? Especially when it fulfils a function already supported by a whole range of different form factors today: I have credit cards, keyrings, phones and a watch that all support wireless communication over short range using the same standards as this implant (Radio Frequency Identification or RFID and/or Near Field Communication or NFC).

For the techies there’s the issue of security: this type of short range wireless chip has been shown to be susceptible to hacking using widely available hardware. If your implanted chip gets hacked, do you really want to be slicing it out and replacing it? Not ideal. Much easier to replace a copied credit card.

Then there are the religious objections, based on Revelations 13: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.” Some (many, based on my Twitter feed) equate the implanting of a chip in the hand to the mark of the beast…

Let’s just say it’s not a belief I share.

For me, this is not about to be a mass-market technology. It’s functionally flawed (the range on the tiny chips involved is limited) and the queasiness factor is simply too great. Very few organisations outside perhaps the military will consider asking their employees to embed such a chip in their bodies.

Me? It’s tempting for the Stark* factor but, no. For all my love of technology, I think I’ll stay 100% flesh and bones until medical need dictates otherwise.

*Tony Stark (also known as Iron Man), not Ned

Tom Cheesewright