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Imagine walking up to your favourite team’s football stadium, and breezing right in, not even needing to flash a ticket or any ID. It seems an odd disconnect from the present day, but the future is getting nearer, quicker. Nowhere is that more apparent than the potential seen for direct human application of microchip.

In 2009, a British researcher named Mark Gasson turned himself into a ‘walking microchip’. A small chip had been inserted under the skin of a hand, and by waving his hand he could pass through security at his University in Reading, as well as unlocking his mobile phone simply by holding it.

A glimpse into an almost cyborg / human reality! This article, then, asks what the next steps might be in human microchipping, and what the potential implication of this leap forward towards a microchipped future may be.

Microchips cloud transform everyday life

The most common experimentation with microchips in human beings has been, thus far, somewhat rudimentary. Transforming our bodies into walking radio frequency emitters is certainly not on the horizon just yet. However, the quest to enable better interaction with the machine world that dominates our lives has focused on the everyday human applications of microchipping.

For example, we currently engage with ATMs, our homes, cars and mobile devices via a network of passwords to enable us to securely access all areas of our lives. For some analysts, the development of a single, personal chip, embedded in skin, would allow us all to get access to the things we own, items we want to use and places we want to be more readily. Human-borne radio frequency identification technology, or RFID is, for some, inevitability.

Human implants and global security

Could placing microchips into human beings improve our safety? This debate is at the core of the human implant discussion. Supporters would suggest that using RFID chips would enable law enforcement agencies to track criminals, contact witnesses located at crime scenes, enforce border security more effectively. In all areas of identity definition, more and more focus is falling on the usefulness of ‘human chips’. We have seen RFID used throughout the cattle industry as an effective tag and identity key, so why not amongst people as well?

Opposition to human microchips is growing

Clearly there isn’t an open goal here for human chip developers. Real concerns exist. The ethical concerns revolve primarily around privacy: is it microchipping too invasive? And what of the wider picture? We will need to integrate into our cityscapes transponders able to capture the radio frequencies that will allow the mapping peoples’ movements

Then there are the security concerns. Invasion of privacy, especially in the wake of the Snowden revelations, is a hot topic. Hackers gaining access to the information behind an implanted microchip would essentially be able to learn all they needed to about people, from bank details right down to driving habits. Of course at the heart of most concerns, above even personal security and privacy, are worries about how governments would interact with human chips, and whether the information they would be privy to would become the subject of abuse.

There are clearly many years to go before the ubiquitous chipping of the human race becomes a genuine possibility. However, microchipping is here already. Applications are being dreamed up: such as a chip that, if introduced in 2018, would allow women to switch their hormones on and off and act as birth control. The market exists, the research exists. Now it’s all about the timelines involved in making wider human microchipping an option, and a reality.