Perhaps you’ve heard the news out of Wisconsin.
More than 50 employees at Three Square Market, a company that operates self-checkout kiosks, agreed to have microchips implanted in their bodies. And they aren’t getting any bonuses!
Now, to be fair, these chips truly are tiny — the size of a grain of rice. And the surgery — my word, not theirs — is truly short and painless, and done with a syringe.
And none of the victims — er, volunteers — will truly feel the microchips once they’re placed under the skin between their thumbs and forefingers. If that’s where the chips stay. Because they can migrate. Don’t even think about where.
The chips themselves are wondrous. Hold up your hand and they can open doors. They can log on to computers. They can pay for food from the cafeteria. They can’t go down and get it for you, but wait, it’s early in the development process.
I readily confess that I’m easily amazed by technology. I grew up having to get up from the couch and cross the living room to turn a knob to change a channel on a black-and-white television set where it was possible to count the pixels. Not that anyone knew they were pixels. Some memories die hard.
But I watched “The Twilight Zone” on that television set, so shall we say I have a multi-layered affinity for technology. Call it a kinship with Canadian writer Margaret Atwood, the diva of dystopia, who says that any new technology basically has three sides — good, bad and stupid. The first two you can anticipate. The third is something of a surprise.
But what could go wrong here? The implantable chips are passive. They give out their data only when something asks for it. They’re not GPS devices. And they’re supposedly protected by encryption.
What, me worry?
About chips being capable of being programmed?
And by whom?
About chips being loaded with all sorts of data for all sorts of requesters, known or otherwise?
About hackers being able to hack through pretty much anything if given enough time? And not only to steal but to manipulate your information?
Sure, perhaps the chips can be used in the future in lieu of a MetroCard or E-ZPass. Perhaps a person’s medical information could be stored on them for fast life-saving access in an emergency.
Perhaps they can help whisk you through airport security. Perhaps they can be downloaded with your passport, driver’s license, credit card and Broadway ticket. Perhaps they can be programmed to deliver a little shock, just a tiny little infinitesimal spark of a jolt, when you nod off at work, or when your mind starts to wander to the ballgame or that night’s dinner or the upcoming “Game of Thrones.”
But technology experts have an ominous phrase that comes to mind — function creep. It’s not a person. And it’s just what it sounds like. It’s the tendency for other functions to inevitably and unavoidably worm their way into the thing that’s functioning. Under your skin. Inside your body.
So perhaps the chip will have GPS on it, the better to track you. Perhaps it will have detailed personal information on it, the better to identify you. Perhaps the information will set off alarms in places where people with your information aren’t welcome. Perhaps police will have devices to read the information that tells exactly who you are.
I do love technology. Really, I do.
But microchip implant?
Maybe you could just put it on my iPhone.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.