Here’s another story that should make you go “Hmm” the next time your employer offers “benefits” like free flu shots administered by company doctors with really big needles. A firm in Sweden has convinced employees to have a microchip inserted into their hands that “replaces a lot of things you have other communication devices for.” According to a new report, workers at Epicenter who already have the chips hold parties for new “volunteers” who get the implants.
The biggest benefit I think is convenience.
That’s Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and CEO of Epicenter – a company that calls itself “Stockholm’s first digital House of Innovation” because it offers labs and work spaces to digital start-ups and entrepreneurs. The “convenience” Mesterton is referring to is the ability to wave a hand to open doors, start up equipment and do other things that previously required effort or some kind of RFID device like a badge or a tag.
Opening doors with a hand wave is a convenience for the worker. For the employer, the cyborg employee can conveniently be signed in, tracked for attendance, followed on breaks, monitored when making purchases or removing items from storage, etc. These are seemingly harmless activities but the employee is not given the option to turn the chip on or off.
At Epicenter, the partying employees get chipped by self-described “body hacker” Jowan Osterlund from Biohax Sweden who injects them into the fleshy area next to the thumb, although he’s ready for the future:
The next step for electronics is to move into the body.
The chips use Near Field Communication (NFC) technology and are currently (or should we say ‘allegedly’?) passive. However, once workers become accustomed to being chipped, new and more interactive implants won’t seem so threatening to their privacy. After all, they already carry smartphones – often provided by the company – which have far more intelligence than a passive NFC chip. However, a smartphone can be put down, turned off, flushed down the toilet, flung into the ocean or otherwise separated from its owner/trackee. A chip can’t be turned off and any attempts to damage or lose it are painful.
I want to be part of the future.
Sandra Haglof, who works for an events company that works with Epicenter, looked at the chip injection as just another body piercing, of which she has three others. Except the piercings can be unscrewed or unhooked.
It may be premature to call the 150 employees who have already been chipped “cyborgs,” but it’s a term that many are using themselves. Are they being persuaded/programmed with parties and talks of being part of the future and even fashionable in order to make them more open to future conveniences/invasions of privacy? How long before it’s no longer a choice?