It bills itself as “Australia's premier creative, tech and business event.” This year’s Pause Fest, to be held in Melbourne on February 7-11, will be all that and the possibly world’s premier cyborg event as well. Ten lucky (?) attendees will not have to remember to bring their tickets to get in because they have been implanted with microchips that will get them past the long lines of people dressed as Elon Musk or Guy Kawasaki. Is this the future or just a creepy publicity stunt?
The hosts of Pause Fest say they’re asking the same question. In addition to being loaded with three-day passes, the chips are programmed to allow the volunteers to unlock doors in their homes, on the job and while pursuing leisure activities. The data collected and the experiences of the participants will then be discussed and analyzed at the Pause Fest with Kayla Heffernan, Melbourne University PHD candidate studying insertable devices for non-medical purposes. An interview with The Guardian indicates that yes, the ‘volunteers’ are human lab rats for someone’s dissertation.
“People are fearful based on science fiction, they think chips can be used to track you and that the government is going to force us to get them, but that is just not possible, it’s not how they work.”
Tell us more, Ms. Hefferman.
“Payments are the killer application. As soon as you can pay with it, more and more people will go ahead and get these.”
Of course they will. Pay no attention to those Equifax hackers.
“If I want I can just walk out without any keys, my key is in my hand so I can’t forget it, which is handy because I have locked myself out before.”
Is this the kind of genius you want convincing you that no harm can come from a microchip implant? Here’s her reassuring thoughts on her own implanted chip.
“The read range is very short, so you have to be touching my hand. I’m going to know if that’s happened. And even for a nefarious purpose, if someone knocked me out, let’s say, it has my website on it. It doesn’t have anything useful that they’re going to be able to take.”
“The chip has no tracking capabilities. They don’t have any battery and they don’t have any GPS sensors … If someone was going to track you, they’d use your cell phone.”
That's the cell phone you’re holding in your hand … you know, the one with the chip it’s reading.
This isn’t science fiction … it’s reality and (dare we say it?) human nature. The two most common unattended card reader locations – ATMs and gas stations – are the most common locations for card skimming devices. “Payments are the killer app” for criminals as well, and data – not bitcoin – is the currency of the future.
Is this the real door that’s getting opened when the chip people wave their hands? Will anyone ask them this at the Pause Fest? While it's important to listen to tech and business people, can we get some thoughts from sociologists and philosophers?
Asking for a (lot of) friend(s).