You walk into a grocery store and pick up eggs. No smartphone? No problem. You swipe your hand across a reader, and the amount is deducted from your bank account.
If that sounds far-fetched, you obviously haven’t been to Sweden recently, where thousands of people have reportedly had chips implanted in their bodies.
A company called Biohax has already “installed” around 4,000 chips in customers, inserted just below the thumb. They can use the implant to open secure doors, pay for tickets, and share emergency information with medical personnel. The chip is about the size of a Tylenol pill, and the procedure -- which costs $180 -- is similar to getting a tetanus shot.
“The chip implant is a secure way of ensuring that a person's digital identity is linked to their physical identity. It enables access management in a way that protects individual self-sovereignty and allows users to control the privacy of their online activity,” Dr. Stewart Southey, the Chief Medical Officer at Biohax International, told Fox News.
Another doctor agrees that getting “chipped” is practical and even advantageous. As far back as 2014, experts have outlined a number of benefits, some medical and some consumer-based.
“From a medical perspective, in the ER we have patients come in every day who are confused or comatose and we cannot get any medical history from them,” says Dr. Larry Burchett, a medical expert and author who runs DoctorLarry.com. “If we had access to that info because they have a chip in their skin, that could be lifesaving.”
“We implant many things now -- insulin pumps, pain pumps, birth control -- under the skin,” he adds. “There are risks of infection, but they are low. I don't think those risks are a big deal.”
However, a number of states, including California and Missouri, have already implemented regulations on chip implants. The technology has come under serious scrutiny, and they are illegal if an employer or medical professional mandates their use. The RFID chips, which work like the ones you might implant surgically into a pet or staple to a FedEx box, are controversial because of the long-term ethical implications.
“I shudder at the thought of a world like that, where vanity cyborg commerce becomes a game of one-upmanship, a challenge to see who can have the highest percentage cyber by weight or wattage,” says Roger Kay, a consultant at Endpoint Technologies Associates. “For disabilities, it may make sense in specific use cases, like handicap door opening. I draw the line well before paying for things. But I don't want an iPhone embedded anywhere in my body.”
The experts argue that there may be some limited use for medical reasons. A chip that monitors blood pressure or diabetes would be “very interesting” says Dr. Burchett. Dr. Southey says there are applications in the transportation industry as well.
Kay is not so sure.
“I could imagine that morphing over to the tracking of prisoners, and from there, a dystopian vision of assigning tracking chips to political rivals, and then, of course, to the general populace, like social security numbers,” he says. “I rather hope not to be alive when that happens.”