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Posted on: September 14, 2018 at 12:16 pm
Last updated: October 30, 2018 at 3:21 pm

In our current age of convenience and instant gratification, a growing number of life hacks and gadgets are being created to make life easier, faster, and less work. Sounds ideal, right? Yes and no. Although there’s a line that some people are worried about crossing, others have already started taking leaps… with microchipping, in particular.

On August 9, 2017, a USA TODAY article opened with a chilling line: You will get chipped. It’s just a matter of time. [1] Can you hear the Twilight Zone theme song playing yet?

The controversial article came after learning that a Wisconsin firm, Three Square Market (32M), embedded microchips in their employees’ hands that would allow them to open doors, log in to computers, and buy food in the cafeteria without badges or passwords. (Don’t worry, the $300 microchip was optional.) But, before we dive deeper, let’s look a little closer at these microchips.

What Is an RFID Chip?

As defined by Technopedia, a radio-frequency identification or RFID chip is:

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A tag, label, or card that can exchange data with a reader using radio frequency signals that are sent and received by a built-in antenna. More often than not, these RFID microchips sit within tiny a tiny, safe glass capsule just underneath the surface of your skin. [2,3]

The RFID chip may seem foreign to some people, but people have been implanting these microchips into their bodies since the nineties. The same technology exists in everyday objects nearly everyone uses such as smartphones, contactless debit or credit cards, e-passports, and airplane baggage to name some. [4]

The Safety of RFID Chips

Overall, many experts are not too worried about the risks of these microchips. If embedded safely in a sterile environment, the risk of seems almost non-existent. People in this microchipping world are more concerned with the phones in our pockets.

“Mobile phones are much more dangerous to our privacy,” says Pawel Rotter, a biomedical engineer at AGH University of Science and Technology in Kraków, Poland. [4] “If hacked, phones can convert into the perfect spy with microphones, cameras, and GPS. Compared to them, the privacy risks from RFID are really small.”

Dave Williams, a systems engineer at software firm Mozilla and biohacker, embedded an RFID chip into his hand that can do things like open his front door and send his contact info to a friend’s phone – and only if it’s a few centimeters from a reader. That’s why he believes “fears of GPS-style tracking are strictly science fiction at this point.” [4]

Thousands of Swedes Are Even Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin

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In Sweden, one company in particular continues to spearhead the adoption of this seemingly foreign technology: Biohax International. Jowan Osterlund, who used to be a professional body piercer, started the micro-chipping company in 2013 and, to date, over 4,000 Swedes have gotten their own.

“Having different cards and tokens verifying your identity to a bunch of different systems just doesn’t make sense,” says Osterlund. [6] “Using a chip means that the hyper-connected surroundings that you live in every day can be streamlined.”

Believe it or not, it’s not just a bunch of tech-crazed people who want to stop worrying about whether or not they forgot their house keys. Even Sweden’s largest train company has realized that both paper tickets and e-tickets are becoming obsolete. Within the last two years, the train company has started to accept “chip” tickets instead of traditional ones. In Sweden, the quickly growing trend may also lead to microchip payments being accepted at restaurants and retail stores sooner than you think.

“I see no problem for [it] becoming mainstream,” says Szilvia Varszegi, the 28-year-old microchipper from Sweden. [6] “I think it’s something that can seriously make people’s lives better.”

Should I Be Scared of People Who Have Been Microchipped?

Maybe, maybe not. The worry about being hacked is expected seeing as this is a foreign concept. But, Rose Eveleth even says, “my implant is both less scary and less useful than you might think.” [5] Like Rose, for the average person, they’re using their RFID chip with minimal memory to do simple things like make payments and unlock their phones or computers. Beyond that, unless you’re tech-savvy enough to program your chip to do more (and also have a twisted desire to harm others), there’s little to worry about.

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The (Possible) Future of RFID Microchipping

Naturally, people have continued to question if and when their company will be next for RFID chips. Noelle Chesley, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee associate professor of sociology professor, has no doubt that microchipping will happen, it’s just a question of when…

“It will happen to everybody. But not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids,” says Chesley. [1] “Most employers who have inter-generational workforces might phase it in slowly. I can’t imagine people my age and older being enthusiastic about having devices put into their bodies.”

At least for right now, it seems like hobbyists or self-proclaimed biohackers are more likely to flock to RFID microchipping before companies do.

“In 10 years, Facebook, Google, Apple, and Tesla will not have their employees chipped,” believes Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures. [1] “You’ll see some extreme forward-looking tech people adopting it, but not large companies… [Despite] much negative connotation… we will have been desensitized to the social stigma,” but not for at least another fifty years.

Religious advocates, on the other hand, are quite against the idea of microchipping, often taking the time to leave 1-star reviews on 32M’s microchip products and leave comments on their Facebook page like “boycott,” “completely unnecessary,” and “deplorable.” [1]

Right now, it seems that only time will tell how quickly these RFID chips will catch on. Whether it happens in 2018 or 50 years down the road, the best thing you can do is your research before making any decisions.

Read More: 4 Easy Ways To Immediately Make Your Internet Twice As Fast

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[1] Graham, J. (2017, August 10). You will get chipped – eventually. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2017/08/09/you-get-chipped-eventually/547336001/

[2] What is a RFID Chip? – Definition from Techopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/24272/rfid-chip

[3] Grauer, Y. (2018, January 03). A practical guide to microchip implants. Retrieved from https://arstechnica.com/features/2018/01/a-practical-guide-to-microchip-implants/

[4] Gray, R. (2017, August 02). Capital – The surprising truths and myths about microchip implants. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20170731-the-surprising-truths-and-myths-about-microchip-implants

[5] Eveleth, R. (2016, May 24). Why Did I Implant A Chip In My Hand? Retrieved from https://www.popsci.com/my-boring-cyborg-implant

[6] Savage, M. (2018, October 22). Thousands Of Swedes Are Inserting Microchips Under Their Skin. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2018/10/22/658808705/thousands-of-swedes-are-inserting-microchips-under-their-skin

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