Alarm bells should be ringing loudly at the news that micro-chipping of humans is being actively marketed to business. Technologically inevitable and seemingly irresistible, it is an irredeemably bad idea that needs to be shunted into a tunnel and bricked up.
In case you missed it, the pitch to business by two companies, BioTeq (UK based) and Biohax (Sweden) is to improve security by microchipping employees. When even the CBI say this isn’t the right way to engage with employees, you know there’s an issue.
There is an immediate and worrying contradiction: The touted advantages – of never needing to worry about forgetting or losing keys as doors could be opened, and cars started with the wave of a micro-chipped hand – says nothing about “improving security.”
So why is it that micro-chipped workers are a safer bet than those who aren’t?
Could it be that the gateway into your life that chipping creates, allows employers access to……well, potentially everything. Where you go, what you eat (and drink/smoke), whether you have a healthy lifestyle (and all the presumptions that go into a definition of what that looks like).
And once that gateway is established, what control is there on who walks through it? We know there is a strong commercial and political appetite for disclosure of personal data, from store loyalty cards to mobile phone usage. We seem to have enough trouble hanging on to the data that already exists about us, without – almost literally – plugging ourselves into a system that can extract our very essence.
This is straight out of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And for all the superficial convenience, the advantage of micro-chipping workers overwhelmingly falls to the employer. Salivating Short-term productivity gains could justify the investment, sure – but where does it take us in the longer term?
Will “being chipped” become an essential requirement of getting the job? If you are “always on”, where is the dividing line between work and rest? What price your personal privacy? Can you even switch the thing off? Will piece-rate payment, already a pernicious tool, become even more refined given the ability for your time to now be micro-managed?
Will those who decline chipping achieve some sort of pariah status? What do innocent people have to hide? And will eventually the technology be so invasive as to disqualify people for certain jobs automatically, without recourse because of how an algorithm has interpreted chip-generated data? If you had every incentive, encouragement and above all technological ability to do this, why would you not?
Automation has always carried risks for workers and constant challenge for unions and government is to maximise the benefits and mitigate the dangers. But every RF chip with a human host, reduces the sum of the very things that make us the people we are – choice, independence of thought and action, the right to some privacy. And, yes, the right to sometimes make bad choices, to make mistakes – because that is part of how we learn.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Putting RF chips in people to make them harder – or safer – workers is something that is distinctly dystopian. It’s one of those things that needs a legal constraint and needs one very soon.