Human microchip implants take center stage

The novelty of replacing one’s “home key” with a microchip implant is gaining worldwide interest, but there’s another more compelling story under the surface. Why is this technology — an integrated circuit the size of a grain of rice — reviled by some and celebrated by self-proclaimed human cyborgs?

Arguably, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet” offers the most elegant explanation: “Nothing is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” However, it would be prudent to tell Prince Hamlet that not all microchip implants are designed alike, and understanding the technological design enables one to better evaluate the competing viewpoints. Today, more than 50,000 people have elected to have a subdermal chip surgically inserted between the thumb and index finger, serve as their new swipe key, or credit card. In Germany, for example, more than 2,000 Germans have opted to receive these implants; one man even used it to store a link to his last will and testament. As chip storage capacity increases, perhaps users could even link to the complete works of Shakespeare.

Chip implants are just one of the many types of emerging technologies in the Internet of Things (IoT) — an expanding digital cosmos of wirelessly connected internet-enabled devices. Some technologists are worried, however, that hackers targeting IoT vulnerabilities in sensors and network architecture also may try to hack chip implants. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips are identifying transponders that typically carry a unique identification number and can be tagged with user data such as health records, social media profiles, and financial information.