Implantable microchips that offer functional and performance-enhancing benefits to humans could become commonplace by the 2040s.
Human microchipping context
Specific models of microchips have the ability to communicate with external devices using either radio-frequency identification (RFID) or electromagnetic radio fields. Select models of microchips also do not require a power source as they can use an external device’s magnetic field to operate and connect to external systems. These two technical capabilities (alongside numerous other scientific advancements) point towards a future where human microchipping may become commonplace.
For example, thousands of Swedish citizens have opted for microchips to be implanted in their hands to replace keys and cards. These microchips can be used for gym access, e-tickets for railways, and storing emergency contact information. In addition, Elon Musk’s Neuralink company successfully implanted a microchip into the brains of pigs and monkeys to monitor their brainwaves, monitor for illness, and even enable the monkeys to play video games with their thoughts. A particular example includes the San Francisco-based company, Synchron, which tests wireless implants capable of nervous system stimulation that, in time, may cure paralysis.
The rise of human microchipping has prompted lawmakers in the United States to devise laws that ban forced microchipping proactively. In addition, due to rising privacy concerns surrounding data safety and personal freedoms, forced microchipping is prohibited in 11 states (2021). However, some leading figures in the technology industry still view microchipping positively and believe it can lead to improved outcomes for humans and offer a new market to commercial enterprises. In contrast, surveys of the general workforce indicate higher levels of skepticism regarding the overall benefits of human microchipping.
Human microchipping creates several security concerns. Hacked microchips could potentially reveal a person’s location, daily routine, and health status. Microchip hacking could also make people increasingly susceptible to cyberattacks that could endanger their lives.
Alternatively, some people may opt for microchips to be installed on or inside their bodies to obtain a strategic advantage over colleagues in the workplace. Such implants can offer users access advantages to digital and physical spaces; some models may offer users enhancements to their senses or their intellect; other models may enable better control of exoskeletons and industrial machines—the augmentation possibilities are endless, and these advantages may pressure the general population to adopt such technologies to compete in the future workforce.
Implications of human microchipping and how it may affect society
The wider implications of human microchipping may include:
- The societal normalization of transhumanist principles of body modification with technological components that can alter or enhance any number of physical and mental attributes.
- The ability to functionally cure select forms of neurological disorders.
- Improving average workplace productivity, as more people opt for microchips to enhance their careers, skills, and physical abilities.
- Increased funding for the promotion and commercialization of voluntary microchipping, which may lead to the creation of an entirely new body modification industry (similar to the cosmetic plastic surgery industry).
- The creation of “super soldiers” that are deeply integrated with their personalized exoskeletons and digitized weaponry, as well as with their military support UAV drones, field tactical robots, and autonomous transport vehicles.
Questions to comment on
- What are some additional potential use cases for human microchipping in the near and distant futures?
- Do the dangers of human microchipping outweigh the range of potential benefits?