Is microchipping humans a good idea?

Jose Luis Magana / AP

Fact Box

  • A human microchip implant is an 'identifying integrated circuit device or RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) transponder encased in silicate glass and implanted in the body of a human being...[containing] a unique ID number that can be linked to information contained in an external database, such as personal identification, law enforcement, medical history, medications, allergies, and contact information.'
  • Sweden was one of the first countries to implement the microchip, with over 4,000 Swedes going through the roughly $180 procedure.
  • An Economist/YouGov survey from 2021 revealed that one in five Americans partially agreed or fully agreed with the statement, 'The US government is using the COVID-19 vaccine to microchip the population.' 
  • An Ohio State University study found that microchipped animals are much more easily reunited with their owners, 'the return-to-owner rate for cats was 20 times higher and for dogs 2.5 times higher for microchipped pets than were the rates of return for all stray cats and dogs that had entered the shelters.'

Elisa (No)

Human microchipping seems straight out of a science fiction horror movie, yet few seem to be discussing its societal implications. The idea of human microchipping not only brings concerns when it comes to privacy and workers’ rights, but it is actually a human rights issue, with experts fearing “surveillance and exploitation of workers.” 

The ones trying to microchip people in the first place are major corporations, who likely do not have our human rights in mind at all, which is shown in the major backlash taking place against measures to microchip employees. Many states and lawmakers are cracking down on the inhumane process--and there is just no telling what type of potential abuse could stem from mass microchipping, especially at the hands of your employer or even the government. 

Microchipping people is a dangerous idea, straight out of Brave New World or the Book of Revelation. There is no saying how much control an entity could have over a microchipped human--and there is also no saying what this type of technology could do to a person’s body, with medical microchips possibly causing cancer

If humans choose to implant any type of technology into their bodies, one must consider its implications and if they will even be regarded as humans anymore. Elon Musk warns people that they must eventually become cyborgs to “stay relevant” in this robotized world. This pressure is rooted in modern transhumanism, but many recognize the danger and urge people not to give up their independent bodily autonomy and, no matter the pressure, to avoid becoming a cyborg. After all, getting a microchip is just one step closer to robots taking over the entire world and maybe, losing our humanity altogether. 

Ellery (Yes)

Given the modern media landscape, it's almost a certainty that everyone has consumed some sci-fi, and it's clear that just as it shapes the creation of real science, it also shapes the perception of real science. Microchips are a prime example of this: most of the criticisms levied against them come from a concern about their execution--fostered by fictional sci-fi and horror stories--and not their actual function. 

Yes, it's undeniable that the morals of the few tech companies big enough to afford research this cutting-edge are dubious, to say the least. But even the minor benefits of microchipping: the convenience of things like microchip-enabled locks means it's not reasonable to dismiss it outright.

Microchipping's benefits don't end there. From the simple act of paying with just the wave of a hand to the truly lifesaving examples of automatic gun control and instant access to medical information for doctors and hospitals, microchipping is invaluable. 

And some have imagined microchipping contributing to the most significant positive imaginable: near-to-complete eradication of death itself, as put forth by sci-fi series like Altered Carbon

But still, concerns linger. Although, for the most part, they aren't rational but based on a misunderstanding that this is something new and scary. It isn't. The technologies have been present in smartphones for more than a decade

Similarly, the integration of technology with the human body has existed even longer, with the pacemaker created as early as 1960 and a wide variety of ocular, cochlear, and other medical implants proving the indisputable benefit of the practice was more than a one-off. With proper ethical oversight, microchipping will prove the same.

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