Friday, February 03, 2006

High Tech Implants

Are you ready to get tagged? A small but growing number of people are putting a a radio frequency identification device (RFID) into their hand which contains encoded information. From NY Times Learning Page ,
'Implanting the chip was a relatively simple procedure but highly symbolic to Mr. Donelson, a 21-year-old computer networking student so enthralled with the link between technology and the body that he has tattoos of data-input jacks running down his spine. They are an allusion to an imagined future when people might be plugged directly into computers. His new chip, complete with a miniature antenna and enclosed in a glass ampoule no bigger than a piece of long-grain rice, has a small memory where he has stored the words "Embrace Technology."
RFID implant technology isn't new. The Mexican government has already been using the technology for some employees in the Ministry of Justice so they can pass through security. A night club in Barcelona offers the chip to its VIP's.

In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration gave approval in 2004 to a Florida company, Verichip, to implant RFID chips in people as a means to retrieve medical information. The information is not on the chip; it is in a computer database that hospitals gain access to by scanning patients who carry a chip beneath their skin. In the last three years, Verichip says, it has implanted more than 2,000 people around the world and 60 in the United States. Its chips are a proprietary technology and cost about $200 each.

"The physical reality of the chip in the body is no big deal," said Amal Graafstra, who in March 2005 became the first known person to independently have himself implanted with a chip by having a surgeon friend place it in his hand. "But the symbolism of the tag is much more of a big deal as a social marker."

His girlfriend, after thinking it a little odd at first, got tagged in December. Mr. Graafstra is now working on ways to make his implants (he has one in each hand) useful.

Accompanying this article is a lesson plan to teach children about RFID's and their usefulness. One of the journal questions was
"Would you get a microchip implanted somewhere in your body if it would make your life easier or safer?"
So are we entering the twilight zone, the Matrix, the end times (Rev. 13), or is this just the latest gadget to make our life easier? Would you want your child learning about this trend in school? According to the article, the freshman dorms are the place where this is going to gain momentum.

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(Thanks to Edwonk for the tip to the Learning Page.)

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