By the time my four-year-old son is swathed in the soft flesh of old age, he will likely find it unremarkable that he and almost everyone he knows will be permanently implanted with a microchip. Automatically tracking his location in real time, it will connect him with databases monitoring and recording his smallest behavioural traits.
Most people anticipate such a prospect with a sense of horrified disbelief, dismissing it as a science-fiction fantasy. The technology, however, already exists. For years humane societies have implanted all the pets that leave their premises with a small identifying microchip. As well, millions of consumer goods are now traced with tiny radio frequency identification chips that allow satellites to reveal their exact location.
A select group of people are already "chipped" with devices that automatically open doors, turn on lights, and perform other low-level miracles. Prominent among such individuals is researcher Kevin Warwick of Reading University in England; Warwick is a leading proponent of the almost limitless potential uses for such chips.
Other users include the patrons of the Baja Beach Club in Barcelona, many of whom have paid about $150 (U.S.) for the privilege of being implanted with an identifying chip that allows them to bypass lengthy club queues and purchase drinks by being scanned. These individuals are the advance guard of an effort to expand the technology as widely as possible.
From this point forward, microchips will become progressively smaller, less invasive, and easier to deploy. Thus, any realistic barrier to the wholesale "chipping" of Western citizens is not technological but cultural. It relies upon the visceral reaction against the prospect of being personally marked as one component in a massive human inventory.