Why I Will Never Get a Chip Implant
I used to own gerbils back when I was a kid. Furry critters, stellar performers on circular treadmills, tended to poop too much. In an act of abject cruelty and utter disregard, I often kept them in a wire cage in my room. You just didn’t have options. Having a gerbil running around in your room tends to cause a little too much panic, especially with cats. There were a few times when my brother decided to let them go free and wild, to explore the Great Eternal Universe of our shag carpeting, and to roam like they were meant to roam: naked and unadorned, no shackles and no restraints.
If only someone had invented chip implants. Or smartphones. Or electricity. I could have “tagged” them (which sounds painful but is more like a pin prick or a bee sting, I think) with an RFID chip, synced their whereabouts to my phone, and had some sort of large laser-zapping apparatus that would “keep them in check” if they wandered too far into the hallway. (If you just pictured a gerbil getting love-tapped by a laser, I am really sorry about that.)
There was this one time when one of the gerbils, let’s call him Harry, got a little too interested in one of the floor vents and got his portly self a little stuck. Don’t worry, he survived. In fact, he eventually met Sally and they lived out their days running on a circular treadmill together. But, things were looking a little sketchy there for a while, what with my brother not being able to locate his whereabouts with a stick and my mom screaming like the house, the yard, and the neighborhood were all on fire. We corralled the pint-sized fellow by using the stick and giving him a gentle nudge near the nether region (no harm no foul), then blocked his escape with a shoe and encouraged him to find safe passage through the vent and back into his prison cell. I guess the Great Escape was short-lived.
After patting at his food a little and smoking a cigarette, he seemed to sit up on his haunches and look at us with a wry and knowing expression.
“Almost had it all figured out there, guys,” he seemed to say between puffs. “I get it. All the world is a stage, and I am your budget entertainment. They had me wondering about my role in life when I was at the pet store. Not to get all existential on you, but $4.99 is quite a bargain for a lifetime of services. And, don’t even get me started on the plastic orange tunnels. Whoever invented those was obviously taking quaaludes.”
My parents never bothered to explain to me that a gerbil has a total lifespan of about four days, depending on the presence of cats. In some ways, it prepared me for the dismal self-actualization of human-cognitive destiny, a.k.a. middle school. I understood that life is short, you should make the most of your time here, and watch out for tunnels.
Anyway, back to the microchip idea. I don’t plan to get one myself. I wrote about the idea recently and one of my editors (I have 14 of them) told me about this guy at a Transhuman Visions conference (there’s an after-party waiting to happen) who injected chips into volunteers, apparently of their own volition, using a “large needle” per the BBC . I may be in the minority here, but when a guy comes toward you with a large needle and says he wants to inject you with a microchip to track your whereabouts, you might want to run. It sounds a little egregious. Also, it turns out the same needle is used routinely to implant chips in dogs and cats (and maybe gerbils). Here’s hoping someone did a little wipe-de-do on the needle before they used it on Aunt Margaret.
This all has me a little concerned. I’m not really against tracking people, especially in foreign countries or at really huge Wal-Marts. We gave up our privacy when we started posting selfies on Instagram–it’s not like we were forced to pose with a sideways glance showing the peace sign. I’m more concerned about the pain it will cause. You wake up in the middle of the night with a raging headache, thunder-claps outside and the window is cracked open, and you try to remember what you did with your phone. Then, you realize you don’t need a phone anymore because YOU HAVE A MICROCHIP IMPLANTED IN YOUR FOREHEAD. It’s like something Stephen King would invent at a bar while having a zinger with HR Giger. Also, what about getting the Microchip 2.0? What about late fees? Coverage areas? What happens if you break your contract?
My point is that the chip implant idea is going to come into fruition anyway. Still, I’m not planning on signing up for the two-year “free implant” plan anytime soon. I already know my way around Wal-Mart.