There are days I could really use this
Mind control — It has been the fodder for countless science-fiction books, stories and movies. Now it seems science fiction is rapidly approaching science fact.
In my forays through some recent science journals, which I can't seem to shake my penchant for, I came across a scenario that is both fascinating and a wee bit intimidating.
It seems that better living through mind control is now a reality. These days, science-fiction writers need a shot of smart juice each morning to stay ahead of the scientists — especially the brain scientists, who are beginning to put on quite a show.
We knew it was going to happen — At Reading University in the U.K., cybernetics whiz Kevin Warwick plans to implant, into himself and his wife, a two-inch-long silicon chip complete with power source, tuner and radio transceiver. The device will be surgically implanted in their arms above the elbow and connected to nerve fibers.
And, more recently, a company called VeriChip has developed an implantable RF device that measures 12 × 2.1 mm — or roughly the size of the point of a typical ballpoint pen. According to the Palm Beach-based company, one or more chips can be implanted in a human. Each chip has a unique ID number and other critical data, which can be transmitted to an external scanner via RF technology.
Whoa, thank you Dr. Frankenstein — It is expected that when Warwick moves his fingers, the signals from the chip will be transformed into radio waves and sent to a computer, which will then move the signal along to his wife's silicon chip. Her fingers should then move in an identical fashion to his.
OK, I can see the benefits of this. To be able to control limbs and physiological functions that have ceased to function due to brain injury, disease or other debilitating trauma is a godsend. But folks, you know me and this column, and I'll just bet you can imagine what mischevious thoughts are churning around in my brain.
Here I am on some street corner in some city, somewhere in the United States in the year 2040. Wireless connectivity is everywhere. We communicate with heads-up displays (HUDs) that sense our eye movements. We can pass instructions to the HUD by simply staring at a particular item. Everything is interconnected to everything else. A tiny nuclear-powered smart card using spin technology holds orgabytes (I'm determined) of data — everything we are, as well as every access method to all universal databases is contained in this tiny card. It has ubiquitous wireless connectivity. And cloning and bionics are commonplace.
Who knows what evil lurks… — As I stand on the corner, microtransmitter in hand, I scan for embedded RF chips in humans as they walk by. I've hacked the security layers. Ah…ha…I get a confirmation that I have linked to a multilimb controller. I disable the security layer and gain control of the chip. I know not where nor of whom, but because all connectivity is low-power, I know it must be close. So I link to the embedded GPS system, and it tells me that the chip is only a few meters in front of me. I work my way forward…I send the chip a signal. All of a sudden I see a man waving frantically just ahead. I repeat the process just to make sure I've locked on to the right chip. Again, he begins to wave frantically. Now, I instruct the man to find his smart card and I turn him into the next Sharper Image. I follow, I see what I want…I must…I must…then I wake up.
It was only a dream — As I awake in a cold sweat, I run a diagnostic set on my implanted chips. Then I link to the cat. As it wakes from its dead sleep, it must wonder why it's being summoned to my side. I must admit, it was tricky learning how to move the cat's limbs through my own arm movements.
Well, I've had a bit of fun with this issue. But on the serious side, the fact remains that with such neo-century technology, we also are tasked with tremendous responsibility. That responsibility draws guidelines that have no gray areas. As we move forward with the technology, the question must be asked: Do designers have the responsibility to include mechanisms that guarantee abuse-proof implementation?
While not the only, or even the primary industry to have such accountability, never-the-less, wireless designers and developers should try to make such devices as fail-safe as possible. This is one time a maximum effort to approach 100% is critical. We certainly can't entrust it to politicians and lawmakers.
Because most of the world thinks wireless is voodoo anyway, we have an opportunity to assume some of this responsibility and run with it. We may not be able to make technology 100% unabuseable, but we need to get as close as possible. It's a tall order, but sooner or later it will have to be addressed.
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