Journalist Olivia Solon poses with piercer Andy after get the microchip implant. Photograph: Politenes of Olivia Solon.
In science fiction movies, microchips implanted for the purposes of the scalp are used to track individuals through dystopian metropolises rather like a GPS device. However, as with pet microchip technology, thats not how it runs. The implant is entirely passive, which means it has no power source and merely becomes active when it is within a couple of inches of a reader. Believe of it like a contactless credit or transit card. In terms of cyborg functionality, Im much closer to a key fob than RoboCop.
Where this kind of chip could be used for tracking is at the back end by collecting data every time federal employees makes a buy, uses the photocopier, or enters the building.
When pressed on what the other applications could be, the company suggested that people could put their medical record or passport data on chips. More advanced chips with their own power sources could eventually be used for GPS tracking.
Weve had interest from parents of young kids who want to be able to implant their children with a GPS chip, said Westby.
Almost all of the possible applications can be achieved through other means, like smart wristbands, ID cards or Apple Pay. Even without any contraption, theres still biometric technology such as fingerprint scanning or facial recognition that is cheaper and doesnt are in need of minor surgery.
To find out about some of the longer-term applications, the Guardian caught up with several biohackers, journalists and artists who have had implants for at least a year. For most of them, its little more than a gimmicky talking point.
Artist Meghan Trainor( not the vocalist ), however, explored ideas of human-machine interfaces, cyborg tropes, surveillance and bodily autonomy for four years after she had her RFID chip implanted in 2003.
It now functions as a poetic instance of abandonware, she said, referring to software no longer sold or supported by its creator. She says shes somewhat certain shell explore it as a vintage interface some time in the future.
But implants have not really significantly altered our experiences of technology the way smartphones, face-detection, hell even social media, have in the intervening years.
Zoltan Istvan, former presidential nominee and known transhumanist who had a chip implanted in 2015, is more bullish. As a surfer and a jogger, its such a ache to carry around keys. Its far easier just to have a chip. Its not a gimmick at all in my opinion.
To get mainstream adoption there will need to be a standardised pay protocol to allow individuals to swipe their hands across any reader not just the one in the Three Square Market office instead of using their charge card, said Istvan. This is a multibillion-dollar market waiting to explode.
The closest these chips have come to anything like mainstream adoption is in Sweden, where Biohax International says it has implanted about 3,000. The most popular application is as a replacement for a contactless smartcard on the Swedish railway companies.
sterlund says the technology is better than biometrics because you do not operated the risk of losing your fingerprint to hackers. The chip, unlike your fingerprint or your face, can always be replaced or reconfigured.
But the chip attracts the fury of some fundamentalist Christians, who see it as the mark of the beast. The anxiety stems from a passage in the Bibles book of Revelation, where it talks of the mark of the brute on the forehead or right hand.
sterlund sought to address these concerns in a respectful manner by consulting the membership of the clergy and theologians. His inquiries found that term for mark comes from the original Greek word for stigma, which can be translated as branding, scarification or tattoo, but definitely not a biocompatible capsule with NFC circuitry, said sterlund.
Furthermore, he said, most people have the implant in their left to right; Satan opts the right. Such logic hasnt stopped countless people send emails, Facebook messages and creating YouTube videos telling him hes doing Satans work but it doesnt faze him.
- This article was updated on 2 August 2017 to correct the stage/ faze homophone in the final sentence .