My Quick Attempt at South African Futurology

Futurology - human implant. Image of robot hand and human hand pointing to the word FUTURE

Futurology: The study or forecasting of trends or developments in science, technology, political or social structure, etc.

“The future is already here – it is just not evenly distributed.”

That’s a quote by American author, William Gibson. It refers to the fact that the things that might be normal for people in the future, already exist for some people today. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ll all experience in the same future in the future (if you get what I mean). Changes and inequalities affect how those futuristic elements will roll out.

Tag the human

I thought of this quote after I read one of the responses to my last email on virtual influencers. The response included a link to an article about embedding chips in humans.

According to the article, the CEO of Nokia has claimed that smart gadgets will be implanted into human bodies by 2030.

A few months ago Elon Musk was in the news (again) about his plan to implant AI chips into human brains. Naturally, Musk claims this will have great advantages, including allowing quadriplegics to walk.

Sci-fi books and movies have included the idea of chips embedded in humans for years. It’s not a new idea, but it does seem to be getting closer.

Imagine tag the South African

You can already have a microchip implant that lets you pay with a swipe of your hand – no credit card required. I assume the payment system won’t work in South Africa, given that we can’t use Stripe and have limits with PayPal. But what about all the other potential challenges of this kind of technology in a country like ours?

What happens when we have load shedding? (One of our course delegates this week was without power for so long that he will have to attend a later course.) A chip reader needs power. You wave your chipped hand to switch off your house security system, but nothing happens. So you wave your hand to pay for the petrol to make your generator work so that you can get in to your house, but the system is off-line. You get the picture.

And who would ensure that every chip is truly unique? You know the government would want to take control. The Department of Home Affairs actually has a process for resolving duplicate ID numbers, so it must happen quite often. Not to mention identity fraud and data breaches. Bit of a problem when someone else waves a hand and your account is debited.

And then there would be the long wait for your chip. Maybe I’m just annoyed because, after 10 months, I’m still waiting for my renewed driver’s licence. The licence department “lost” my digitally-stored finger prints. They lost Renier’s as well, but when the new machine couldn’t get a reading off his fingers, they decided the prints weren’t really necessary …

And I’d worry that it would add a whole new dimension to the trafficking of human body parts. Does that hand really need to be connected to a body?

Don’t look up

I was off sick last week, and used the time to catch up on some movie watching. One of those movies was “Don’t look up”. If you haven’t watched it yet, put it on your to-watch list. You may love it or hate it, but what hits home is how plausible parts of the story are. (I loved it.)

The movie highlights things we see every day: warped political priorities, the sensationalism of news, and corporate greed. But what tickled me most was the claims of Big Tech, and how hollow those claims turned out to be.

So don’t put too much in Elon Musk’s claims of making the lame walk again.

Will this be our future?

The idea of microchip implants in humans will be vigorously debated in the future. Given all our concerns about privacy and data leaks, I certainly have second, third and ninety-fifth thoughts about this.

Would you have a chip implanted in your body? I’d love to hear your comments. 

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