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A Brave New World

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In the British science fiction anthology series “Black Mirror, «Nosedive» is the first episode in the third series. This episode is set in a world where people can rate each other on a scale of one to five stars for every interaction they have using their cell phones. These ratings are not just a game, they can impact your socioeconomic status, i.e. it’s akin to a credit rating system combined with a social rating system. If your ratings are high, you can get loans, hang out with successful people, get a high-paying job, etc. In this episode, Lacie (played by Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young woman that is overly obsessed with her ratings. She has a mediocre rating but wants to buy a luxurious condo and does not qualify for a loan. So, she finds an opportunity to elevate her ratings after being chosen by her popular childhood friend as the maid of honour for her wedding. Her obsession leads to several mishaps on her journey to the wedding that culminate in a rapid reduction of her ratings.

If this sounds like an Orwellian future to you, you’ll be surprised to know that China is about to launch their own Social Credit System. The Social Credit System is a national reputation system being developed by the Chinese government. By 2020, it is intended to standardize the assessment of citizens’ and businesses’ economic and social reputation, or ‘Social Credit’. The system will be one unified system and there will be a single system-wide social credit score for each citizen and business.
You may argue that here in the West we have a credit score system, but our credit scores are based only on economic criteria, like paying loans or mortgages on time. It does not consider your social status nor your interactions within society. In that sense, China’s Social Credit System is considered a form of mass surveillance which uses big data analysis technology.

In general, it seems like technology is starting to be used as a surveillance system, and is getting closer and closer to our bodies, from the phones in our pockets to the smartwatches on our wrists. Now, for some people, it’s getting under their skin.

In Sweden, a country rich with technological advancement, thousands have already had microchips inserted into their hands. The chips are designed to speed up users’ daily routines and make their lives more convenient — accessing their homes, offices and gyms is as easy as swiping their hands against digital readers. They also can be used to store emergency contact details, social media profiles or e-tickets for events and rail journeys within Sweden.

In the United States, a Wisconsin company offers to implant chips in its employees. Proponents of the tiny chips say they’re safe and largely protected from hacking, but one scientist is raising privacy concerns around the kind of personal health data that might be stored on the devices. Around the size of a grain of rice, the chips typically are inserted into the skin just above each user’s thumb, using a syringe similar to that used for giving vaccinations. The procedure costs about $180 USD.

The Internet has entered into full-throated debate in the aftermath of the aforementioned Wisconsin firm embedding microchips in employees to do away with company badges and corporate logons. Religious activists are so appalled, they’ve been giving nasty 1-star reviews of the company, Three Square Market, on Google, Glassdoor and social media. On the flip side, seemingly everyone else wants to know: Is this what real life is going to be like soon at work? Will I be chipped?

Noelle Chesley, 49, associate professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee says that “It will happen to everybody, but not this year, and not in 2018. Maybe not my generation, but certainly that of my kids.”

Gene Munster, an investor and analyst at Loup Ventures, is an advocate for augmented reality, virtual reality and other new technologies. He thinks embedded chips in human bodies is 50 years away. “In 10 years, Facebook, Google, Apple and Tesla will not have their employees chipped,” he says. “You’ll see some extreme forward-looking tech people adopting it, but not large companies.”

The idea of being chipped has too “many negative connotation” today, but by 2067 “we will have been desensitized by the social stigma,” Munster says.

So according to what is written above, it seems that we’re heading towards a “chipped” society. Of course, there are many benefits to being chipped, like safety, you know where your loved ones are, and they know where you are. The police can monitor people on parole, fugitives and criminals. Also, there are medical benefits, if for whatever reason you’re unconscious, just by reading your chip, the paramedics and physicians can know your medical history. In terms of convenience, an implanted chip can be used as ID, as a driver’s license, a health card, a passport, a credit or debit card, etc., and there will be no need to carry all those documents with you. Pretty convenient I might say. Obviously, the chip will have to be standard government issue if it is to have any validity.

The problem, though, is not the chip itself and the conveniences it brings, but the extent of government control through the chip and the protection of privacy. Will the chip be used for the protection of society or for total government surveillance and control? How do I know that the government is not watching me all the time, what I say and what I do? In the hands of a totalitarian regime, they can easily accuse anyone who does not espouse or conform to the government’s views as a terrorist, free speech will cease to exist.

The last book of the New Testament is the Revelation of John. The Apostle and Evangelist John reveals a bleak future for humanity, culminating in a totalitarian global government where no one can buy or sell or do any kind of transaction unless they have the “charagma” or “χάραγμα” in Greek, on their right hand or forehead. This “charagma” is imposed by the government. The word “charagma” is derived from the verb “charasso” (χαράσσω), which means to etch, referring to an etching of the skin, an incision, which is what is required if you’re going to place a chip under your skin. The interesting part in the Revelation regarding the “charagma”, though, is that once you get it, you can never get rid of it, and, therefore, you cannot be saved. But why? What if one regrets it and tries to take it out, why can’t he do that? What will prevent him or her from doing that?

Recently, there is the development of microfluidic systems for subdermal drug transfer, or “lab-on-a-chip”. For certain medical situations, patients require minute dosages released steadily throughout the day. These microfluidic systems are basically drug transfer systems the size of a dime or smaller. I’m mentioning this is in relation to the Revelation, where once you get the chip, you can’t get rid of it.

Could it be because not only is society controlled and under strict surveillance, but drugged as well to remain happy and docile? Is the chip not just about buying and selling, but also about mind control releasing mind altering drugs to sedate and brainwash society into accepting the totalitarian government?

What is scary, is not the benign use of the chip and the microfluidic drug transferring devices, but that there is the potential for them to be used in a sinister manner, to control and brainwash the masses. And what is even scarier is that the technology to do that already exists.