WEB & TECH / MAR. 01, 2015
version 3, draft 3

Will Human Augmentation Change the Workplace?

A news story has recently swept across the Internet about a company in Sweden that has implanted microchips into its employees so that they can open security doors and work photocopiers. Is this going to be the future? Some think it’s slightly more deviant. Will human augmentation change the workplace?

What is human augmentation?

Very simply, human augmentation is the process of using technology to enhance the human body. How can the body be made better? Can your brain surf the Internet? How good is the brain’s ability to recall information? These things can be enhanced with the addition of an interface between the brain and the Internet. Granted, this is quite a jump of imagination; at the moment, this technology is primarily based on RFID chips.

What are RFID chips?

The acronym expanded means Radio Frequency Identification, and is basically a circuit that consists of an antenna and a chip. This technology was designed initially to replace barcodes and to keep track of products. It can do this because the RFID, unlike barcodes, can actually store data. Companies use this to track their products from their warehouses to the shop, and to track sales of their products.

How can we use this tech, and is it dangerous?

Any new technology can be used for good or for bad. It can be used to confirm identity and would minimize theft or misuse of property. At the moment, RFID implants can open doors, give the user access to electronics only they are authorized to use, and even start their vehicles. The RFID chip has read, write and lock capabilities that could potentially be used to extract personal information, medical, or financial records. The most extreme danger would be that if the technology is ever widely adopted, and people stored most of their information on them. This would expose the user to being wiped, erasing all his/her personal and financial information.

The future

Of course, as with any new technological implementation, as it matures so does its security and ease of use. If the technology is feasible and can be marketable, the problems that we see today could be eliminated in the near future. Threats such as RFID hacks or wipes would be minimized or completely eradicated. On the other hand, this technology could assist individuals and organizations to track people, purchases and bank history like no other time in contemporary history.

The fears

Generally, people fear new technology; of course, usually, new technology isn’t embedded under their skin. There is speculation how governments will use it to track their citizens and even their pets, thus increasing the “Big Brother’s” ability to watch us. I think this is just fear of something new; if the technology truly enhances our welfare and quality of life, it will be readily adopted.

What do you think? Is human augmentation a turning point as to how we identify ourselves and complete our day-to-day transactions? Or will RFID become a new way for governments and organizations to keep tabs on us? After all, companies such as Walmart are using it to streamline and manage their supply trains. How would you use RFID in your company: for tracking people, products or shipments? Only once the technology is tested, will we truly know.

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