Thursday, 5 May 2011


In the dystopia novel I've been working on, everyone gets a microchip implanted at birth. It's your birth certificate. Later it's your driving licence and passport. All doors have electronic locks so the microchip is your house key. It opens doors where you work and won't open doors you don't have access to. It's your bank account. Money is electronically transferred in and out (minus tax). You have no idea what the current tax rate is, all you see is the final amount.

It has occurred to me just how easy it would be to sell that idea to the public. Imagine - you cannot lose your birth certificate, passport, keys, or any important documents because it's all stored on a chip implanted in you. You cannot be mugged because nobody has any cash. Only those permitted to enter your house can do so. You never need to show ID at the tills because the tills already know how old you are. It's so convenient that if the masses hear about it, they'll want it at once.

There is a downside, naturally. You can be fired, banned from driving or evicted at the tap of a few remote keys. Your chip then won't open the house door and it won't start the car. Your bank account can be simply erased. Tills can be set to refuse you service. Put on weight and you can't buy food. When your blood alcohol reaches a set point, you can't buy any more booze. The masses won't mind at all because this will only ever happen to 'bad people'. It won't happen to them, it will be for the binge drinkers and the obese and other criminals. If it does happen to them, then like Winston Smith's neighbour in '1984', they will assume they must have been influenced by thoughtcrime and meekly accept punishment.

There is CCTV in this story. It's still fuzzy and rubbish but now it's linked with remote chip-scanners. Hide your face, it doesn't matter. Next to your image on that screen is your chip's identifier. Try to run and no door will open for you. No bus or train will let you in. You have no money and no home. All with a few taps on a keyboard because what nobody told the sheeple when the system came in was - the chips can not only be read remotely. They can be reprogrammed remotely too.

But hey, it's just for the criminals so that's okay, right? It is, of course, fiction. For now.

The Moose suggests that the smoker's attempts to terrify the population with 'smoker's money' might help bring about the change to electronic money. That will happen anyway. Cheques are already being phased out and more and more I see people paying for small purchases with a credit card. People are getting used to living cashless. Pay with the card, pay the card online, why I'll bet there are people out there now who haven't handled cash in months.

There are plans to 'load' a mobile phone with electric money and pay for things at the till with it. Scary. Lose your phone and you'll lose your wallet too. What if it runs out of battery at the till? Oh, what you need there is an implanted chip. You can't lose that.

Is it safe? Of course, haven't your dogs and cats had these things in them for years? They're fine, aren't they? Nothing to worry about.

Nothing to worry about until the thing breaks down. How can you get it fixed? You now have no means to prove who you are and no access to any means to pay for the repair.

But hey, there's nothing to worry about. It's not as if anyone's been working on this sort of thing for years. Even if they did, it's not as if those guardians of our health, who won't let us smoke or drink or put on weight, would ever approve of something as invasive as an implanted chip.

That first link goes back to 1999, the second to 2004. What can those chips do now?

So I'll keep on labelling money. Not to rush through the chipping of everyone, because that will happen no matter what, but because money is only going to be available as a smokers' weapon for a short time.

Make the most of it.


petem130 said...

Interesting post and one that's been envisioned in a number of ways in films and books. Iris scanners for example. Your idea is interesting.

My wife and I traveled through Heathrow a couple of months ago on our way back north. My wife bleeps most times she goes through scanners so to avoid this she'd worked out what the problem was (bras actually). She dressed in the same clothes she'd worn when flying from our local airport where there was no bleep and no pat down etc.

At the first security point at Heathrow a security person asked to swab my wife's handbag. We hadn't heard about this as asked what it was for. Traces of explosives apparently. Okay. Ho hum.

Next through to the main security check. My wife went through first having been asked to remove her boots (which was not the case at the local airport). She walked through and the machine bleeped. A woman then used a wand and when it went over the front of my wife's cardigan it bleeped each time it passed over a button. My wife offered to remove the cardigan. No said the security person. My wife was then patted down. I'm still not satisfied said the security woman and told my wife she'd have to have a body scan. The they swabbed the inside of her handbag.

My wife is over 50. She is a teacher at a special needs school. She cares about the local community. She has never had any contact with the police apart from them helping at school. She has no vices (apart from shoes and handbags which she freely admits to). I don't remember any threat coming from ladies over 50. This was an appalling assault carried out by the state under the weakest of reasoning.

No threat what so ever. Your chip may have helped in these circumstance although obviously the powers that be would find ways to still get into peoples lives.

Maybe your story reflects some of the control issues?

Great blog by the way. I'm not a smoker but persecution of those who do has gone way way too far.

Anonymous said...

Dear Real Leg-iron

Government wants ‘secure’ ID and so scares people into wanting it too. A fairly easy thing to achieve, judging by the expressed opinions of even intelligent people I know.

Once the ID is so ‘secure’ everyone trusts it implicitly, government can and most assuredly will abuse it for its own ends. Real people become interchangeable purely on the basis of the records in the databases – handy for James Bond and anyone else who can gain access to the databases. Real people can be disposed of and their place taken by someone else. Being part of government will become even more of an attraction to criminals than it is already, making the petty thieving of politicians and the multi-million or billion pound scams perpetrated on the EU taxpayers by the mafia or the simple cronyism of petty bureaucrats seem like small beer. The only difference between government and organised crime is that one is illegal. Organised crime has been planting people in government for generations. There could come a time when the governing elite are entirely composed of criminals. It might be now.

Remember the Golden Rule: those who make the rules have the gold. People and their time are the gold.

Making rules about ID means government effectively owns people.

Happy polling day.


National Smoking Day – 1 July.

Onus Probandy said...

I've always liked the idea of having a unique code stuck in me. Except for the massive potential for destroying my liberty and privacy it's a great idea.

Here's my alternative solution: a piece of jewellery (watch or ring, whatever) with an embedded memory chip, queryable by radio and (and this is the important bit.. completely programmable.

Doesn't that make it useless I hear you cry?

No. Because it would be the programmable with a private key half of a cryptographic pair, but would be queryable only for a public key and signature.

Just as I can make up a new GPG key pair whenever I want; so I would be able to make up a new identity chip whenever I want.

Whenever I want to link something with my identity I simply issue that linked item with a copy of my public key. Only I, with my private key, can prove ownership, but anyone with the public key can verify ownership.

All the benefits, none of the drawbacks.

Onus Probandy said...

(sorry for the double post)

... additionally...

On the subject of electronic money: it would only be as you say if the central moneymakers get their hands on it.

The internet is already hard at work providing an alternative that addresses all your concerns. I've coincidentally recently become a huge fan of it... Bitcoins, have a look at my blog for more.

In short: you can back up your "wallet" and as long as you can get to the backup and spend it before the thief can crack the password on your wallet, then the stolen money is worthless.

As to running out of battery at the till: well what if you leave your wallet at home and only notice at the till? It's not the end of the world.

The biggest advantage of Bitcoin-like money is this though: it's out of the control of the monsters who govern us.

Edward said...

As a fall back in case the chip stops working you will need an ID number tattoo.

Not an original idea, it was tried 70 years ago....

Anonymous said...

Rather frighteningly, a friend of mine – a normally intelligent and refreshingly cynical woman – piped up in a conversation last weekend that she “actually thought that micro-chipping people would be a good idea.” Rather more hearteningly (after a short, shocked silence), four of the five other people around the table were quick to proffer numerous reasons why such an idea was actually nothing short of wilful madness.

The one remaining person present (this woman’s husband, incidentally) simply didn’t voice any opinion, but then, to be frank, he rarely voices an opinion one way or another on anything, except football – ‘nuff said!

malpas said...

I think you underestimate the skill and ingenuity of the criminal classes. They can fake anything your government can make. As well they can remove 'chips' from people as a short form of kidnapping. ( cut them out with a knife for example) - you would need to pay them to get your 'chip' back. Or you would be a non person.

Leg-iron said...

Malpas - heh, the book is called 'ghosthunters'. It's the only one I'll ever write with 'ghost' in the title and the only one so far with no ghosts in it.

The 'ghosts' are the criminals. They don't show a number on CCTV unless they have a stolen chip on them.

I'll get on with it when I sober up. In this state, I can only write mad stuff.

Anonymous said...

When I refill my ecig, I ensure that any residue is carefully smeared on a banknote.

I suppose that the same effect could be obtained after a normal fag by rubbing one's fingers on a crisp fiver. Wash your hands afterwards, though, you don't know where it's been.

Buck Moody said...

The BBC were pushing the chip-in-the-hand on Doctor Who last week. Nothing is sacred.

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