Bernie Goldie. 29/04/2009
Rapid pace of technological change goes beyond George Orwell predictions
Welcome to the brave new world where national security concerns have presented governments with the justification to introduce surveillance on people on an unprecedented scale and where human chip implants are on the rise.
Ominous scenarios going beyond what was once predicted in novels such as George Orwell’s 1984 are brought to life in a new book, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants, by University of Wollongong (UOW) academics Dr Katina Michael and, Dr M.G. Michael.
The book details the social implications of technology and how new emerging innovations are completely changing the rules of engagement. In 2003, for instance, a family volunteered to officially receive the commercial VeriChip implant for an emergency service application. Such applications are on the rise especially in the United States.
The book was largely written during a time of global geo-political and economic turbulence when the world witnessed a rise in a new kind of terrorism and also large-scale emergencies related to natural disasters and looming pandemics.
The authors highlight that not all of the latest innovative techniques should be viewed negatively. For example, electronic health monitoring solutions are helping doctors gather accurate and timely medical data about their patients and their needs. And in the area of criminal intelligence, GPS tracking units are being used by law enforcement agencies to gather evidence towards convicting suspects of criminal activities or keeping track of parolees who have been released from prison.
The new and emerging technologies however, do carry with them serious implications for privacy, trust, control, and especially human rights. It was as recent as December 2008, that Indonesia’s Papua dropped its plans to microchip about 5,000 HIV/AIDS patients in order to monitor their actions. This raises major concerns about the application of invasive technology by institutions of higher authority. It also raises issues about the application, validity, and viability of the technology in a variety of usability contexts.
Automatic identification has evolved to use techniques that can identify an object or subject without direct human intervention – such devices include bar codes, magnetic-strip, integrated circuit, biometric, radio-frequency and nanotech-based identification.
Dr Katina Michael’s research interests are in the areas of automatic identification, location-based services, emerging mobile technologies, national security and their respective socio-ethical implications. She is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Information Systems and Technology at UOW, a senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., and on the publications committee of the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine.
Dr M.G. Michael is an Honorary Senior Fellow in UOW’s School of Information Systems and Technology and a member of the American Academy of Religion. A theologian and historian with broad cross-disciplinary qualifications, Dr Michael provides expertise on ethical issues and the social implications of technology.
He coined the word ‘überveillance’ which this year was voted top in the ‘technology’ category in Macquarie Dictionary’s Word of the Year search. Dr Michael defines the emerging concept of überveillance as “an omnipresent electronic surveillance facilitated by technology that makes it possible to embed surveillance devices in the human body”.
Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants (514pp) has been published by Information Science Reference. The book features seven full-length interviews with notable scientists, including Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at the University of Reading and Professor Christofer Toumazou, Director of the Biomedical Institute at Imperial College. Also featured is Mr Amal Graafstra, the world’s most recognised hobbyist implantee.
Citation: Bernie Goldie, April 29, 2009, "Rapid pace of technological change goes beyond George Orwell predictions", UOW Media Release, https://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW058534.html