Beverley Head Thursday, 13 August 2009
Technological innovation which might allow implantable chips to act as human “black-boxes” needs careful analysis from technical, societal and ethical standpoints – and is one of the areas to be explored by an IEEE conference planned for Australia in 2010.
Organised by the IEEE’s Society on Social Implications of Technology, the conference will explore the social implications of emerging technologies and invite innovators, lawyers, ethicists and policy makers to participate.
Dr Katina Michael, a senior lecturer at the University of Wollongong which will host the conference next June, is one of the conference chairs and now seeking submissions from would-be presenters.
“I’m looking for psychologists and sociologists as well. I think implants will become the black-box for individuals where data can be stored, analysed or tampered with.”
While the technology already exists, Dr Michael is concerned too little attention has been paid to the implications of its widespread application. Already “There are trials of these things which have occurred with prisoners or Alzheimer’s’ patients, but there are massive implications here regarding cognitive awareness,” which she believed were not being properly considered.
“There is a pressure now for innovators to get to market. They just want to patent and innovate, and create churn. It is all about dollars. We are all working at web-speed which does not allow for us to reflect before roll out,” said Dr Michael.
This is the first time the IEEE’s ISTAS conference has been held in Australia. Five areas of particular interest have been identified, namely: automatic identification; location based services; social networking; nanotechnology; and, privacy, security and human rights.
Dr Michael said that it was important that innovators “designed with an ethical backbone” as innovation “pursued in a vacuum will turn us into the victims of our own invention.”
She said that there was a need for proper debate regarding emerging technology’s application, and also for well drafted legislation which might eventually govern how some of the new technologies could be used. In some US States for example flawed legislation governing this issue had emerged, meaning that although the State could not enforceably microchip
an individual, “your mum and dad can,” at least in Ohio.
Acknowledging that there was no comparable legislation in Australia, Dr Michael said it was important for policy makers to properly inform themselves about the technology and its implications now, rather than construct legislation on the fly as new technologies arrived in the marketplace.
She also stressed the need for consumers of emerging technology to be properly informed about issues such as the long term implications of exposure to nano-materials, or implantable location tracking devices which might be easily implanted, but prove difficult to remove.
ISTAS ’10 will run from 7-9 June 2010, and more details are available at http://www.ieeessit.org/. Dr Michael is seeking abstracts by 2 October 2009.
Citation: Beverley Head, August 13, 2009, "Human implantable “black-box” technologies need greater scrutiny", IT Wire, https://itwire.com/beverley-head