What is the Internet doing to our heads?

We spend more time online than offline, so what is all this screen time doing to our heads?

Presenter/Producer: Cheyne Anderson
Presenter: Ellen Leabeater

Speakers:
Lawrence Lam - Professor of Public Health, University of Technology Sydney
Katina Michael - Professor, School of Computing and IT, University of Wollongong
David Glance - Director Centre for Software Practice, University of Western Australia

Think: Digital Futures is supported by 2SER and the University of Technology Sydney.

2ser.com/thinkdigitalfutures

Consider following below on SoundCloud.

Citation: Cheyne Anderson, Ellen Leabeater, Lawrence Lam, Katina Michael, David Glance, April 23, 2017, "What is the Internet doing to our heads?", 2SERFM Think: Digital Futures, https://soundcloud.com/thinkdigitalfutures/what-is-the-internet-doing-to-our-heads

Nice to see it made available here also: https://www.ivoox.com/what-is-the-internet-doing-to-our-heads-audios-mp3_rf_18287880_1.html

Will Microchip Implants in Humans Become Mandatory?

And he causes all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be ab le to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the b east or the number of his name.
— Revelations 13:16-17

So begins an article by writer Mac Slavo about how human-implanted microchips won’t just be popular in the future. They’ll be mandatory.

Moreover, if his vision of tomorrow is correct, hardly anyone will have to be dragged kicking and screaming by jack-booted storm troopers (or robots?) into that Brave New World; rather, most people will willingly be chipped as we slouch toward Oceania.

In fact, the movement is already in progress. As NewsMax’s James Hirsen recently wrote:

In various places all over the world, there are individuals who open doors, start cars, and control their computers with a mere gesture of their hands or arms.

They are among the first wave of people who have voluntarily allowed a miniature computer chip to be placed inside of their bodies. Most are part of a group that advocates biohacking, a concept in which activists seek to enhance the human body through the use of technology.

Many biohackers also identify with a broader movement known as transhumanism. Transhumanists believe that people will ultimately be able to transform themselves through the use of technology into superior beings that possess expanded capabilities. Adherents of the movement categorize such individuals as “posthuman.”

In inching toward a newly defined humanity, a small radio frequency identification chip (RFID) is being injected into an individual’s hand, wrist, or arm through use of a hypodermic needle in the same manner as a routine vaccine. The implanted microchip broadcasts an identifying number or code, which can be used for a myriad of purposes.

The benefits of this technology are seductive: No more having to carry — and worry about losing — numerous credit cards and other forms of identification. No more fumbling for them when performing transactions; a wave of the hand will suffice. No more showing passports when you travel or your driver’s license to a cop. And since microchipping would facilitate a cashless society, there’d be no more worries about cash loss or theft, and it could put an end to black-market drug and other illegal transactions; identity theft could be eliminated, too (though any technology could conceivably be circumvented).

And as Iain Gillespie wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, “The implants send a unique ID number that can be used to activate devices such as phones and locks, and can link to databases containing limitless information, including personal details such as names, addresses and health records.”

Gillespie also mentioned cybernetics scientist Dr. Mark Gasson of the UK’s University of Reading (UR), who made history recently:

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After implanting a chip in himself in 2009 to control his office’s electronic gadgets, he became the world’s first human infected with a computer virus. “The virus was replicated on the swipecards of staff accessing his building and infected the university's database,” writes Gillespie.

Yet Gasson remains enthusiastic about what he characterizes as an inevitable and imminent new technological normal. He says, “It has the potential to change the very essence of what it is to be human.” He believes that microchips’ acceptance will mirror that of mobile phones and that a situation will develop wherein it “will be such a disadvantage not to have the implant that it will essentially not be optional.”

But it gets even stranger. As Gillespie also wrote:

Last year [2013] the line between man and machine became even more blurred, when Stanford University announced its scientists had created the first purely biological transistor that was made entirely of genetic material. Stanford assistant professor of bioengineering, Dr Drew Endy, described the breakthrough as the final component needed for a biological computer that can operate within living cells and reprogram living systems.

And to some degree the future is now, with biometric technology already being used in certain wide-scale applications. As writer Michael Snyder informs us, a hand-scanning payment method is being tested in southern Sweden, biometric scanners/RFID tracking devices are already used in college dining halls and some amusement parks, and the technology is even “being used in Africa to keep track of who is being vaccinated,” he writes.

But how will this transition from new and novel idea to mandatory mark of the beast? There is precedent for acceptance of such intrusion; after all, your cellphone has an RFID chip and can be used to track your every movement, and its camera can be remotely activated by authorities. And we all have Social Security numbers. But the move toward mandatory status will begin like this, writes Mac Slavo:

First, the technologies will need to be generally accepted by society. It’ll start with real-time consumer based products like Google Glass. The older generations may reject it, but in a couple of years you can bet that tens of millions of kids, teens and younger adults will be roaming the streets while sporting cool shades, interactive web surfing and the capability to record everything around them and upload it to the internet instantly.

Remember that young people especially like the feeling of being “with it,” on the cutting edge, and don’t want to have outdated technology any more than out-of-style clothes; they will leap to be chipped just as they snatch up the latest smart phone. And not only will the technology be convenient, but it will lend an illusion of power. With just a wave of your hand doors will open for you — literally and figuratively.

“Eventually, once the concept is generally accepted by the majority, it will become our new ‘social security number,’” writes Slavo.

You’ll thus need a chip to avail yourself of government services and, sooner or later, to make a purchase (again, society would no doubt become cashless).

At that point circumstances may compel a person to accept an implant even if the government doesn’t. And the implications of this are grave, say many critics. For instance, University of Wollongong professor Katina Michael warns, reports Gillespie:

“RFID microchips are essentially a unique ID embedded in your body, and, as we know, numbers can be stolen and data can be hacked.... They point to an uber-surveillance society that is big brother on the inside looking out. Governments or large corporations would have the ability to track people's actions and movements ... and ultimately even control them.”

Also note that with the government developing the capacity to predict an individual’s behavior with computer algorithms and with science starting to create technology that can decode thoughts and intentions (mind-reading), the future looks, well, quite revelatory.

So will a day come where we dare think only doubleplusgood thoughts? Will 1984 and Brave New World transition from fiction to news? Whatever the case, we can without hesitation now say something about the old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times”:

We certainly do.

Citation: Selwyn Duke, May 3, 2014, "Will Microchip Implants in Humans Become Mandatory?", The New American, https://www.thenewamerican.com/tech/item/18184-will-microchip-implants-in-humans-become-mandatory

Please note: I was never contacted directly about my involvement in this article.

Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine

Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine

As an academic and member of several industry boards, Associate Professor Katina Michael’s kitchen calendar is already brimming with deadlines and engagements. The schedule is now set to become even busier for the mother of three as she begins an exciting new role as Editor-in-Chief of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Technology and Society Magazine.

Professor Michael, who is part of UOW’s School of Information Systems and Technology (SISAT), will take the reigns at the respected publication for the next two years.

“I really am excited about the appointment, especially given I never thought such an opportunity would come my way as early as it did in my academic career,” she said.

“I hope to build on the solid foundations of my immediate predecessors Professor Keith Miller and Professor Joseph Herkert. One of my research interests is the trajectory of future technologies and their social implications so I hope as Editor-in-Chief I will be able to make that even more prevalent in the magazine.”

Professor Michael said while the magazine received many submissions from engineers, she hoped to introduce more interdisciplinary content from philosophers, sociologists, science and media studies commentators as well as business, ethics and legal experts.

“I am also very keen to invite well-known inventors and futurists to write for the magazine,” she said.

As Technical Editor of the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronics Commerce Research and a board member of the Australian Privacy Foundation and Computers and Security Journal, Professor Michael said time management had proved an important skill.

“I am acutely aware of deadlines, write a daily to do list and keep a monthly calendar in the kitchen to keep track of the activities of family, friends and my work,” she said.

“In fact most, of my thinking about the day ahead begins when I am preparing to make the children’s breakfast. The key to fitting everything in is being flexible and willing to compromise dependent on the pressures at play on any given day,” she said.

Professor Michael credited her success to the quality of UOW’s research structure, her colleagues and mentors, the young researchers she had supervised throughout her career, her family and husband and research collaborator Dr MG Michael.

Faculty of Informatics Dean Professor Phillip Ogunbona said Professor Michael’s appointment was a testament to her good work and visibility at an international level.

“Katina brings a lot of passion and energy to her work and is well regarded in her research community. I am really excited and proud that she has been appointed to such a rigorous and highly regarded publication,” he said.

Citation: Jenna Bradwell, August 2, 2011, "Katina Michael takes helm of tech magazine", UOW Media, https://media.uow.edu.au/news/UOW107279.html

Cyborgs walk among us

Cyborgs walk among us

Higher education Conference

A university conference is tackling the big issues of technology and features speakers who have devices implanted under their skin, writes BENJAMIN LONG.

Program chair Associate Professor Katina Michael is expecting plenty of robust debate at the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society this week at the University of Wollongong.

The multidisciplinary conference, which closes tomorrow (with a further workshop being held on Thursday), has attracted the world's leading experts in the area of new technology and its social impacts.

"What is fresh about this conference is that it is bringing people from different disciplines to discuss the same subject matter from different angles" says Dr Michael, a senior lecturer in the School of Information Technology and Computer Science at UOW.

"There should be a clash of sorts, because I don't think everyone will agree with what is being put forward.

The conference is looking at issues related to cyborg technology, microchip implants, nanotechnology and social networking

"We've got information and communication technology specialists. We've got applied ethics researchers. We've got political scientists. We've got lawyers talking about regulation and legislation of emerging technology such as nanotechnology.

"We've also got commercial entities that have invested heavily, for example, in GPS innovations. We've even got a theologian talking.

"It's not just engineering focussed or humanities focussed. It's going to create a lot of dialogue between those who conceive, those who implement and those who eventually critique the technology."

More than 100 speakers from 17 different countries will address the conference, and 70 academic papers will be presented.

It is the first time the symposium has been held in Australia, says Dr Michael, who has been working on it since UOW was awarded the hosting rights in 2007.

Speakers are looking at emerging technologies in four broad categories - location-based services, social networking, nanotechnology and automatic identification - and looking in particular at issues of security, privacy and human rights.

A number of the keynote speakers are addressing issues around implantable devices.

Professor Rafael Capurro of the Steinbeis-Transfer-Institute Information Ethics, Germany, is a leading ethicist in this area. He has been writing about these issues, says Dr Michael, since a time when "most other people were thinking this was the stuff of conspiracy theory".

Prof Capurro writes that while "ICT (information and communication technology) implants may be used to repair deficient bodily capabilities they can also be misused, particularly if these devices are accessible via digital networks. The idea of letting ICT devices get under our skin in order not just to repair but even to enhance human capabilities gives rise to science fiction visions".

Dr Mark Gasson, a senior research fellow in the Cybernetic Intelligence Research Group at the University of Reading, in the United Kingdom, has an engineering background and looks at implants from a different angle.

In particular he is interested in implantable RFID (radio-frequency identification) devices, which have evolved to the point where they can be considered simple computers.

Dr Gasson recently became "the world's first human infected with a computer virus" when he had a chip implanted in his hand and then infected with a computer virus.

Taking a more idiosyncratic approach is another keynote speaker, Amal Graafstra, who is not an academic but rather an RFID implant enthusiast from the United States.

The owner of several technology and mobile communications companies, Graafstra has two RFIDs implanted in his body which do things like allowing him keyless access to his home and car.

Another of the keynote speakers, Dr Roger Clarke, a consultant on eBusiness, information infrastructure, and dataveillance and privacy, and a Visiting Professor at the School of Computer Science at ANU, addresses the subject of cyborg rights.

"The first generation of cyborgs is alive, well, walking among us, and even running," Dr Clarke argues.

"Pacemakers, clumsy mechanical hands, and renal dialysis machines may not match the movie image of cyborgs, but they have been the leading wave."

He points to the case of South African athlete Oscar Pistorius, a double leg amputee whose prosthetic legs enable him to run faster than most able-bodied people. Pistorius doesn't want to be known as a Paralympian and would rather race against able-bodied athletes. Should he be allowed to run in the Olympics?

Dr Michael hopes that one of the outcomes of the conference is a greater awareness of how technology is affecting our lives.

"Technology can be used for positive means, but it can also be exploited," Dr Michael says.

"It is a great medium to communicate with other people on, but just be aware that even intelligent and street-savvy people can be fooled, and that harm can come from it.

"For example, one of the issues of location-based social networking is that Facebook now has a function that enables you to have a status update, which is automatic and which identifies your location based on where your mobile phone is.

"People can look at that without your knowing - if you've got 400 friends on your friends list - and see that you are in Figtree or you are in Wollongong.

"That might not mean much to people at the moment, but somebody might be able to use that to say, okay, well you're not at home right now so I can go around there and take everything you have. Or they could use it to stalk you.

"We are talking about technology that is not just in the virtual world, but which has repercussions in the physical world."

Citation: Benjamin Long, June 8, 2010, "Cyborgs walk among us", Illawarra Mercury, pp. 1, 23.