Go Get Chipped - Part 1

For over 20 years, MG Michael and I have been researching the social implications of microchipping people. In 1996 as part of a final year major project in my Bachelor of Information Technology degree at the University of Technology, Sydney, I researched the potential for government identifiers to be implanted in the human body, with supervisor Prof. Jenny Edwards [1].


Influenced greatly by the early works of Roger Clarke [2] and Simon Davies [3] in Australia, I became especially interested in “where to next?” A single image I had come across in the Library of Andersen Consulting headquarters in North Sydney while in my cooperative employment semester in April 1996, has stuck with me ever since. Depicted in a cartoon figure was the body of a man, with a computer “head.” No eyes, no ears, just a blank cathode ray tube (CRT). The headline of that report read: “The Human Metaphor” [4]. In December of that year I found myself working as a graduate engineer at Nortel Networks.

In 1997 Eduardo Kac became the first human to implant himself with a non-medical device in the performance art work titled “Time Capsule” [5]. After injecting an implant above his left ankle, Kac went on to register himself on a pet database. This performance piece was streamed live on the Internet. One year later in 1998 the company I worked for sponsored the Cyborg 1.0 project at the University of Reading and continued support for Cyborg 2.0, alongside Tumbleweed Communications, Computer Associates, and Fujitsu [6]. I learned of this cyborg project through the company's global hardcopy newspaper. I remember sitting at my desk turning to the back page and reading a short column about how implantables were destined to be our future. At the time I had begun a Ph.D. on the topic of “Smart Card Innovation in Government Applications,” but quickly redirected my focus to holistically study major automatic identification innovations, inclusive of chip implants. Dr. Ellen McGee and Dr. Gerald Q. Maguire, Jr., had begun to research ethical and policy issues around implantable brain chips as early as 2001, but I was more preoccupied in how this technology could be used for everyday banking and telecommunications applications as a blackbox implantable in the arm or upper torso.

Prof. Kevin Warwick had become the first academic to be implanted with a cylindrical transponder that not only identified him but also located him in his building [7]. After rigging up the corridors of the Cybernetics Department at the University of Reading, an interactive map would locate Warwick as he walked throughout the building. His office was also rigged up with readers, so that his presence was somewhat ambient — as he walked into the room, the lights would switch on and his computer would turn on to his favorite webpage. In 1999 British Telecom's Peter Cochrane wrote Tips for Time Travellers in which he described a microchip implant akin to something he noted would be a “soul catcher chip” [8]. The year Cochrane's monograph was published, the Auto-ID Center consortium at M.I.T. formally began research on the “Internet of Things,” a term coined by former Procter and Gamble assistant brand manager, Kevin Ashton [9]. Cyborg 2.0 followed on March 14, 2002, when Warwick had a one hundred electrode array surgically implanted into the median nerve fibers of his left arm [10]. Here Warwick showed the potential of brain-to-computer interfaces (BCI) but also the potential of brain-to-brain interfaces (BBI). During this whole period, I was busy working on projects related to telecommunications deregulation across Asia, seeing firsthand the right angle turn from voice to data, and the explosion of mobile telephony and later 3G mobile infrastructure. The world was changing rapidly and I knew I had to finish my Ph.D. as soon as possible. As chance would have it, I headed for academia.

Post the dot.com crash, we were all shocked by scenes such as those of September 11, 2001. It did not take long for people to emphasize the importance of security, and how to address risk on a large scale. Companies like Applied Digital Solutions [11], and later VeriChip Corporation [12] and Positive ID [13], described the potentiality of a unique ID being embedded in the right tricep. This was no myth. Applied Digital Solutions received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for a personal health record identifier in 2004 [14]. The CEO of the VeriChip Corporation (and later PositiveID), Scott Silverman, pointed to the many benefits of such an implantable. He noted the possibility of such a device being tethered to an electronic bracelet being able to help first responders get out of hopeless situations, like a burning tower that was about to collapse. There were 2996 people killed and more than 6000 others wounded in the September 11 attacks. Silverman emphasized the potential for saving people who were incapacitated and could not tell first responders about their condition [15]. Situations could range from people having an allergy to penicillin, diabetics requiring insulin, or even wander alerts for those suffering from dementia. VeriChip was successful in some high profile chippings, such as New Mexico's Attorney General Rafael Macedo and some of his staff [16], in addition to the Baja Beach club chain in both Rotterdam and Barcelona [17], and later in the small number of voluntary employee chippings at Citywatcher.com [18].

Apart from my thesis in 2003 [19], numerous papers written by academics became available on the chipping phenomenon in 2004 [20], and 2005 [21], including a landmark monograph titled SpyChips [22] written by Dr. Katherine Albrecht and Liz McIntyre. There were several attempts to chip Alzheimer's patients at aged care facilities in 2007, which did not go ahead en masse [23]. Christine Perakslis and the late Robert Wolk wrote pioneering papers on microchipping humans after the VeriChip was FDA approved [24]. In the same year, the EU Opinion N° 20 on “Ethical Aspects of ICT Implants in the Human Body” was published, written by The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies (EGE) chaired by the Swedish philosopher, Göran Hermerén, and adopted on March 16, 2005 [25]. Among the Group were Professors Rafael Capurro and the late Stefano Rodotà.

For the greater part of the mid 2000s and later, we observed a growing number of biohackers who chose to dabble in “DIY” (do-it-yourself) implantable technology. The Tagged Forum was set up to accommodate fellow tinkerers at the beginning 2006, which became the “go” to” place for learning about how to tinker with RFID implants and what applications to build with them. The Forum soon attracted more attention than it cared for, and was targeted with posts proclaiming members were heralding in the “mark of the beast.” As a result, The Tagged went underground, so they could be left alone to continue tinkering. Building on cross-disciplinary study from as far back as the 1980s [26], MG Michael coined the term “uberveillence” in 2006 denoting embedded surveillance devices, while teaching at the University of Wollongong [27]. An entry on uberveillance later appeared in the Macquarie Dictionary in 2008 [28], proliferating quickly across the web including in The New York Times [29]. In that same year, Pawel Rotter et al. published their paper titled: “RFID implants: Opportunities and challenges for identifying people” in IEEE Technology and Society Magazine (vol. 27, no. 2).

In 2007 M.G. Michael interviewed Professor Kevin Warwick [30], and biomedical device expert Professor Christopher Toumazou, Director of the Biomedical Institute at Imperial College London [31]. Among the popular implantees of that time were Amal Graafstra, Jonathan Oxer and Mikey Skylar. Graafstra was the author of RFID Toys, and was featured in an IEEE Spectrum issue in 2007 [32]. We invited him as a speaker to the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society in 2010 [33] which was dedicated to implantables, and co-wrote a paper on implants published in the Proceedings of the conference [34]. An excellent debate on the future of microchipping people using RFID was chaired at ISTAS'10 by William A. Herbert [45]. Months prior to ISTAS'10, I interviewed both the IT Manager responsible for creating the e-payment application at Baja Beach Club [35], and the consultant to Citywatcher.com [36]. These primary interviews formed key foundations into the larger inquiry. By 2009 [37] and 2014 [38], Michael and Michael had authored and co-edited large reference volumes on the social implications of chip implants and dozens of peer reviewed research papers with colleagues and students at UOW (e.g., [39]). In between these two studies, Dr. Mark Gasson had also co-edited and excellent Springer publication in 2012, on Human ICT Implants: Technical, Legal and Ethical Considerations [40]. He was the General Chair of ISTAS'10 at the University of Wollongong, and presented a paper on the potential for humans bearing implants to become infected with a computer virus [41]. At this time, it was clear that IEEE SSIT was drawing in specialists not just in cross-disciplinary fields, but also encouraging proponents of the technology to consider the sociotechnical implications.

In mid-August 2017, I returned from the outstanding IEEE Sections Congress 2017 that was hosted in the International Convention Center in Sydney. I cannot speak highly enough of this event. I presented as part of a panel chaired by SSIT Past President Greg Adamson on “Addressing Social Challenges to Technology” and spoke on the attention that non-medical implantables have received in recent times when compared with the previous decade. Out of the 50+ people present in the room only 4 people raised their hands when I asked the question “would anyone in this room get chipped” [42]? It is important to note that all of the people present were tech-savvy, many of them were entrepreneurs, working in industry or in academia. I contrasted this figure with the very unbelievable figures cited in The Australian that said a survey of 10 000 Pricewater-houseCoopers employees across major economies found 70 per cent would consider using “treatments to enhance their brain and body if this improved their employment prospects” [43]. I made the point that we need to challenge such “claims.” I also made the point that IEEE SSIT has been working in the emerging technology domain asking critical questions since its creation and has had much to do with the study of medical and non-medical embedded devices. That for us as SSIT members, speaking on emerging technologies is not new, and researching them using a plethora of approaches is something we are entirely comfortable with — legal, technical, societal, economic, etc. [44]. I urged people in the room to become members of SSIT, to bring their expertise to such urgent subject areas, to discuss the pros and cons, and add know-how where it was needed — e.g. spectrum, regulatory, health, business, etc. In the December 2017 issue of T&S Magazine, I will continue with a Part 2 to this editorial covering progress in the implantables domain since 2013 urging members to construct projects that will further interrogate the complexities of our technological trajectory.

We should remember and celebrate the contributions of our members and non-members to our Magazine, our annual conference and workshops, specific projects, and papers. Please search our corpus of outcomes on our upgraded web site which now contains a lot of free material, cite them in the future, and challenge people when they tell you that “x” or “y” is “brand new” or “has never been researched before.” It is a golden opportunity to connect people to SSIT, and bring in new expertise and volunteers to focus on our Five Pillars. We must know ourselves better, if we are to expect others to know who we are and what we stand for.


1. K. Michael, The future of government identifiers, Sydney, Australia:School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences, University of Technology, Nov. 1996.
2. R. Clarke, "Information technology and dataveillance", Commun. ACM, vol. 31, no. 5, pp. 498-512, 1988.
3. S. Davies, Big Brother: Australia's Growing Web of Surveillance, East Roseville, NSW:Simon & Schuster, 1992.
4. R. Tren, "Trends in the cards industry", Andersen Consulting, pp. 1-99, 1995.
5. E. Kac, "Event in which a microchip (identification transponder tag) was implanted in the artist's left ankle" in Time Capsule, São Paulo, Brazil:Casa das Rosas Cultural Center, 1997, [online] Available: http://www.ekac.org/timec.html.
6. K. Warwick, M. Gasson, B. Hutt et al., "The application of implant technology for cybernetic systems", Arch Neurol., vol. 60, no. 10, pp. 1369-1373, 2003.
7. K. Michael, E. Lawrence, J. Lawrence, S. Newton, S. Dann, B. Corbitt, T. Thanasankit, "The automatic identification trajectory" in Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business, Australia:Wiley, pp. 131-134, 2002.
8. P. Cochrane, Tips for Time Travelers, McGraw-Hill, pp. 7-57, 1999.
9. About the lab, Auto-ID Labs, [online] Available: https://autoid.mit.edu/about-lab.
10. Kevin Warwick, Project Cyborg 2.0: The next step towards true Cyborgs?, [online] Available: http://www.kevinwarwick.com/project-cyborg-2-0/.
11. J. Lettice, "First people injected with ID chips sales drive kicks off", The Register, [online] Available: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2002/06/10/first_people_injected_with_id/.
12. K. Albrecht, "Implantable RFID chips: Human branding", CASPIAN, [online] Available: http://www.antichips.com/what-is-verichip.htm.
13. Positive ID, Wikipedia, [online] Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PositiveID.
14. Medical devices; general hospital and personal use devices; Classification of implantable radiofrequency transponder system for patient identification and health information, Department of Health and Human Services: FDA, [online] Available: https://www.fda.gov/ohrrns/dockets/98fr/04-27077.htm.
15. "Implantable personal verification systems", ADSX, [online] Available: http://www.adsx.com/prodservpart/verichip.html.
16. Mexican officials get chipped, Wired, [online] Available: https://www.wired.com/2004/07/mexican-officials-get-chipped/.
17. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The diffusion of RFID implants for access control and epayments: A case study on Baja Beach Club in Barcelona", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 242-252, 2010.
18. K. Michael, MG Michael, "The future prospects of embedded microchips in humans as unique identifiers: The risks versus the rewards", Media Culture and Society, vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 78-86, 2013.
19. K. Michael, The technological trajectory of the automatic identification industry: the application of the systems of innovation (SI) framework for the characterisation and prediction of the auto-ID industry, 2003.
20. K. Michael, MG Michael, "Microchipping people: The rise of the electrophorus", Quadrant, vol. 49, no. 3, pp. 22-33, Mar. 2005.
21. K. Michael, A. Masters, "Applications of human transponder implants in mobile commerce", Proc. 8th World Multiconterence on Systemics Cybernetics and Informatics, pp. 505-512, Jul. 2004.
 Show Context  
22. K. Albrecht, L. McIntyre, "Spychips: How major corporations and government plan to track your every purchase and watch your every move" in Nelson Current, Nashville, TN:, 2005.
23. "Alzheimer's patients lining up for microchip", ABC News, [online] Available: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/story?id=3536539.
24. C. Perakslis, R. Wolk, "Social acceptance of RFID as a biometric security method", Proc. Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 79-87, 2005.
25. Ethical aspects of ICT implants in the human body: Opinion presented to the Commission by the European Group on Ethics, [online] Available: europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-05-97_en.pdf.
26. M.G. Michael, "Demystifying the number of the beast in the Book of Revelation: Examples of ancient cryptology and the interpretation of the “666” conundrum", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 23-41, 2010.
27. M.G. Michael, "On the virth of Uberveillance", Uberveillance.com, [online] Available: http://uberveillance.com/blog/2012/2/15/on-the-blrth-of-uberveillance.html.
28. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, S. Butler, "Uberveillance" in Fifth Edition of the Macquarie Dictionary, Australia's National Dictionary, Sydney University, pp. 1094, 2009.
29. Schott's Vocab, Uberveillance, The New York Times, [online] Available: https://schott.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/04/uberveillance/.
30. M.G. Michael, Kevin Warwick, The Professor who has touched the future, Feb. 2007, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2014/1/23/the-professor-who-has-touched-the-future.
31. M.G. Michael, Christofer Toumazou, The biomedical pioneer, Oct. 2006, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2014/1/23/the-biomedical-pioneer.
32. A. Graafstra, "Hands on - How RFID and I got personal", IEEE Spectrum, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/hardware/hands-on.
33. A. Graafstra, Invited Presentation on RFID Implants IEEE ISTAS '10, [online] Available: https.//www.youtube.com/watch?v=kraWt1adY3k.
34. A. Graafstra, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, K. Michael, "Social-technical issues facing the humancentric RFID implantee sub-culture through the eyes of Amal Graafstra", Proc. IEEE Symp. on Technology and Society, pp. 498-516, 2010.
35. K. Michael, Serafin Vilaplana, The Baja Beach Club IT Manager;, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2015/3/20/r8vw5tpv8rr9tieeg7kgvej2racs5v.
36. K. Michael, Gary Retherford, The microchip implant consultant, [online] Available: http://www.katinamichael.com/interviews/2015/3/20/gary-retherford-the-microchip-implant-consultant.
37. K. Michael, M.G. Michael, Innovative Automatic Identification and Location-Based Services: From Bar Codes to Chip Implants., Hershey, PA: IGI, 2009.
38. M.G. Michael, K. Michael, Uberveillance and the Social Implications of Microchip Implants: Emerging Technologies., Hershey, PA:IGI, 2013.
39. A. Friggieri, K. Michael, M.G. Michael, "The legal ramifications of micro-chipping people in the United States of America-A state legislative comparison", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 1-8, 2009.
40. M.N. Gasson, E. Kosta, D.M. Bowman, Human ICT Implants: Technical Legal and Ethical Considerations, The Hague, The Netherlands: Springer, 2012.
41. M.N. Gasson, "Human enhancement: Could you become infected with a computer virus?", Proc. IEEE Int. Symp. Technology and Society, pp. 61-68, 2010.
42. K. Michael, "The pros and cons of implantables", IEEE Sections Congress 2017, Aug. 2017, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J3NqhVmWuc.
43. E. Hannan, S. Fox Koob, "Worker chip implants ‘only matter of time’", theaustralian com, Aug. 2017, [online] Available: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/technology/worker-chip-implants-only-matter-of-tlme/news-story/If9f9317cc84f365410a089566153f51.
44. Jeremy Pitt, This Pervasive Day: The Potential and Perils of Pervasive Computing, London, U.K.:World Scientific, 2012.
45. "The debate over microchipping people with ICT implants", IEEE ISTAS 2010 @ UOW - Panel Discussion YouTube, Mar. 2011, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dl3Rps-VFdo.


implants, Radiofrequency identification, Mobile communication, National security, Surveillance, Integrated circuits

Citation: Katina Michael, 2017, "Go Get Chipped?: A Brief Overview of Non-Medical Implants between 1997-2013 (Part 1)", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 36(3), pp. 6-9.

Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies?

Between 2010 and 2016 I accepted a voluntary post representing the Consumers Federation of Australia (CFA) on the standardization of the forensic analysis process [1]. The CFA represents most major Australian national consumer organizations that work together to represent consumer rights.

The committee I was on was Standards Australia's “CH041 — Forensic Analysis” focused on the collection, analysis, and storage of materials as well as interpretation and reporting of results for forensic purposes (Figure 1). The Committee's scope included digital forensics, DNA, soil examination, toxicology, document examination, audio and video analysis, drug analysis, blood alcohol examination, chemical trace evidence, clandestine laboratory investigations, fire and explosion investigation, ballistics, forensic biology, forensic botany, crime scene investigation, fingerprint identification, vehicle examination, shoe and tire impressions, toolmarks, evidence recovery, exhibit storage, bloodstain pattern interpretation, forensic anthropology, forensic entomology, forensic odontology, and forensic pathology. Over a period of six years, six standards were created in the Australia and New Zealand landscape [2] (Table 1).

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

Figure 1. Bus drivers across the West Midlands were equipped with mini DNA kits in 2012 to help police track anyone who spit at them or fellow passengers.“Spit kits”—which feature swabs, gloves and hermetically sealed bags—allow staff to take saliva samples and protect them from contamination before being sent for forensic analysis. Samples are stored in a refrigerator before being sent for forensics analysis, with arrest plans put in place should returning DNA results point to a suspect already known to police.Date: Nov. 23, 2012, 16:03. Courtesy of Palnatoke, West Midlands Police.

All of the meetings I attended were very well organized, and provided adequate materials with enough time to digest documentation. Queries were dealt with in a very professional manner both via email and in person. The location of these standards meetings happened at the Australia New Zealand Policing Advisory Agency (ANZPAA) in Melbourne Victoria — perhaps a non-neutral location, but regardless important as a hub for our gatherings. There was adequate funding provided to allow people to come together several times a year to discuss the development of the standards and the rest was achieved via email correspondence. Of course, there were a number of eminent leaders in the group with a discernible agenda that dominated discussions, but for all intents and purposes, these folks were well-meaning, fair, and willing to listen. It was obvious that the standardization process was paramount to those using forensic data on a day-to-day basis.

Representatives who served on that committee had diverse backgrounds: police officers, analysts from forensic laboratories, lawyers, statisticians, consumer representatives, and academics in the broad area. I never felt like I was ever asking a redundant question, people spent time explaining things no matter how technical or scientific the content. Members of the committee were willing to hear about consumer perspectives when key points had to be raised, but for some the importance of the topic was circumvented by the need to get the forensics right in order for criminals to be brought to justice.

In March of 2010, I graduated with my Masters of Transnational Crime Prevention degree in the Faculty of Law at the University of Wollongong. My major project was a study of the European Court of Human Rights ruling S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom [3], under the supervision of former British law enforcement officer, Associate Professor Clive Harfield. The European Court of Human Rights sitting as a Grand Chamber was led by President Jean-Paul Costa. S. and Marper complained under Articles 8 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights [4] that the authorities had continued to retain their fingerprints and cellular samples and DNA profiles after the criminal proceedings against them had ended with an acquittal or had been discontinued. Both applicants had asked for their fingerprints and DNA samples to be destroyed, but in both cases the police refused [5]. My involvement in the enactment of forensic standards in the Australian landscape was to ensure that Australia did not end up with blanket coverage surveillance of the populace, as has happened in the United Kingdom where about 6 million people (1 in 11) have their DNA stored on the national DNA database (NDNA), and over 37% of black ethnic minorities (BEM) are registered on the database with indefinite DNA retention of samples or profiles [6].

I learned a lot about standards setting through the Forensic Analysis project. Although I had studied the theoretical importance of standards in the process of innovation, and I had spent some time in an engineering organization during a peak period of telecommunications standards and protocol developments, I never quite realized that a standard could propel a particular product or process further than was ever intended. Of course the outcome of the BETAMAX versus VHS war has gone down in engineering folklore [7], but when standards have human rights implications, they take on a far greater importance.

Although international standards usually take a long time to bring into existence (at least 2 years), at the national level if there is monetary backing, and a large enough number of the right kind of people in a room with significant commercial or government drivers, a standard can be defined in a fairly straightforward manner within about 1 year. No matter the query, issues can usually be addressed or abated by industry representatives if you can spend the time necessary on problem solving and troubleshooting. Consumer representatives on standards panels, however, unlike paid professionals, have very limited resources and bandwidth when it comes to innovation. They usually have competing interests; a life outside the standards environment that they are contributing to, and thus fall short from the full impact they could make in any committee that they serve if there was financial support. In the commercial world, the greater the opportunity cost of forgoing the development of a standard, the greater the driver to fulfil the original intent.

And thus, I was asked at the completion of my CFA role by the convenor Regina Godfredson, Standards Co-ordinator of the CFA Standards Projects, whether or not I had any thoughts about future standards because “standards” were one thing that the CFA received funding for, in terms of the voluntary contributions of its representatives and membership being seconded to standards committees.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

Table 1. Forensic analysis — Australian standards.

As Regina and I brainstormed, I described a few projects pertaining to emerging technologies that required urgent attention from the consumer perspective. But the one that stuck out in my mind as requiring standardization was non-medical implants in humans (Figure 2). I kept thinking about the event report I cited in 2007 published on the MAUDE database of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) web site, for the “removal of an implant” that acted as a personal health record (PHR) unique ID [8]. In 2004, the company VeriChip had an implant device approved by the FDA for use in humans [9]. The device was to be inserted in the right tricep, but as applications for access control and electronic payment were trialled, the device soon found itself in people's wrists and hands for usability [10]. Still that event report had got me thinking. How could a company (or for that matter a government administration) be so inept in creating a device for implantation with no removal process? Of course, had the VeriChip device not been related to any health application, it would not have required any FDA approval whatsoever, which is equally problematic when ethical questions are considered.


Figure 2.

A surgeon implants British scientist Dr. Mark Gasson in his left hand with an RFID microchip (Mar. 16, 2009). Mark's Ph.D. scholarship with Prof. Kevin Warwick was sponsored by the author's former employer Nortel Networks. Photo taken: March 16, 2009, 14:44:22. Photo courtesy of Paul Hughes.

The questions that stem from this mini case are numerous. But perhaps the most important one is: does a standard set by a standards or regulatory body open the floodgates to propelling a given innovation forward, even if that innovation is controversial or even viewed as risky or unethical by the community at large? I had to ask myself the pros and cons of spearheading such a standard into Australia and New Zealand. Standards at the local level begin to gather momentum when they are recognized by the Australian Standards organization, but more so when they are picked up and highlighted by the International Standards Organisation (ISO). There are also no commensurate “ethics applications” accompanying the submission of human augmentation devices, as noted by Joe Carvalko, a U.S.-based patent attorney and implant recipient [11].

Did I really wish to be involved in such a process when I believe deeply, for anything other than therapeutics and prosthesis, there should not be a standard? Do I think this is the future of e-payments being sold to us? There have been countless campaigns by VISA to show us the “mini-Visa” [12] or the contactless VISA “tap and go” system or the VISA embedded in our phone or e-wallet or even smartwatch. Do I think we should believe the companies pushing this next phase? No, I do not. As consumers we do have a choice of whether or not to adopt. As a technology professional do I wish to be the one to propel this forward? Absolutely not. Does it mean it will never happen? No, it doesn't.

As I continued my conversation with Regina Godfredson, I realized deeply, that while CFA would get some major attention in funding for being leaders in this space, the negative would be that we would also be heavily responsible and accountable for what would come out of the group as we would be the driving force behind it. The consumer side of me says “get in there quick to contribute to the discussion and push the importance of ethics within an information technology implant scenario.” The academic side of me says sit back and let someone else do it, but make sure to be ready for when this may take place (and it is taking place right now). Just yesterday, I received a telephone call from one of Japan's leading games suppliers who wants to integrate the human augmentation scenario into Deus Ex's, “Mankind Divided” game, to be launched in Australia in the last week of August with an implants shopfront.

The conversation with the publicist went something like this: “Hello Katina. I note you are one of the leading researchers on the topic of the socio-legal-ethical implications of implants. Look, I want to know, if there are any legal issues with us launching a campaign for our new game that includes an implantation shop. I've rung everyone I can think of, and everyone keeps passing me on to someone else and cannot give me a direct answer. I've tried the Therapeutic Goods Administration here, but they say they don't care because it is not a medical device. I've looked up laws, and I can't seem to find anything on implants for non-medical applications. I've spoken to police, and ditto they don't seem to care. So what do you think?” It goes without saying that that 50 minute conversation ended up being one of the most stimulating non-academic discussions I've had on the topic. But also, I finished by saying read Katherine Albrecht's Bodily Integrity Act in draft since 2007. The publicist kept stating: “I hope from this engagement to put forward a framework allowing for human implants.”

My concern with going forward has naught to do with my ability to answer very complex biomedical ethical questions as I've thought about them for over 20 years. My concern has much to do with whether or not we should even be dabbling with all of this, knowing what we know of the probable uberveillance trajectory. I am sure I could create some very good standards to some very unethical value-laden technologies.

I will not say much about what is an ethical or unethical technology. I will simply say that pervasive technologies have an intentionality, and they have inherent qualities that can be used positively or negatively. Talking to social shaping of technology experts, I would be labeled as a follower of the technological determinist school of thought. But clearly here, when we investigate the piercing of the skin, we have a complexity that we've never before faced in the non-medical commercial space. It crosses the boundaries of negligence, consent, and human rights, which we cannot ignore or treat as just another run-of-the-mill technological innovation.


1. Consumers Federation of Australia, [online] Available: http://consumersfederation.org.au/.

2. CH-041 - Forensic Analysis, [online] Available: http://www.sdpp.standards.org.au/ActiveProjects.aspx?CommitteeNumber=CH-041&CommitteeName=forensic%20Analysis.

3. Case of S. and Marper v. The United Kingdom, 2008, [online] Available: https://www.coe.int/t/dghl/standardsetting/dataprotection/Judgrnents/S.%20AND%20MARPER%20v.%20THE%20UNITED%20KING-DOM%20EN.pdf.

4. Article 8 ECHR, 2016, [online] Available: http//echr-online.into/article-8-echr/.

5. K. Michael, , "The road from S and Marper to the Prum Treaty and the implications on human rights" in Cross-Border Law Enforcement: Regional Law Enforcement Cooperation - European Australian and Asia-Pacific Perspectives, Routledge, pp. 243-258, 2012.

6. K. Michael, "The legal social and ethical controversy of the collection and storage of fingerprint profiles and DNA samples in forensic science", pp. 48-60, 2010.

7. A.R. Dennis, B.A. Reinicke, "Beta versus VHS and the acceptance of electronic brainstorming technology", MIS Quart, vol. 28, pp. 1-20, 2004.

8. MAUDE Adverse Event Report VeriChip Corporation - VeriMed Patient Identificator - VeriChip Implant, July 2007, [online] Available: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfMAUDE/Detail.CfM?MDRFOI_ID=962453.

9. 21 CFR Part 880 [Docket No. 2004N-0477] Medical Devices; General Hospital and Personal Use Devices; Classification of Implantable Radiofrequency Transponder System for Patient Identification and Health Information, [online] Available: http://www.fda.gov/ohrms/dockets/98fr/04-27077.htm.

10. A. Masters, K. Michael, "Lend me your arms: The use and implications of humancentric RFID", Electronic Commerce Research and Applications, vol. 6, pp. 29-39, 2007.

11. J. Carvalko, K. Michael, "Crossing The Evolutionary Gap", Joseph Carvalko Speaks With Katina MichaelOn His Fiction Piece, July 2016, [online] Available: https//www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4JyVCba6VM.

12. "Visa introduces contactless mini card making payments faster and more convenient than ever", Business Wire, Aug. 2006, [online] Available: http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20060316005263/en/Visa-Introduces-Contactless-Mini-Card-Making-Payments.

Citation: Katina Michael, Can Good Standards Propel Unethical Technologies? IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 35, Issue: 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 6 - 9.

Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE


It's always important to stop, take a breath, and reflect on the activities one is engaged in. Sometimes we do this reflection willingly, and at other times there are formal structures within which we have to work that trigger the requirement periodically. It is always a good sign when a Committee knocks on your door asking for certain bits of data, and you are more than willing to share your learnings, with enthusiasm, and not just for the sake of the least amount of effort required to respond to a standard pro-forma.

This March, the IEEE Periodicals Review and Advisory Committee (PRAC) requested detailed data about the periodicals of the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (IEEE-SSIT), providing three months for a written report to be submitted. The PRAC Review happens every five years and is an opportunity for IEEE to consider the contribution and validity of all its periodicals. For the Society in question, it is a chance to receive valuable feedback from experienced colleagues, look for areas to improve, consolidate, or expand, consider what was done well, and brainstorm on the opportunities that lie ahead.

The PRAC report that was submitted to IEEE in Fall 2015 was about 50 pages long. Katina Michael, Terri Bookman, Joe Herkert (by teleconference), Greg Adamson, and Lew and Bobbi Terman met with the PRAC Committee in New Jersey. We managed all the questions put to us by PRAC, and later received written feedback on our report, and responded accordingly to queries and clarifications.

It is now time to look at the next five years of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, but before doing so let us celebrate the milestones we've achieved together, and also spell out what we need to do better to keep growing and developing, as well as some of the measures we've put in place to overcome some significant issues as we've gone through a rapid expansion phase.


Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

Figure 1. Concept map of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine article headings (March 2010–July 2015) generated using Leximancer.

The first thing we would like to do is thank all the authors who have published their research with us in the last five years. It is such a privilege to work with professionals who sincerely care about how technology is impacting the world around them. We conducted a content analysis of paper titles since 2010 and generated the concept map in Figure 1. It is so encouraging to see diagrammatically that we are fulfilling the mission of our Society, with papers published in humanitarian engineering, engineering education, engineering ethics, sustainability, social implications, the interplay between technology and society, the role of government, and the development of systems to enrich our everyday lives with adequate energy. Privacy, security, and trust are prevalent themes also addressed in the digital data age of the Internet, as is acceptable use and user behavior with respect to smart applications.

Articles and Authors

During the study period, 272 individual articles were published with 452 author instances. Popular entry types included peer-reviewed articles (131), Commentaries (13), Book Reviews (35), Leading Edge columns (14), Opinion pieces (13), Viewpoint columns (5), Editorials (16) and Guest Editorials (6), as well as interviews, fiction, letters to the editor, news, policy and trends, Memoria, and Last Word columns. For a magazine that publishes only four times a year on a limited page budget, most recently of 80 pages per issue, we have really maximized space well. Particularly encouraging is the work toward internationalization that Keith Miller spearheaded and is still going strong. There has been a visible redistribution of author region location as can be seen in the pie chart in Figure 2, although we still require further expansion and outreach activities in Canada and Central/South America.

Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

Figure 2. Authors by region IEEE-TSM 2010-2015.

The caliber of our author affiliations are exceptional. A representative list of affiliations include: Arizona State University, Australian National University, Carnegie Mellon University, Copenhagen Business School, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology, Erasmus University Rotterdam, ESADE, ETH Zurich, Harvard University, Imperial College London, Kyoto University, M.I.T. Media Lab, Stanford University, Georgia Institute of Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, Tilburg University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, Nanjing University, University of Sydney, University of Tokyo, University of Toronto, Virginia Tech, Zhejiang University.

Equally impressive are entries that have been affiliated with a variety of stakeholders, not just academia. These included for example:

  1. Applied industry submissions by employees of large technology corporations such as, Google, Accenture, Siemens Corporate Technology, Toshiba Research, Tata Consultancy, InfoSys Technologies, Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, Telecom ParisTech, Acconite Solutions, Vodafone, and IBM.
  2. Applied government and defence submissions by employees of various international ministries and commissions both in defence and non-defence institutions such as the Defence Science and Technology Corporation (DSTO), European Commission, Virginia Military Institute, West Point Military Academy, Ontario Privacy Commissioners Office, and Greek Ministry of Economy and Finance.
  3. Small-to-medium company submissions such as BRP Renaud & Partner, KVC Consultancy, Illuminating Concepts, Xylem Technologies, Modern Combatives, StartPage, Oxford Systematics, Xamax Consultancy, Trans Technology Group, Salinger Privacy, Lockstep Consulting, Iran Nanotechnology Business Network, Orica Mining Chemicals, and Socca INC.
  4. Non-government organizational submissions such as from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Australian Privacy Foundation.


IEEE-SSIT's Technology and Society Magazine is the only periodical that specializes in the social implications of technology – and on the interplay of technology and societal implications – from the perspective of a technical engineering society.

In the international publishing arena Technology and Society Magazine is considered as follows:

  1. an engineering periodical with a focus on societal implications of technology (privacy, security, affective, addictive, predictive, anticipatory, pervasive, invasive, ubiquitous, access, universal obligation, equity, borders, convenience, openness, value proposition, control, care, prosthetic, robotic, adaptive, surveillance, enforcement, employment, consumerism, innovation, human rights, gender, sustainability, and freedom and choice)
  2. a multidisciplinary periodical that includes perspectives from a variety of disciplines (legal, regulatory, philosophical, ethical, theological, cultural, anthropological, sociological, new media, economic, environmental, technological, scientific, health, medical, and policing)
  3. a diverse stakeholder reaching periodical that is relevant to entities along an upstream and downstream supply/value chain (business, raw material producers, designers, makers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, content providers, handset/wearable providers, operators and service providers, industry bodies, standards-setting organizations, non-government organizations, advocates, and users).

Table 1. Thematic “Technology” snapshot by volume and issue

Table 2. Thematic “Society” snapshot by volume and issue.


Breadth of Topic Coverage

The content we have received for publication is mostly two-pronged. On the one hand are the organizational and/or societal issues raised by each paper, and on the other hand is the technology that overcomes those stated problems. In addition, from the interplay of technology and society come positive and negative socio-economic impacts, social implications, and technical shortcomings that are important to discuss.

Special Sections and Special Issues

We have continued to host an annual special issue on select papers emanating from SSIT's International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS). In 2015 we also published a special issue on Norbert Wiener. Special section themes have also served as the basis for dialogue around emerging technologies. Some of these have included: the “Social Impacts of National Security Technologies” (vol. 31, no. 1), “Privacy in the Information Age” (vol. 31, no. 4), “Smart Grids and Social Networks” (vol. 33, no. 1), “Technology for Collective Action” (vol. 33, no. 3), “Social and Economic Sustainability” (vol. 34, no. 1). Co-locating like themed material has provided a richness for enjoying a single issue as a whole unit of evidence to ponder. At times articles submitted for review may “jump the queue” if they are immediately relevant to a socio-technical matter being addressed in that given issue, or in the media more broadly.

Online Social Media

As well as the IEEE Technology and Society Magazine there are several other ways to publish content relevant to the SSIT. These include the IEEE SSIT E-Newsletter (email DeepakMathur@ieee.org), and several social media portals listed here:

  1. IEEESSIT Facebook (4991 members) that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/324644704262132/?fref=nf
  2. IEEE-SSIT LinkedIN (3610 members) https://www.linkedin.com/groups/IEEE-Society-on-Social-Implications-1790357
  3. IEEESSIT Twitter (515 followers) https://twitter.com/ieeessit

What's New??

Two major changes recently have been made to IEEE T&S Magazine: the way the Magazine looks in terms of creative design; and how articles are submitted to the editor for review. A lot of effort was expended by the Publications Committee around these two items, and when prospective funding became available, we responded accordingly.

New Format Creative Design

The Magazine has a new look and feel – everything from presentation, to the way that content is laid out, to the spacing and accompanying images. We have defined “new entry” types and enhanced existing ones. A stronger emphasis on varying stylistic contributions has been adopted to ensure a mixture of peer review and non-peer review perspectives—from Opinion, to Leading Edge technology insights, to Interviews, Commentaries and Last Word columns.

Acquiring and Implementing a New Workflow in Scholarone's Manuscript Central

We have acquired the IEEE standard for submission of Magazine/Journal manuscripts. This meant that an online workflow had to be defined for T&S Magazine that would align with ScholarOne. By year-end we will have reduced our accepted article backlog to include only outstanding Book Reviews. Beginning in 2016, our review time will decrease substantially, as will time until the final result for accept, major revision, minor revision, or reject status. We are confident with this measure, given the streamlining we have implemented. It is important to underscore however, that our goals do also hinge on the availability of reviewers and their timely feedback.


As T&S Magazine continues to grow, there are any number of opportunities we could investigate as future options. So far we are doing a solid job with our online downloads for articles published with 48 K papers being downloaded in 2014, placing us at about a 150/338 rank for IEEE publications.

Our impact factor is at the highest it has been over the last five years, at 0.56 which is so very encouraging. Although we are not solely about impact factor, we are widely considered the number 1 publication outlet for the specific overlap of technology and society. When we consider that IEEE Spectrum's impact factor is 0.22, Emerald Insight's IT & People is 0.530, Elsevier's Technology in Society is 0.271, John Hopkins University's Technology and Culture is 0.321, and Ethics and Information Technology is 0.520, it is exceptional that with merely 24–28 peer reviewed papers per year we are increasing our citations, and more. We are also not heavy on self-citations in our Magazine of our own contributors, but I would encourage more of us to cite IEEE Technology and Society Magazine articles in other outlets.

We would like to spread the word about the recent excellent results and development of IEEE T&S Magazine. We would like to do this by creating a new and enhanced user-friendly T&S Magazine front end website portal that may drive more traffic to paid elements of the Magazine, but also to contributors and reviewers, with additional multimedia content. We expect this new site will help drive increased membership in our Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT) and T&S subscriptions. The new portal also will allow more interactive feedback from readers. A reminder also, that T&S Magazine is still available in print medium.

As the reputation of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine grows, we will need to recruit more reviewers, invite key contributions from major stakeholders, and enlist more full-time and associate members from regions like South America and Africa as well as key representatives from government, all while assuring gender balance.


Katina Michael would like to thank Terri Bookman, Managing Editor, and Joe Herkert, Publications Chair, for their edits and additions to this editorial and their support throughout her editorship. She would also like to acknowledge the work of Keith Miller when he was editor for his foresight and vision.

Citations: Katina Michael, "Reflecting on the Contribution of T&S Magazine to the IEEE", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 34, Issue: 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 9 - 14, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2015.2494238

Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects

Then I was 8 years of age my older sister who was 8 years my senior was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. As a result, my family spent quite a few years visiting hospitals and mental health facilities on a daily basis. It is painful to reflect on that period, as our whole world was rocked by this illness. My once vibrant, skilful, dynamic, energetic, extremely kind, and top-of-her-class sister was plagued by a disease process of schizophrenia that would have her attempting to take her own life on several occasions, battle with hearing voices, go into a state of catatonia for long periods of time, and suffer severe bouts of anxiety and depression.

The onset of my sister's schizophrenia was spontaneous, during what should have been the most carefree years of her life. We will never know what triggered her illness but for whatever reason that this “thing” landed in our household, we learned to come to terms with its impact. I grew up with an understanding that, in life, there are some things we can fix, and some things we cannot. There are some things we can explain, and some things we cannot. Sometimes medical science has the answers, and sometimes it does not. It does not mean I give up on the potential for a cure or therapy for various forms of mental illness, but I am more wary than most about silver bullet solutions.

In the 30 years my sister has lived with schizophrenia there have been numerous incremental innovations that have been beneficial to some sufferers. First, there have been advancements in pharmacology and in the composition of antidepressants so that they are more effective. But pharmaceutical treatments have not helped everyone, especially those sufferers who do not take their medication on a regular basis. Many persons living with depression who come on and off antidepressants without seeking medical advice are at an increased risk of suicide.

Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), an empirically-based psychotherapy, has also aided increasing numbers of patients to better cope with their condition. Yet CBT is not given the same media attention as the new range of dynamic neural stimulators, commonly dubbed “brain implants,” now on the market [1].

For sufferers who are diagnosed with major depressive disorder (MDD), and for whom antidepressants and CBT simply do not work, doctors have turned to the prospect of somatic therapies. These include: electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), and deep brain stimulation (DBS). If an individual does not respond to ECT (and only fifty per cent do), they are said to have treatment-resistant depression (TRD) [2].

In plain language, ECT is when electricity is applied to the scalp generally over a treatment period of between 2-4 weeks, several sessions per week. rMTS treatment goes for 4-6 weeks, of 5 sessions per week and uses a fluctuating magnetic field from electromagnetic coil placed outside the skull sending an electrical current to the brain.

VNS and DBS are more intrusive procedures targeting specific parts of the brain [3]. In VNS, an electrode is wrapped around the left vagus nerve in the neck and stimulation occurs about every 5 minutes for about 30 seconds. The battery packs sit under the skin of the chest in both VNS and DBS, but in the DBS procedure, one or more leads are implanted in the brain, targeted through burr holes in the skull, and locked into place [2].

VNS and DBS were unavailable techniques when my sister first became ill, but I do recollect vividly the results of ECT upon her. Post the treatments, we lost her well and truly into a dark space one cannot reach she was placed on higher dosages of antidepressants for the weeks to follow, and it was apparent to us she was not only in mental anguish but clearly in physical difficulties as well. Doctors claimed clinically that she “did not respond to the treatment,” but never acknowledged that the ECT process might have caused her any short-term distress whatsoever. In fact, we were told: “There is no change in her condition. She continues to be as she was before the treatment.” That was debatable in my eyes. Even though I was just a kid, I observed it took a good three months to get my sister back to where she was before the ECT treatment. But she was only one participant among many in clinical trials, and in no way do I generalize her outcomes to be the outcomes of all ECT patients.

VNS and DBS are again very different techniques, and while VNS is used as an adjunct therapy for major depression, DBS is mainly reserved for treating Parkinson's disease and has had only limited approval for combatting intractable obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, what I gained from those childhood experiences is that human life is precious and experimentation can have some very adverse side effects without any direct benefits to the individual sufferer. Doctors need to be held accountable, caregivers and patients with MDD must be told clearly about the risks, and VNS patients must be monitored closely into the longer-term. I am alarmed at the lack of qualitative research being conducted across the spectrum of implantable devices in the health sector. And that is an area I intend to personally address in my own research in years to come.

To this day, I believe my sister was in no condition to consent to the treatment she received. At the time she intermittently thought I was Brooke Shields and that my siblings were other television personalities. She was delusional and completely unaware of herself. Prior to the trial my sister participated in, my parents had no real idea what ECT was, save for what they had heard anecdotally. As my sister's “guardians,” my parents did not understand how ECT would be administered and were not given the option to accompany her during the actual treatment. They were simply told that my sister would wear something on her head and have an electrical current travel all around it to hopefully “zap” her back to normal. They were not informed of what the risks might be to their beloved daughter, although they were clear it was all “experimental.” It was also emphasized, that this “electro-shock treatment” was the only other alternate route of exploration to help my sister get better. I remember their expectations being raised so high, only to be dashed after each treatment [4]. My parents had to rely on an interpreter as my father did not speak English and my mother only broken English. When one was not available my brother and sisters and I would do the translation.

In the end, when all other routes failed, my family turned to God for help. Alongside an excellent medical and health team (psychiatrist, social worker, general practitioner), and a loving home environment, it was faith that gave my family the will to go on facing everyday issues, as my sister slowly regained parts of herself to become functional again, such as her mobility and speech. As the saying goes “prayer works,” and while it might not make rational sense to believe in miracles, I remember witnessing these on at least a few occasions.

A few months ago, the cover of the February 2015 issue of IEEE Spectrum was graced with the title: “Hot-wiring the nervous system: implanted in the brain, smart-systems are defeating neurological disorders” (pp. 28) [5]. As someone who has spent the greater part of their academic career studying surveillance, risk, privacy and security, trust, and control, I have long reckoned that if we can “defeat” neurological disorders using implantable devices, then we can also “construct” and “trigger” them willingly, as well. But the point of my editorial is not to discuss the future of dynamic neural stimulators; we can debate that in another issue of T&S Magazine. Rather my point is to try to generate discussion about some of the fundamental issues surrounding the socio-ethical implications of penetrating the brain with new technologies, especially those that are remotely triggerable [6].

While the early studies for VNS with respect to MDD look promising, we need to acknowledge we are still at the very beginning of our investigations. I am personally more circumspect about published figures that simply categorize subjects post implantation using minimal labels like “non-responders,” “responders” and “achieved remission” [7]. Longitudinal data will give us a clearer picture of what is really happening. DBS, on the other hand, has been used to treat well over 75 000 persons, mostly suffering from movement disorders [2], but it is increasingly being piloted to treat OCD [8]. This is a call to the research community, to publish more widely about some of the complications, side effects, and resultant social life changes that implantees (of all kinds) are faced with post-surgery.

I am not referring here to issues related to surgical implantation (e.g., symptomatic haemorrhage after electrode placement), or even device failure or hardware-related complications (of which I have great concerns that there will be severe hacking problems in the future). Rather, I am referring to the resultant effect of “artificially constructed” dynamic stimulation on the human brain and its impact on an individual. In short, these are the unintended consequences, that range in scope from psychotic symptoms post stimulation (e.g., for epilepsy, or for patients presenting with auditory hallucinations for the first time), to modifications in sleep patterns, uncontrolled and accidental stimulation of other parts of body function [9], hypersexuality, hypomania [10], changes to heart and pulse rates, and much more.

Many implantees resort to social media to share their pre-and post-operative experiences. And while this is “off the record” self-reporting, clearly some of these discussions warrant further probing and inquiry. My hope is that the copious note-taking that occurs during pilots and clinical trials, specifically with respect to side effects, will be more accessible in the form of peer reviewed publication for doctors, engineers, government officials, standards organizations, regulatory approval bodies, and of course, the general public, so that we can learn more about the short-term and long-term effects of neural stimulation devices.

One patient, as a result of a particular procedure in a DBS pilot study described a sensation of feeling hot, flushed, fearful, and “panicky.” “He could feel palpitations in his chest, and when asked indicated he had an impending sense of doom. The feelings were coincident and continuous with the stimulator ‘on’ setting and they rapidly dissipated when switched ‘off'” [11]. Surely, this kind of evidence can be used to inform stakeholders towards what works and what does not, and the kinds of risks a patient may be exposed to if they opt-in, even if we know the same state will not be experienced by every patient given the complexity of the brain and body. In the more mature heart pacemaker industry, it is device manufacturers who tend to wish to hoard the actual physiological data being recorded by their devices [12], [13]; the brain implant industry will likely follow suit.

To conclude this editorial, at the very least, I would like to echo the sentiments of Fins et al., that deep brain stimulation is a “novel surgical procedure” that is “emerging,” and should presently be considered a last resort for people with neuropsychiatric disorders [14]. There needs to be some tempering of the hype surrounding the industry and we need to ensure that rigor is reintroduced back into trials to minimize patient risk. Exemptions like that granted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the grounds of a “humanitarian device” allow implant device manufacturers to run trials that are not meaningful because the size of the trial is inappropriate, lacking commensurate statistical power [14]. The outcomes from such trials cannot and should not be generalized.

I would go one step further, calling not only for adherence to more careful research requirements during clinical trials, but also urging the medical community in general to really think about the direction we are moving. If medical policies like these [15] exist, clearly stating that “there is insufficient evidence to support a conclusion concerning the health outcomes or benefits associated with [vagus nerve stimulation] … for depression” then we must introduce major reforms to the way that consent for the procedure is gained.

Between 1935 and 1960, thanks to a rush of media (and even academic coverage), lobotomies were praised for the possibilities they gave patients and their relatives [16]. Although I am not putting lobotomies on the same level as VNS and DBS, I am concerned about placing embedded devices at the site of the most delicate organ in the human body. If we can “switch on” certain functions through the brain, we can also “switch them off.”

It is clear to anyone studying emerging technologies, that the future trajectory is composed of brain implants for medical and non-medical purposes. Soon, it won't be just people fighting MDD, or OCD, epilepsy [17], [18], Parkinson's disease [19] or Tourette's Syndrome who will be asking for brain implants, but everyday people who might wish to rid themselves of memory disorders, aggression, obesity, or even headaches. There is also the potential for a whole range of amplified brain technologies that make you feel better – diagnostic devices that pick up abnormalities in physiological patterns “just-in-time,” and under-the-skin secure identification [20]. And while the current costs for brain implants to fight mental illness are not cheap, at some $25 000 USD each (including the end-to-end surgical procedure), the prices will ultimately fall [1]. Companies like Medtronics are talking about implanting everyone with a tiny cardiac monitor [21]; it won't take long for the same to be said about a 24×7 brain monitor, and other types of daily “swallowable” implants [22].

Fears related to embedded surveillance devices of any type may be informed by cultural, ethical, social, political, religious concerns that must be considered during the patient care process [23]. Fully-fledge uberveillance, whether it is “surveillance for care” or “surveillance for control” might well be big business in the future [24], but for now academicians and funding bodies should be less interested in hype and more interested in hope.


1. S. Upson, "A difficult time for depression devices", IEEE Spectrum, pp. 14, May 2008.

2. W. K. Goodman, R. L. Alterman, "Deep brain stimulation for intractable psychiatric disorders", Annu. Rev. Med., vol. 63, pp. 511-524, 2012.

3. P. Kotagal, "Neurostimulation: Vagus nerve stimulation and beyond", Seminars in Pediatric Neurology, vol. 18, pp. 186-194, 2011.

4. V. Johansson, "Beyond blind optimism and unfounded fears: Deep brain stimulation for treatment resistant depression", Neuroethics, vol. 6, pp. 457-471, 2013.

5. T. Denison, "Building a bionic nervous system: Smart neural stimulators sense and respond to the body's fluctuations", IEEE Spectrum, pp. 28-35, Feb. 2015.

6. W. Glannon, "Stimulating brains altering minds", J. Medical Ethics, vol. 35, pp. 289-292, 2009.

7. T. Schlaepfer, J. Fins, "Deep brain stimulation and the neuroethics of responsible publishing: when one is not enough", JAMA, vol. 303, pp. 775-776, 2010.

8. B. Aouizerate, "Deep brain stimulation for OCD and major depression", Amer. J. Psychiatry, vol. 162, pp. 2192, 2005.

9. P. Moore, "Enhancing Me: The Hope and the Hype of Human Enhancement" in , Wiley, 2008.

10. C. Ch, "Hypomania with hypersexuality following bilateral anterior limb stimulation in obsessive-compulsive disorder", J. Neurosurg., vol. 112, pp. 1299-1300, 2010.

11. S. Na, "Panic and fear induced by deep brain stimulation", J. Neurol. Neurosurg Psychiatry, vol. 77, pp. 410-12, 2006.

12. J. Carvalko, "The Techno-Human Shell: A Jump in the Evolutionary Gap" in , Sunbury, 2013.

13. J. Carvalko, "Who should own in-the-body medical data in the age of ehealth?" in IEEE Technology & Society Mag., Summer, pp. 36-37, 2014.

14. J. Fins, "Misuse of the FDA's humanitarian device exemption in deep brain stimulation for obsessive-compulsive disorder", Health Aff. (Millwood), vol. 30, pp. 302-311, 2011.

15. C. Blue, "Medical Policy: Implantable Eletrical Nerve Stimulators (Vagus Autonomic Nerve and Peripheral Nerve Stimulators)", 2014, [online] Available: https://www.capbluecross.com/wps/wcm/connect/73f7fba6-65df-4f7f-a35c-acc4d805a066/Implantable_Electrical_Nerve_Stimulators_3-25-14.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

16. G. J. Diefenbach, "Portrayal of lobotomy in the popular press: 1935–1960", J. History of the Neurosciences, vol. 8, pp. 60-70, 1999.

17. C. M. DeGiorgio, "Pilot study of trigeminal nerve stimulation (TNS) for epilepsy: A proof-of-concept trial", Epilepsia, vol. 47, pp. 1213-1215, 2006.

18. A. Schulze-Bonhage, V. Coenen, "Treatment of epilepsy: peripheral and central stimulation techniques", Nervenartz, vol. 84, pp. 517-528, 2013.

19. E. Strickland, "How brain pacemakers treat parkinson's disease", IEEE Spectrum, Apr. 2015, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/new-clues-how-does-a-brain-pacemaker-control-parkinsons-symptoms.

20. K. Michael, Microchipping People, 2012.

21. E. Strickland, "Medtronic wants to implant sensors in everyone", IEEE Spectrum, Jun. 2014, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/biomedical/devices/medtronic-wants-to-implant-sensors-in-everyone.

22. "Google director Regina E. Dugan pushing RFID microchips", 2014, [online] Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RvYnWBdmcQk.

23. K. Michael, M. G. Michael, The Social Cultural Religious and Ethical Implications of Automatic Identification, 2004.

24. M. G. Michael, K. Michael, "Towards a state of Uberveillance", IEEE Technology & Society Mag., vol. 29, pp. 9-16, 2010.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Mental Health, Implantables, and Side Effects", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 34, Issue: 2, June 2015, pp. 5 - 17, 19 June 2015, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2015.2434471

Social and Economic Sustainability

Back in 1997, Katina would use International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates of incoming and outgoing voice and data teletraffic tables for her work in strategic network engineering. She was particularly amazed when viewing these figures in global thematic maps, as thick arrows would always flow in and out from developed nations, and yet significantly thinner arrows would be flowing from developing nations, despite the difference in population counts [1]. That image has stuck with her as a depiction of how the world is, no doubt, related to historical events. Efforts required to bring those arrows into equilibrium at a country level seem somewhat impossible, given the digital divide.

As initiatives like Project Loon attempt to grant all peoples Internet access [2], there are still many places on Earth that have limited or no connectivity whatsoever. Some of these places reject services, believing that they will bring with them even greater harm, such as deforestation or a destabilization of culture and religious practice. And yet, developed nations uphold that they are in fact educating, providing, and allowing for longer-term economic and social sustainability through their technological solutions. For example, Jason has recently returned from the eastern part of the Maharashtra state of India where the use of technology in remote villages such as Jamnya appears at first glance to be at direct odds to the subsistence way of traditional village life. However, on second glance, the benefits of technology offer endless possibilities from education to weather station assistance with crop plantings. See also, Khanjan's projects in Africa [3].

But what about long-term stability in developing nations? For example, as we strive to mainstream alternate energy sources and make them accessible in resource poor communities [4], how do we think beyond the technological and economic dimensions and ensure respect for social, political, and environmental imperatives? Computers, including the tiny but powerful ones on cell phones can be game-changers, but they will not save lives directly. They cannot be eaten by a starving population. And then, they need to be serviced and maintained. Jason, along with Katina's husband Michael, visited and taught Karen refugee students in camps and remote villages on the Thai-Burma border [5]. They quickly realized that computers work only if they are connected to electricity. Someone has to pay the bill. Computers can thereafter continue to work, if no parts go missing, and they are fully enclosed within a shelter that has windows, and are not damaged. Computers can be operated by people who have received some training and where there is some connectivity. It is hopeless to want to share files or use remote applications if bandwidth is lower than 56 kbps. For example, Martin Murillo et al.'s article in this special section emphasizes that leading humanitarians have identified data communications for remote health offices as one of the top three tools that will contribute to the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Today, as many as 80% of the world's citizens reside in areas with mobile phone coverage [6]. Increasing access to computers and cellular devices has allowed telemedicine systems to flourish in developing countries. But these devices can only really work if technologies are integrated into local communities in bottom-up socialization practices. They can work if they are embraced by locals, and harnessed for good by local companies, NGOs, elders, and other stakeholders. While the number of mHealth and telemedicine systems is growing, the benefits of these technologies are yet to be fully realized. Many mHealth ventures in resource-constrained environments suffer from “pilotitis” – an inability to expand beyond the initial pilot and ultimately become sustainable ventures. Khanjan has led the design and execution of a cash-positive telemedicine venture in central Kenya that now has seven full-time employees. His students recently conducted a study of the failure modes that plague the growth of mHealth pilots in the developing world. This study of over 50 projects in Africa and Asia uncovered a wide range of barriers including financial challenges, business structures, technological limitations, and cultural misalignments. Once again, some of the greatest challenges were related to bottom-up socialization, melding Western and indigenous knowledge, and integration of new technologies, approaches, and business models into traditional ways of life. Khanjan has captured the nuts and bolts of “how things work” and why projects fail in a series of short stories called The Kochia Chronicles: Systemic Challenges and the Foundations of Social Innovation. These narratives take readers headlong into the lives of people in a quintessential African village as they usher in an era of design, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

It is difficult not to be cynical about initiatives such as Zuckerberg's hopes to wire the world [7]. These technological initiatives sound good, but with computing also will come social implications. Not all of these implications will be positive.

But back now to getting those inflows and outflows to look more alike, as newly industrialized countries have experienced growth since the inception of the mobile phone (e.g., India), broadband (e.g., Singapore), and manufacturing machinery (e.g., Thailand). The bottom line is that to overcome the endemic failures that inhibit the sustainability and scalability of well-meaning projects, a truly systemic and participatory approach is essential. Rather than dwelling on the problems caused by, or that might result from, the digital divide, let us preoccupy ourselves with considering digital inclusion as a primary aim. Digital inclusion is not just about offering equity but about making substantial self-determined improvements to the lives and livelihoods of people in resource-poor settings. The digital divide will never be entirely bridged, but inclusion can be propelled through social innovation, concerted time, and effort supported by multi-lateral funding from local and global stakeholders who not only understand the need for change but are passionate about the human need and its interdependence with global peace and sustainability.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Investments, Communication Services, Internet, Government policies,Social factors, Social network services, Economics, Sustainable development, Environmental factors

Citation: Jason Sargent, Khanjan Mehta, Katina Michael, "Social and Economic Sustainability", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 34(1), March 2015, pp. 17 - 18

The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom

When we ponder on the future, scenario-based planning is one of a number of approaches we can employ to consider the “what-might-be” possibilities. These are plausible scenarios that let us peer into the future, not with certainty of what will eventuate but with a spirit of consideration and preparedness.

Recently, Katina was invited to participate in Australia's Prime Minister & Cabinet series of workshops on the state-society relationship. A number of fundamental questions were posed at the workshops relating to futures. Some of these are highly pertinent to the thought-provoking Special Section guest edited in this issue by the studious Associate Editor Jeremy Pitt, Ada Diaconescu, and David Bollier, addressing matters of the digital society, big data, and social awareness. The questions included:

  1. What can governments use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How does government operate in a networked environment?
  3. Can Big Data help government solve problems?
  4. How will government respond to the empowered individual?
  5. How can governments effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?
  6. How will the government communicate with its citizens given instant communications?

To some degree answering one of these questions provides insights into answers for others. For the purposes of this editorial, we'd rather ask:

  1. What can citizens use crowdsourcing for?
  2. How can companies effectively manage cities to meet the challenges of urbanization?

It should come as no surprise that in the last 12 months, T&S Magazine has published articles on a variety of themes relevant to the above-mentioned questions, relating to smart grids, smart homes, smart meters, energy monitoring, public technical means, public sector information, open government, big data, geosocial intelligence, the veillances (data-, sous- and uber-), future government, crowdsourcing, collective awareness, participatory government, and design science and development.

What binds all of these topical themes together is the emphasis on finite resources available to serve a growing highly mega-urbanized networked glocal population that places immense pressures on the natural environment. Take for example the Beijing-Shanghai corridor fueled with several megacities that are each suffering dire environmental problems. Scientists internationally have especially attempted to raise alarm bells as they report on increases in carbon emissions and air pollution, on rising sea levels (e.g., Jakarta), on changing weather patterns (El-Niño), on dying species of plants and wildlife, on the need for recycling and unacceptable means of waste disposal (especially e-waste), and on the fundamental necessity for clean drinking water.

There is no such thing as the “land of plenty.” Pristine artesian wells are being drilled as a last resort to supplying water to the impoverished. Oil reserves are fast depleting but stockpiles are in the hands of the accumulators. Rich minerals like coal and iron ore are being mined amidst a flurry of research activity into affordable renewable energy sources. Categorically our present actions will have a direct impact on our livelihoods (economic, health, social), and those of our children, and our children's children.

But we are living in the “upgrade generation” fueled by mass production, instantaneous consumption, and enough waste generation to land-fill entire new nations. The core question is whether technology can help solve some of the biggest problems facing our earth or whether the rhetoric that says using technology to correct economic externalities is a misnomer.

PetaJakarta.org team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on.

PetaJakarta.org team survey damage along the Ciliwung River using GeoSocial Rapid Assessment Survey Platform (#GRASP) via Twitter, as neighborhood children look on.

Let us ponder on the affirmative however. What role can big data play in civic infrastructure planning and development? Can citizens contribute data via crowdsourcing technologies to help service providers and government have better visibility of the problems on the ground?

For example, in the Chinese megacities that have emerged, capturing data that indicates where there is a pressing need for cleaner drinking water is imperative for the health and welfare of citizens. Doing this systematically might mean that citizens contribute this knowledge via a text message or through the use of social media, giving municipal and provincial governments and specific agencies in charge of waterways, such as environmental protection authorities, an ability to better plan and respond in a timely manner.

Similarly, if we can monitor zones prone to flooding that affect tens of millions of people, we might be able to lessen the burden on these citizens by informing civil infrastructure planners in the government to respond to the underlying problems perpetuating the flooding during monsoon season. Refer here to the work of Etienne Turpin and Tomas Holderness of the SMART Infrastructure Facility www.petajakarta.org. Here citizens send a text message using Twitter, some with location information and others with photographs attached, allowing partner organizations such as NGOs to get a complete picture of trends and patterns at a dwelling level, and collectively assess areas of major concern affected by banjir (i.e., floods). Is it possible to use this data to drive change?

Socio-technical systems in their purest form are there to fulfill user-centered aims, and not to act against an individual's freedom and human rights. Will we be able to convert the present senseless surveillance fueled by mega-companies and governments to a net-neutral opt-in detection and alert system toward access for basic needs and longer term sustainability for communities far and wide? At what point will citizens be able to donate their mobile and Internet and general utilities data without the risk of potential harm to themselves and their families? Or are we blindly being led down a utopian scenario that will ultimately be used to control or manipulate the masses even further?

Additionally, what will be the repercussions on private enterprise? To date utility companies have been taking advantage of their own inability to offer services that run on efficient energy redistribution to their subscribers. Of course it has never been in their best interest to “rob from the rich to feed the poor,” precisely because by offering this kind of redistribution, utilities companies would negatively be impacting on their bottom line. What will all this big-data achieve? An ever-greater ability to scrutinize the subscriber, based on smart meter data, in order to generate even more revenues for private companies who have taken on once government-based responsibilities.

We must not be myopic – big data can be used for us or against us. This issue presents the positive value of “collective action,” a fundamental ability to commandeer resources together, often self-organized, toward the benefit of our community at large. This is not a new phenomenon but with the aid of technology, both data collection and analysis have become possible at granular levels of detail. It is up to us to anticipate the risks associated with such engineering design principles, and introduce safeguards that will make such an approach work.

Citation: Katina Michael, Xi Chen, 2014, "The State-Society Relationship: Big Data's Big Future - But for Whom", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 3, Fall 2014, pp. 7-8. DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2349572

Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics

Editor's Introduction

In our last issue, i wrote about how we'd planned to expand the scope and audience of IEEE Consumer Electronics (CE) Magazine. After all, CE is not just about the design and manufacture of electronic systems and products. These devices and their ecosystems have been changing and altering our lives since the introduction of the TV set in the 1950s and 1960s.

But in today's Internet age, we are so interconnected that society and the economy respond at a much accelerated pace. Changes and disruption that would have taken years, or even decades, back in the 1960s and 1970s can now spread in months or even weeks. And today, their impacts are felt on a global scale, and not just in the developed world, but increasingly among those in the developing world.

As engineers, we are the electronic architects of tomorrow, but the scope and scale of impact that our designs and architectures can have on society and on the economy place significant responsibility on our shoulders. We are all responsible for broadening our perspectives and considering how our work might impact the lives of others. There is much for us to learn beyond the realms of pure science and engineering.

This section of our magazine, aptly titled “Impacts,” is being introduced to help facilitate a broadening of our perspective on the world of CE and to learn more of the various impacts of CE on society. It is introduced in partnership with the IEEE Society on Social Implications of Technology (SSIT). Starting with this issue, SSIT members will also be receiving a copy of IEEE CE Magazine, increasing our distribution to IEEE Members in other Societies.

I would like to express a big thank you first to Stefan Mozar, president of the IEEE CE Society, for initiating this collaboration with SSIT and second to Katina Michael, the editor-in-chief of IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, for working with me to put together this first “Impacts ” section.

This is a first attempt, but I think it is a pretty good start—at the same time, I'd much rather hear what some of you think. So please feel free to contact either me or Katina to give your feedback. And we'd welcome suggestions for topics or subject areas that should be addressed in future editions of “Impacts.”

Now a short introduction to our partners on “Impacts ”—the SSIT.

—Peter Corcoran


Introduction to the IEEE SSIT (Katina Michael)

CE has revolutionized the way we live and work. Most students that I know would rather forgo expensive clothing labels than do without their branded smartphone. In fact, some of them would forgo food altogether if it meant their phone could always be on and always with them, clipped onto their belt buckles, strapped into their pants or jacket sleeves, or held in the open palm of their hand. Something happens when our basic needs as humans are overtaken by some other need that was once a distant want at best—plainly, confusion in our ability to rightly determine what our priorities are as humans in any given context.

I have been around people who have lost or had their iPad or iPhone stolen. It is not a pretty sight to see a grown man or woman become frantic and then be reduced to tears over the loss of what is seemingly an inanimate object but in reality has become seamlessly integrated to every aspect of one's life. And lest I look all high and mighty, I had my own laptop stolen with invaluable unbacked Ph.D. research onboard, while working for Nortel Networks and visiting company headquarters in 1999. It took me months to recover from the ordeal, professionally, academically, and even mentally.

The SSIT, with its flagship magazine, IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, explores not only the obvious trends toward CE but those aspects that are not given enough attention on the externality spectrum of potential issues—the threat of ever-increasing screen time for children at school and at home, the use of violent video games, and exposure to different types of online media to everyday consumers, consider even the wide ranging topics that go into supporting the development of such an innovation, tracking its existence from conception to the end of its product lifetime.

Taking the smartphone analogy further, as a typical CE device that affects the global population and that has now saturated the consumer market, SSIT would consider everything from the sustainable design of mobile phones to further investigation of the smartphone's posited harmful effects through the emission of electromagneticfields or the potential to do damage to the wearer's inner ear if played on a high volume daily. The Society would also be interested in submissions on the manner of operational health and safety obligations and conditions of companies during the assemblage of the CE components into the finished product in developing nations. The privacy and security of the data on the smartphone would be an area of interest, as would the ability to dispose of the device without producing ever-increasing e-waste mobile phone dumping grounds with hazardous materials thrown into a landfill.

But that is not all. SSIT's greatest focus is perhaps the economic, institutional, and organization infrastructure surrounding CE products. Aspects of this include how developing countries are adopting CE and their impact on equity and access to information toward international development out of the poverty cycle, the ability to offer remote health care and better access to health information services, the importance of public policy surrounding telecommunications in general, and the laws, standards, and regulations in existence to facilitate use, at the same time protecting the consumer. Herein, it is important to weigh the benefits of CE such as the smartphone—on the one hand, providing life-saving capabilities such as access to emergency services, as opposed to the potential to cyberstalk a stranger using mobile social media or even gather location data from a friend's phone to be used surreptitiously at a later date. Equally, we are interested in articles addressing functionality, such as the ability for human activity and condition monitoring from the dozen or so sensors in the smartphone, as well as the basic traditional applications of call patterns, texting, and usage patterns, with respect to communities of practice online. How might these communities be changing the dynamics between state and society both now and into the future?

One thing for certain is that IEEE SSIT shares some fundamental qualities with the IEEE CE Society—that it is one of the most interdisciplinary Societies within the IEEE, and membership spans across disciplines, with a wide spectrum of interests represented. We are actively seeking papers that tackle the social, environmental, economic, political, and ethical impacts of CE on households, businesses, and governments and how the application of such technology can improve the world around us but also how it may adversely affect the very users it was created to aid.

IEEE SSIT hosts the annual conference, the International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS), and, in 2013, the focus was wearable technologies, while in 2014, the focus will be on ethics and technology. The Society also supports and recognizes engineering ethics, presenting the Carl Barus Award for Outstanding Service in the Public Interest. With active international Chapters all over the world, IEEE SSIT provides a voice for topics that would otherwise not be addressed from all sides of the debate. It is this open discussion that makes IEEE SSIT and IEEE CE such vital Societies as we continue with the explosion of emerging technologies in all aspects of our home and work life. CE affects everybody—from the newborn baby, to the employee, to the elderly. Viewpoints and cutting-edge pieces on all these perspectives are not only welcome but highly valued.

IEEE Keywords: Social factors, Consumer electronics, Sociology, Economics, Media, Mobile handsets, Ethics, Design manufacturing

Citation: Peter Corcoran and Katina Michael, "Impacts: At the intersection between the worlds of consumer electronics and socioeconomics", IEEE Consumer Electronics Magazine, Volume: 3, Issue: 3, July 2014, pp. 57 - 58, Date of Publication: 26 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MCE.2014.2317897


Drones Humanus

Some years ago, a sweet grandma in my (Christine's) neighborhood was convinced that one of her neighbors was involved in illegal activity. Although my husband and I tried to assuage her overactive mind, she insisted we purchase and deliver binoculars to enable her to perform her civic duty as a self-appointed sleuthhound.

If it had been this year, she could have placed an order on-line and a drone could deliver the packaged binoculars to her front door [1]. Perhaps next year, she can trade in the binoculars for a perching air drone that will not only fly, but also perform a controlled stall with actuators allowing the feet to grip the branch of the tree in her neighbor's yard. The bird-like drone, with motors that can shut down to avoid energy depletion, can sit for long periods of time, recording lots and lots of data [2].

The current environment in which these technologies are emerging causes even the more open-minded members of society to face considerable misunderstandings, exploitation, abuse, and even physical danger as was evidenced during The Burning Man festival this past year [3]. Not surprisingly, a plethora of issues arose at the festival pertaining to drones; many of which related to privacy. It is apparent, there are still fragmented, few, or no regulations. Yet advances in technology allow for more easily concealed devices [4], revolutionary capabilities of remote sensing and capture technology (e.g., LIDAR chip) [5], and decreasing costs to acquire devices [6].

What will we become? We can now buy devices to wear 24/7, logging everything we see, and sending data to our lifelog storage device in the cloud. Perhaps we are now the bird-like drone, but we move from the sky, to the branch, to the inside of people's homes, into their workspaces, and alongside them on roads, trains, and planes. We can capture their interactions, their facial expressions, and the intimate aspects of their everyday experiences [7]. There are seemingly no limits [8].

Much like peer-to-peer security that has proven to be effective in society to reduce disorderly conduct in crowds [9], perhaps people will be paid for drone-like behavior [10]. Perhaps, the sweet, civic-minded grandma in the neighborhood, who lifelogs to pass on a heritage to her progeny, will utilize the same device to capture peer-to-peer data and thereby subsidize her pension. What is the trajectory for society?

If the digital realm plays an ever-increasing role in developing and transmitting social norms, we must consider the many values at stake [11]. The older as well as the younger generations may perceive this as an opportunity to become as fearless as the desert explorers who traversed unknown lands. Only today, the point-of-view #explorers are demonstrating their mean feats to a global theatre using social media in real time to their legions of online followers [12]. Suppose lifelogs lead to an environment in which we are fact-checked against the recorded medium [13]. Your interpretation of an event could be refuted; you would be told, “You were never into jazz.” or “That wasn't such a good time, was it?” [14]. Can synthesized data, capture the spirit behind the poetic license one takes when telling a story to achieve a desired effect? Can an algorithm discern the varied contexts within which our behaviors were recorded? We often have different personae that change over time; and it is often necessary for an individual to have one personae for work, one for family, and yet another for the Internet [15].

The human experience cannot be captured and interpreted easily; we are highly complex and astoundingly dynamic beings. This is the great stuff of humanity. We are ever-changing. We embellish to affect laughter. We create what didn't exist. We make stuff up. We make up rules so we can play games. We make up institutions so we can coordinate problem-solving collective action. Data, especially when so abundant and extensive, can easily undermine such invention. One only needs to ask siblings to describe their shared childhood experiences; one could compare their stories and be exceedingly perplexed. Each sibling has created his or her own narrative; each may have invented a slightly different back story. Can algorithms or a fallible human who chooses how to personally interpret the synthesis of data, appropriately process reality [16]? Moreover, if it can be said that “history belongs to the winners,” then while there exists lifelogging asymmetry (some do, some don't), perhaps it could also be said, equally cynically, that “personal history belongs to the lifeloggers”? Issues arise with this historical record because a lifelogger could easily omit, misrepresent, or even distort and deceive; he or she can willfully create inaccurate narratives which could go unchecked and unchallenged.

The most delightful aspect of visiting that grandma wasn't the amusing humor derived from her comedic idiosyncrasies, but rather it was her rich storytelling. Her husband often had a different take on events. She admitted she chose to forget the painful aspects of the depression era. Yet, she wonderfully verbalized a narrative of her life and times from her perspective. Just as forgetting is an essential part of the human psyche (without which we cannot begin to function), so is the ability to create narratives [17]. In the event of universal lifelogging, could this be lost and replaced with machine-perfected recollections? Without narrative, we have no mythos, and so we have no more explanation for the human condition than logos. We would have much less ability to create a shared sense of community through a commonly told story, and may be stuck instead with a single unalterable personae deterministically crushed by the unbearable tyranny of mundane facts captured through devices.

There are negative ramifications when we allow technology to commodify social concepts, and diminish social relations like privacy, friendship, and loyalty. The resultant consequences, such as the fragmentation of communities, the dissolution of trust, and the diminution of our ability to solve collective action problems, are serious enough. However, such invasive technologies as wearables and bearables are doing something else: they could deprive us of the ability to create personae and narratives [18]. We may discover the obsessive literalism is an axe being taken to the very essence of what it means to be human.

IEEE Keywords: Special issues and sections, Drones, Privacy, Behavioral science, Security, Information processing,Wearable computers, Surveillance

Citation: Jeremy Pitt, Christine Perakslis, Katina Michael, "Drones Humanus", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 33, Issue: 2, Summer 2014, pp. 38 - 39, Date of Publication: 02 June 2014, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2014.2319951

Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia

With almost four billion people, Asia comprises about 55% of the world's population and 45% of the world's Internet users [1]. Internet penetration in Asia is estimated at almost 28% compared with the rest of the world at 43% [2]. The number of mobile users in Asia at the end of 2012 was estimated at about 3.2 billion subscribers. Eighteen countries in Asia have saturated mobile markets exceeding 100% penetration, while Macau and Hong Kong have mobile penetration levels of more than 200% [3]. India and China account for over 60% of the telecommunications market in Asia which is why so many companies are vying to be there.

But all of this needs to be factored against some humbling statistics. For example, 66.7% of people living in South Asia in 2010 earned less than$2 a day compared with 30% in East Asia and the Pacific [4]. According to the World Bank, more than a third of these people did not earn more than$1.25 a day, placing them below the poverty line. An estimated 80–90% of this population is rural, with rural poverty especially endemic in Southern Asia [5]. However, between 1990 and 2008 the number of people living in poverty in the world halved [6]. One question to ponder is how much of this reduction in poverty was as a direct result of technology?

When I worked for Nortel in Asia I had the opportunity to study voice and data teletraffic flow maps published by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). I was always intrigued by the fact that thick arrows representing large volumes showed information flowing in and out of developed nations [7]. Poorer nations in Asia and Africa especially had very thin flows. Sometimes this signified that a market was predominantly “closed” and had not yet formally deregulated, or that internal conflict caused it to remain troubled instead of outward looking and global. The poverty cycle, also known as a spiral, is difficult to break. Initiatives like one laptop per child (OLPC) surely provide hope [8], as do open data initiatives to give access to information to anyone who has an Internet connection of any type [9]. However when there is no one to pay the electricity bill or to even guarantee the underlying infrastructure, even these promising ventures will fall short.

There are numerous ways to consider technology within a framework of progress. For example, some point to genetically modified (GM) crops that can provide food for those in need [10]; enabling technologies in the manufacturing industry giving workers a chance to earn a living; transportation technology like containers on ships and rail that enable global supply chain processes; sophisticated private and public exchange banking systems that allow for electronic commerce from anywhere in the world; and a high tech industry that is continually reinventing itself with new innovations to keep the retail sector moving.

Nonetheless, resources are limited as populations continue to rise at an increasing rate in developing nations, placing pressure on fossil fuel reserves. On the one hand these limited resources have meant that we are continually seeking to harness new alternative means of energy such as solar and wind, but on the other hand, we may be quickly approaching a crisis far greater than that of the 1973 oil embargo and subsequent stock market crash, if we do not back renewable resource initiatives with serious and ongoing research funding.

The externalities of technology are not only felt on a global scale with respect to climate change as a direct result of carbon emissions, but are vividly obvious in other activities from the exportation of e-waste disposal to countries like Bangladesh and Nepal, and in the contamination of waterways through industrial chemical waste within organizations situated within Asia and Africa [11].

In other cases, technology change has equated to business process optimization so harsh on employees that inhumane practices have been discovered in sweat shops and white good manufacturing lines. We might be paying significantly reduced prices for our computers, toasters, and clothes, but somewhere up the “chain” someone has had to get the component parts to a finished good. We have a responsibility to ensure that child workers are not being exploited on cocoa farms to bring us our favorite chocolate bars, and that pregnant female workers are not bound to their sewing machines from dawn to dusk, among a great many other worker issues.

I observe around my neighborhood during rubbish collection days, electrical appliances such as printers, abandoned on the roadside because it is cheaper to purchase a brand new one than to take the effort in purchasing color toner and installing it for use. Little by little we have become the throw-away generation, and the side effects from this thoughtless consumerism will cost us heavily in years to come. How much more prevalent this behavior might become with the onset of 3D printers and downloadable computer-aided designs (CAD) is anyone's guess.

While I do not wish to cast any shadow on this significant special issue dedicated to “Technology and Society in Asia” for which I thank the tremendous efforts of ISTAS12 organizers Greg Adamson, Michael Arnold, Sophie McKenzie, and guest editors Martin Gibbs, Philip Hall, and Shiro Uesugi, a counter-balance is necessary to place the special issue in perspective [12]. Yes, technology is the answer to so many of our problems today, but it can also be the source of our woes. That which has had such a positive impact on the production functions of so many processes, i.e., technology, can also carry with it negative intangible and hidden costs to the individual, the household, the factory, and society at large. We need to think past the first ripple effect, to far-reaching consequences, ensuring that we take the longer-term view, before that which immediately benefits profit margins.


1. United Nations Population Information Network, 2009, [online] Available: http://www.un.org/popin/data.html.

2. Internet World Stats: Usage and Population Statistics, 2013, [online] Available: http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm.

3. P. Evans, P. Budde, "Asia-Mobile broadband and digital economy overview", BuddeComm, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.budde.com.au/Research/Asia-Mobile-Broadband-and-Digital-Economy-Overview.html.

4. "Poverty and equity data", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://data.worldbank.org/topic/poverty.

5. "Rural Poverty Portal: Asia", International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2009, [online] Available: http://www.ruralpovertyportal.org/region/home/tags/asia.

6. M. Tuck, "Poverty Reduction and Equity", The World Bank, 2013, [online] Available: http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/.

7. "Measuring the Information Society" in International Telecommunications Union, 2012.

8. one.laptop.org, OLPC Foundation.

9. Interaction Design Foundation.

10. S.K. Moore, E. Strickland, "GM foods grow up", IEEE Spectrum, 2013, [online] Available: http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/gm-foods-grow-up.

11. StEP Solving the e-waste problem, 2012, [online] Available: http://www.step-initiative.org/.

12. ISTAS12 Technology and Society in Asia IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society, 2012.

Citation: Katina Michael, "Putting Technology into Perspective in Asia", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 32, Issue: 3, Fall 2013, pp. 5 - 6, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2013.2276662

Service-Based Electronic Commerce Systems (Editorial ECR)

1 Introduction

The increasing popularity of service-based applications accounts for the growth of e-commerce, as e-commerce systems are maintained by service providers themselves. Further, service-based e-commerce systems provide a flexible, low-cost business model to enable customers to focus more on their core business. The business can easily meet the fluctuating demands of business transactions through this model. Emerging electronic commerce systems are expected to be available anytime, anywhere, and using different official or personal computing devices. Service-based e-commerce systems will have businesses as customers using an on-demand model. Differing from traditional electronic commerce, the timely reporting and resolution of customer issues resulting in enhanced customer service and ubiquitous usage are the advantages of service-based e-commerce systems. This special issue aims to expose the readership to the latest research results on service-based electronic commerce systems, including the key technologies, such as enhancing the scalability, reliability, operational portability, security, integration and performance of the services. The special issue is composed of 3 refereed papers covering such topics as smartphone-based multimedia services, online auction frauds detection methods and privacy preserving in commercial networks. The issue is expected to demonstrate pioneer work in this field, investigate the novel solutions and methods for services design and discuss the future trends in this field.

2 The papers in this special issue

The first paper, “Design of Trustworthy Smartphone-Based Multimedia Services in Cultural Environments” by Dimitrios Koukopoulos and Georgios Styliaras, investigates the issues in mobile multimedia services. Smartphone is a dynamic new media that faces high popularity due to its versatile services and the friendliness of its usage. It can be used in many activities of everyday life from ecommerce to e-tourism. It studied smartphone’s secure usability in cultural heritage sites and environments and made a first attempt towards a trustworthy commercial multimedia guiding system targeting cultural sites that will be executed in a set of smartphones. More specifically, authors are interested in how the needs of curators and visitors, experts or not, of a cultural heritage site can be facilitated by the provided multimedia guiding services of smartphones employing trustworthy implementations of smartphone services that are controlled by a central server. Furthermore, the study makes an attempt to propose a simple business model for the commercial exploitation of such services.

In the second paper, “Factors affecting privacy disclosure on social network sites: An integrated model” by Feng Xu, Katina Michael and Xi Chen, investigates the factors affecting privacy disclosure on social network sites. The self-disclosure of personal information by users on social network sites plays a vital role in the self-sustainability of online social networking service provider platforms. However, people’s levels of privacy concern increases as a direct result of unauthorized procurement and exploitation of personal information from the use of social networks which in turn discourages users from disclosing their information or encourages users to submit fake information online. An integrated model is proposed to explain privacy disclosure behaviors on social network sites. The paper found the key factors affecting users’ self-disclosure of personal information. Using privacy calculus, the perceived benefit was combined into the Theory of Planned Behavior, and after some modifications, an integrated model was prescribed specifically for the context of social network sites. While design the services in social networks or electronic commerce systems, the paper’s results can be used to reduce the levels of privacy concern.

The third paper, “Fuzzy Rule Optimization for Online Auction Frauds Detection based on Genetic Algorithm” by Cheng-Hsien Yu and Shi-Jen Lin, investigates the auction frauds issues in online auction sites. To improve the prevention of online auction frauds, this research will propose a hybrid approach to detect the fraudster accounts to help the users to identify which seller is more dangerous. In the research, social network analysis was used to produce the behavior features and transform these features into fuzzy rules which can represent the detection rules. Then optimize the fuzzy rules by genetic algorithms to build the auction fraud detection model. The proposed features and methodologies were used to detect the fraudster accounts and find out the detection models of them. This paper is expected to give some suggestions for service designers of online auctions or electronic commerce systems and help the website administrators to detect the possible collusive fraud groups easier in online auction.

Citation: Lian, S., Chen, X. & Michael, K. Electron Commer Res (2013) 13, No. 2: 125-127. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uow.edu.au/10.1007/s10660-013-9109-0, Springer US.


IEEE T&S Magazine: Undergoing Transformation

Our magazine is in a transformative period, not only because we are “Going Green” in 2013 but because we are experiencing tremendous growth in quality international submissions. This means that we are increasingly appealing to an international audience with transdisciplinary interests. This has not gone unnoticed by the media, nor by our SSIT readership or wider engineering community.

To those who have sent me personal messages of support, or have noted papers they have enjoyed reading, I thank you. The downside to the success we are experiencing means we have ended up with a slight backlog of papers awaiting publication. We also need more people to put up their hand to review papers from diverse areas of expertise, we have had to increase our overall rejection rate, sporadically increase our page count, and reduce the word count of some papers that have been accepted. We are looking into various ways that we can overcome some of these issues as we go online next year, especially by using the power Web 2.0 can offer to integrate various facets of our outreach activities. For instance, we are seeking the ability to use a single portal for SSIT news and events, ISTAS conferences, T&S Magazine (with full manuscript registration), SSIT-related social media, and an SSIT blog.

In this Winter (December) 2012 issue we also say thank you to our outgoing Associate Editors, Professor Ming Ivory of James Madison University and Professor Reza Djavanshir of Johns Hopkins University for their contribution to the Magazine over the years. Professor Ivory is now the Director of the Graduate Integrated Science and Technology program at JMU and Professor Djavanshir continues his work in the Innovation for Humanity course at JHU taking students to do research and help with underprivileged societies in Kenya, Rwanda, Peru, and India. I know their link to the Magazine will remain an important one.

Professor Jeremy Pitt

Professor Jeremy Pitt

It is my pleasure to announce that our incoming Associate Editors beginning January 1, 2013, are Professor Steve Mann of the University of Toronto, Canada, and Dr Jeremy Pitt of Imperial College London, England. Recruiting both Steve and Jeremy was a strategic decision for several reasons.

Professor Steve Mann

Professor Steve Mann

The first and foremost reason for their election has to do with their international standing in the engineering community. Steve who was an instrumental force at the M.I.T. Media Labs at the time that Nicholas Negroponte was director, has had an awesome impact on the field of wearable computing internationally, and Jeremy has been instrumental in key EU-wide activities on pervasive adaptation responsible for bringing thought leaders together from across the world. As a prolific inventor, Steve, has integrated his science, technology, engineering, and mathematics work with that of design and art (DASTEM), and has never shied away from speaking of the social implications of emerging technologies, especially those stemming from his own inventions. Jeremy’s current research focuses on the logical representation of computational justice in self-organizing networks and infrastructures, and the impact of ubiquitous and adaptive computing on society, commerce, and culture. In his latest edited book, This Pervasive Day (2012), he demonstrates the importance of continually asking the right questions in our quest for advancing humanity.

The second reason for getting Steve and Jeremy on board has to do with their physical locations and online presence. Steve is based in Toronto, Canada, and is well-known in the United States (in fact globally) for his work in DASTEM. Jeremy is based in the U.K. and has a large network into the EU in particular. We need to cultivate and encourage our global presence more broadly commensurate to the submissions we are receiving from authors residing internationally.  Another growth market is in India, China and Japan and I look forward to introducing one more Associate Editor from one of these countries into the future. For now, please join me in welcoming both Steve and Jeremy to T&S Magazine. I know they will have a tremendous impact on the Magazine by their ongoing support and counsel.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Terri Bookman for being such a tireless Managing Editor for many years. While SSIT has been around for 40 years, Terri has been Managing Editor of the Magazine for 22 years! She has remained our single constant throughout. I feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by such a great team, past and present, as I head into my second year as Editor.

Citation: Katina Michael, IEEE T&S Magazine: Undergoing Transformation [Editorial], IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Year: 2012, Volume: 31, Issue: 4, pp. 5 - 6, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2012.2230072

Privacy - The times they are a-changin'


This special section is dedicated to privacy in the information age. In particular, since the rise of mobile social media and the advent of cloud computing, few can dispute that the times have indeed changed. Privacy is now understood “in context” and within a framework that is completely different from what it once was. The right to be let alone physically seems to have been up turned by the right to give away virtually as much information as we like.

What kind of inherent safeguards can be introduced into the data driven society? We cannot argue for privacy as a natural right if we ourselves do not respect the laws that govern the use of personal information - except for those instances when we become the victims of our own folly (or otherwise through security breaches). We cannot ask for the application of law only on those occasions when we find ourselves on the wrong side of the new openness, so as to escape the consequences of being defrauded or having our identity stolen, or when we are the subjects of blackmail or cyber bullying.

Police services must also be held accountable when there are surveillance laws that are not being enforced as a consequence of new technologies. These laws do not suit the new range of high-tech policing capabilities - everything from body worn video recorders for “always on” surveillance of the citizenry to the use of opinion net monitors on social media such as Facebook. For the most part we are struggling with out-of-date and outmoded listening and surveillance device acts, privacy acts, telecommunications acts and interception acts, and we are moving toward data retention legislation that will make audit and compliance of every transaction mandatory in business and government. And if the laws are not outdated then they will often contradict one another or overwrite each other, providing those chartered with authority the continued ability to engage in mass surveillance.

Commercial entities create privacy policies that are seldom read - more a shortcoming of the trust and indifference of some subscribers and complete ignorance of others about the collection and use of personal information. Internet search giants are now joining numerous product-focused policies into a single policy, and in so doing limiting their liability while increasing that of their subscribers. It is evident enough that consumers cannot win, they go with the flow to keep au courant of the constant change, never quite being in control even if they believe themselves to be. The network increases in stealth and size as more and more personal data is fed into it.

We are told there are a number of solutions to the current privacy problems - 1) build in privacy to the design of new technologies at the engineering and commercialization stages, 2) ensure that appropriate crimes legislation and provisions are in place so that there are harsher penalties for people who breach the privacy rights of others, and/or 3) leave it to commerce itself to deal with using a number of ways to protect consumer privacy through technical standards and industry codes of conduct.

Some of the articles in this special section address these issues from a variety of stakeholder perspectives including government, non-government organizations, industry, and consumers. If we have privacy problems then we remain hopeful there must be solutions. But clearly the solutions are limited, if only because of the insatiable nature of the beast.

There is also a discernible movement between what was once considered a brave new world, to the open innovation model that is heralding an even “braver new world.” We are correspondingly doing away with the familiar George Orwell motifs and sentiments, and moving toward that of the Big Data “all you can eat and stomach” model. This new practice is supposed to give rise to a collective intelligence never before seen, a global brain of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate discoveries and increase productivity. Anyone still stuck on the existential and privacy concerns raised by 1984 might as well give up on the debate. at least this is what we are being pushed to believe by the transnationalist capitalist class which has globalized at unprecedented speeds. Recently G.T. Marx has again reminded us of the technique of normalization. And so for those gloomy students of Thomas Hobbes, for their numbers have also been increasing, Leviathan will take on newer and more sinister connotations.

There is for sure much to be gained from Big Data, from open innovation, from sharing our knowledge as one global community. Yet sharing openly might be the utilitarian approach that serves the greater good at the expense of the individual. In terms of consumerism, this is and will in all probability forever remain one of the great paradoxes of our post-industrial society. Making certain individual claims about health and disease for example will inevitably help communities overcome or become more resilient to them, but they will also impact the individual asymmetrically by lending them to even more detailed forms of scrutiny such as social sorting and potential insurance typecasting. Our online searches reveal more about us than what we might like to think - we could to some large degree be determining our own destiny by what we enter into that little space we call the search box.

So what are we supposed to do then? We cannot simply give up the battle for maintaining our right to privacy. This special section is not about giving it up without a good fight. It is about finding inspiration in how we can offer something that works for all parties - but mostly for citizens if we are to embrace user-centered engineering approaches that are secure and long lasting. There is indeed much to gain from new and imaginative online business models if they are used for the right purposes and in the right way. Conversely, we are headed for dangerous waters if these models are abused and mismanaged by those who are in charge.

We have endeavoured here to offer an international Special Section with a wide range of perspectives. Some articles digress on viewpoints, but all of our expert authors are willing to have open dialogue and to seriously engage in the public forum. We must capture these and other consonant opportunities to speak now while we can, that we might together come up with a global approach to arrest alarming developments that threaten to turn privacy into a thing of the past. Privacy does matter. It is both the stuff of dreams and of identity.

IEEE Keywords: Privacy, Data privacy, Security, Social network services

Citation: Katina Michael, 2012, Privacy- the times are a changin', IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 31(4),

Social Implications of Technology: "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo"

Late last year, IEEE SSIT was invited to put together a paper for the centennial edition of the Proceedings of the IEEE for publication in May 2012 [1]. The article, “Social Implications of Technology: Past, Present, and Future,” brought together five members of SSIT with varying backgrounds, and involved two intense months of collaboration and exchange of ideas. I personally felt privileged to be working with Karl D. Stephan, Emily Anesta, Laura Jacobs, and M.G. Michael on this project.

While it is important to go on record as saying that while there was harmony in the final paper delivered to The Proceedings, there was certainly some tug-of-war related to themes and perspectives addressed in the paper. We carefully critiqued each other's writing and some twenty-three drafts later came out with the final product, some thirty pages in length. The paper included 29 telling photographs and about 180 references, many sourced from IEEE T&S Magazine.

Controversy, conflict, disagreement, discord, disharmony makes for a good plot joining together once disparate ideas. Without this cross-disciplinary dialogue and dichotomy there cannot be a holistic analysis of the observable facts. In the the Proceedings paper, we attempted to write a balanced article, at times oscillating between positive and negative social implications of technology, externalities and advances as a result of technology, and the risks versus rewards of technology's trajectory.

IEEE-SSIT is clearly not just about the adverse effects of technical change but indeed concerned with how technology can be harnessed toward optimistic ends. IEEE Technology and Society Magazine especially has a duty to its community of engineers and practitioners to publish at both ends of the spectrum, the successes and failures of technology in terms of social implications.

But more than that, T&S Magazine has a responsibility to capture what is happening, has happened, will happen. Our publication needs to move away from the mentality that says “this paper” or “this author” is for technology or against technology. This is to oversimplify many of the cases that have been published thus far in T&S. In some of the strongest articles I have read, what emerges after my reading is a depiction of a phenomenon that just “is what it is.” What makes good research is usually a good story that can capture the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As editor in chief, I will make it my goal to attract papers of all kinds — on the use and misuse of technology. You simply cannot have one without the other because the human factor is prevalent in design and deployment. I would be doing the Magazine a disservice if suddenly I were to put blinkers on to claim that technique can do no wrong, independent of whose hands it is in. This is simply not the case. If the number of papers about the negative social implications of technology seem to dominate over those on positive social implications, it has only to do with the types of papers the Magazine receives as submissions.

We cannot print articles that demonstrate benefits of technology if they have not been written and submitted for consideration. I urge you to think about writing something we can publish that reflect positive impacts of technology. I am thinking of topics such as: how affective computing can help autistic kids, the use of high frequency data streams to improve outcomes for premature infants, the advantages of using wearable technologies to do remote vocational training and assessment, the benefits to the global community of data visualization techniques for online museums, electronic methods for reducing an individual's carbon emissions footprint, historical articles that show how indigenous communities have attempted to preserve aspects of their culture through technology, using assistive social robots to care for the elderly and the young, and so forth.

As editor, however, I will not ignore articles that demonstrate that technology can be misused. I welcome papers on technology-related addictions and health risks, on consumer resistance to new technologies, on citizen rights to use technologies for counter-surveillance, on the complications of data custodianship and cloud computing, on the increasing pervasiveness of geomatics engineering, and on the rise of cyberbullying and offenses against the person committed online.

What I am most concerned with is that T&S Magazine - at least in mindspace - keep pace with the times. Let us see more papers on how engineering will advance humanity but let us also question whether or not technology will always advance humanity.

In this case, the problem was with the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA), and with two U.S. federal agencies that are supposed to protect the public against hazardous substances and processes: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Much of the problem (which is quite complex) was due to a change in the chemicals used by WASA for protection against bacterial contamination. An important consequence of this was a great increase in the leaching into the water of lead from brass pipes.

WASA and the EPA rejected the analysis by Edwards, despite its being supported by substantial real world data. The CDC issued a report that downgraded the importance to health of lead in drinking water. Both WASA and the EPA withdrew financial backing for Edwards' work, putting him in a difficult position. But he persisted, at one point, paying his student assistants out of his own pocket. Ultimately all three agencies conceded that his position was valid, and steps to alleviate the problem were initiated.

Over the past three decades, somewhat more attention has been paid to ethics in engineering curricula, but no meaningful progress has been made to provide real support for engineers, such as Edwards and DeKort, who take such teaching seriously. While, several decades ago, the IEEE took some steps toward helping ethical engineers, it later backed out of this area completely. The IEEE Ethics and Member Conduct Committee and its members are now not allowed to give advice to engineers on ethical matters.


1. K. D. Stephan, K. Michael, M. G. Michael, L. Jacob, E. Anesta, "Social implications of technology: Past present and future", Proc. IEEE, vol. 100, no. 13, pp. 1752-1781, 2012.

Citation: Katina Michael, Social Implications of Technology: "Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo", IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, Volume: 31, Issue: 3, Fall 2012, pp. 4 - 5, Date of Publication: 26 September 2012, DOI: 10.1109/MTS.2012.221139

Editorial: In Memoriam of Associate Professor Dr Elaine Lawrence

Katina Michael, Technical Editor, April 2012

In memory of Elaine Lawrence, Australia

In memory of Elaine Lawrence, Australia

Despite being a graduate of the rigorous Bachelor of Information Technology at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) in 1996, I was unfortunate in that I missed being taught by Associate Professor Elaine Lawrence who began working at UTS in 1990 as a Lecturer in Computing Science. Dr Lawrence became a senior lecturer in 2000, and subsequently an associate professor in 2006. Our paths crossed in 2002 when I was tasked to deliver a new course entitled “eBusiness Principles” in my first year of lecturing at the University of Wollongong, and after an initial scurry to find an adequate textbook, I came across Dr Lawrence’s ground-breaking text Internet Commerce: Digital Models for Business. Lawrence’s book was a best-seller for Wiley, adopted by almost every course coordinator teaching e-business/e-commerce in Australia, at a time when information technology had burgeoning undergraduate numbers.

When my PhD supervisors, Professor Joan Cooper and Associate Professor Carole Alcock, suggested to me that Dr Lawrence would be a good choice for an examiner in 2003, I must say I was more than a little nervous. After doing some background research on the web to see the fit, I was in even greater awe noting the impact Dr Lawrence was having on the teaching of industry certifications, and the creation of new courses. Elaine was the Program Leader of the popular Masters of Internetworking degree at UTS and as a qualified Cisco Certified Academic instructor (CAI) she began the CISCO certification courses delivered at UTS, in addition to contributing a plethora of materials to the CISCO Academy that were used by an estimated one million persons globally. Lawrence also tested international teaching materials for CISCO in Ireland and the United States and was the NSW representative for the Educational Council for CISCO. I had spent five years at Nortel Networks, a CISCO competitor, and immediately felt an affinity with her background.

Dr Lawrence was the first student to complete the Doctor of Technology at Deakin University in 2001. In addition to this, Dr Lawrence had a Masters of Business Information Technology, a Graduate Diploma in Commercial Computing and a Bachelor of Arts (awarded the university prize for Journalism). She was a very active senior member of the Australian Computer Society (ACS) for more than 20 years and also a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

In 1994 she began her own company called CyberConsult who had among its customers, Sydney Water, the Australian Institute of Management, Unilink and the Australian Computer Society. I do remember being taken by the fact that her slogan for her consulting business was “The Human Side of Technology.” Given my thesis was all about emerging technologies and their implications, I found peace in the fact that Dr Lawrence was a potential marker.

After receiving my PhD I corresponded with Dr Lawrence, appreciative of her genuine feedback on my thesis and ways to improve it. She was the perfect academic role model for me, and a wonderful mentor from the outset, although our relationship just developed naturally and we enjoyed corresponding with one another without the labels of mentor and mentee. I remember distinctly that Dr Lawrence had a way with words and she was always armoured with a graceful and tactful way of providing advice. She was reassuring at first, then encouraging, and then quite direct using sentences like “why don’t you consider submitting research to” or “you know this audience would be quite accepting of this perspective”. Amazingly Elaine never seemed in a rush, and yet somehow she did so much! She always made you feel important in her presence and that she had all the time in the world for you.

In 2003, I had the opportunity to contribute to Dr Lawrence’s best seller, and began work on a number of fresh case studies for the latest edition of Internet Commerce which was in fact Elaine’s second book. Dr Lawrence by then was well aware of the impact of mobile commerce and especially encouraged me to write about this aspect. It was in her text that I published my first ‘academic’ pieces on the chip implantation of humans- I included a full case write-up on Professor Kevin Warwick and the Cyborg 2.0 story. She did not shy away from this research, and had the foresight to see that one day, just maybe, this might directly relate to the way electronic payments were to be conducted. I don’t believe too many others at the time would have accepted to publish such work in the IT world. Elaine would also insist and encourage me to continue to learn how the new ‘electronic commerce’ models might impact society. It did not surprise me to learn later that in 2009 Elaine’s interest into advancements in technology would bring her to the role of Editor-in-Chief for IARIA’s prestigious International Journal of Advanced Life Sciences.

Elaine worked tirelessly on professional community activities. She was one of the first editorial board members chosen for the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research (JTAER) and was one of the first to guest edit a special issue on Mobile Payments doing so for Elsevier’s acclaimed Electronic Commerce Research and Applications (ECRA). In 2003, she was invited to join the International Committee on Mobile Business in Vienna and in 2005 chaired the highly successful 4th International Conference on Mobile Business (ICMB05) hosted in Sydney. It was an absolutely fantastic occasion where hundreds of delegates from across Australia, New Zealand and Asia (and further) turned out. Mobile business was fresh and new, and many of the papers published in that conference via IEEE Xplore and the hardcopy proceedings went on to be downloaded tens of thousands of times each.

One of my fondest memories of Elaine is at this wonderful conference. So much hard work went into it to get it off the ground and the grander vision that went with ICMB. Elaine made sure that all the delegates were well looked after. I recall one Chinese delegate having lost his passport and travellers cheques en route to the conference venue, and Elaine seeing to it that he was given enough money for his stay in Australia and reassured that all would be okay… She looked resplendent in her blue dress on that last day luncheon where awards and initiatives were announced by her. She worked tirelessly, and yet always looked like she had had more time. The evening dinner at the Casa di Nico at Darling Harbour was spectacular- and again Elaine chose an absolutely gorgeous outfit to wear. She was glowing, and so very happy at her fruits… she made this conference happen but in typical Elaine style she would always generously distribute the glory. I later discovered a pattern in her genius- always, always talk about others and never talk about yourself and what you have achieved. This was Elaine’s way—I do remember many times that she highlighted her PhD students and amplified their discoveries before her own. Many of Elaine’s students have gone on to be very successful academics and business men and women… some even heads of schools and owners of their own companies, CEOs, CIOs and the like.

My husband and collaborator, Dr MG Michael presented at ICMB06 in Denmark and had the honour of meeting Dr Lawrence in person and spending some quality time with her. This was again the case at ICMB07 in Toronto, Canada when I was pregnant to my second child. Elaine did not like being photographed very much, but she let Michael take a picture of her because she knew that it would mean a great deal to me. I found this photograph particularly interesting, because it looked identical to those I had seen of Elaine on the Internet- Elaine’s face shows the “human side of humanity”- she always possessed this very honest smile and her eyes were inviting and gentle. One could not feel intimidated in the presence of Dr Lawrence, despite that she had done so very much on the academic side. Not long after ICMB07, Elaine cited uberveillance in a conference paper on pervasive eHealth monitoring systems in a co-authored paper with Frank Kargl, Martin Fischer and Yen Yang Lim. This came as a complete surprise to MG even though the links between us were beginning to emerge strongly over quite some time. Elaine could see how uberveillance would be integral to both wearable and implantable computing for health applications. Despite most people at the time being watchful of uberveillance, Elaine embraced the concept.

In 2003/04 Elaine had begun researching motes, smart dust and body area networks for medical purposes. I recollect corresponding with her and asking what had inspired this investigation. She was way way ahead of the game in terms of her thinking of the next generation of technologies for mHealth, that much was obvious. At this time, Elaine was entrusted with the Directorship of the mHealth Laboratory within the iNEXT Research Centre. In typical Elaine fashion, she drew leading research academics and scholars from Germany, Spain, Canada and Vietnam to work with the Faculty on Wireless Sensor Networks and Health applications. She also created important links for the iNEXT Research Centre with Professor Matt Welsh and his team from Harvard University, Associate Professor Frank Kargl from Twente University in the Netherlands, and Professor Nina Ziv at the University of New York. In 2008 Elaine’s PhD student was awarded her doctorate on the well received, “A Heterogeneous Network Management Approach to Wireless Sensor Networks in Personal Healthcare Environments”. In 2008 and 2009 her master’s students produced theses on ReMoteCare: Health Monitoring with Streaming Video and Portable Emergency Medical Information Systems for Elderly Care. During 2009 she was working on five projects predominantly related to wireless sensor development kits such as Crossbow’s Zigbee MicaZs, Sun’s Java Sunspots and Toumaz’s Digital Plaster. In that same year Elaine completed two large scale ARC-Discovery grants she had attained, one valued at $310,000 on the theme of sensors and actor grids for healthcare. Elaine’s competitive research grants exceeded one million dollars, just in the time frame she was director of the mHealth Laboratory with more than 80 peer reviewed journal and conference papers, and several books. Despite her research success, she always considered herself to be a teacher, renowned for her ability to translate research into quality information technology courseware.

In 2008, despite the very busy workload and pressure she was under as the Head of the newly amalgamated School of Computing and Communications in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at UTS, she agreed to write the foreword of our book on Innovative Automatic Identification and Location Based Services: from bar codes to chip implants. MG and I could think of few people who knew the both of us so well and could additionally trace back the history of our thought as early as 2003. In 2009, when I asked Elaine to be a referee on my promotions application she did so instantaneously being ever so encouraging. In fact, I do not recollect Elaine being someone who said ‘no’ very often…

At about the same time as our book hit the shelves in 2009, Elaine had been the head of school for two years, during a trying period where several departments at UTS were being reorganised. The emphasis on paperwork at that time and bureaucracy ran deep and Elaine being Elaine, she did not cut any corners. In a tribute by a UTS staff member the following was said about her: “Elaine shone in her role as Head of the School of Computing and Communications, formed from the merging of two pre-existing academic units. Elaine projected charisma, gravitas, authoritativeness, compassion, tolerance and genuine affection for all her staff, academic and non academic. Her personality and leadership allowed the merged School to succeed, overcoming reservations and defusing parochialism, empowering a culture of unity and mutual support. It is thanks to Elaine that the School is such a success today.”

On the 14th of December 2009, I contacted Elaine to tell her I had received my promotion to Associate Professor and that MG and I were expecting our third child just after we were to host the IEEE International Symposium on Technology and Society (ISTAS) in 2010. Elaine always loved hearing about children and family. I recollect the many many times that she spoke to me of her beautiful husband John who also co-authored with her on many occasions related to taxation and internet commerce. And of course, she would never tire of talking of the achievements of Sue and Michael, their two children whom she was so so proud of... I cannot tell you how inspiring this was for a young academic starting out… It is sometimes inconceivable to consider that Elaine’s higher research degree journey began when her children were mere toddlers. She loved what she did… It was on sharing my news during this time that Elaine told me the devastating news that she had breast cancer. She wrote in reply: “What fabulous new times - an Ass Pro and a new baby - congratulations on both. This is very exciting. Now for some bad news from me - I have breast cancer… I am not at all impressed. Wish me luck - your news has cheered me up completely…”

After two operations and finally chemotheraphy, she returned to work in April 2010 on a part-time basis and by July was back full-time. The last correspondence she had with MG was one of victory- she was determined not to let this cancer beat her- and she declared herself 100% well. She was still sending conference call for papers at web speed and apologising for the cross-postings as she had thousands of people on her numerous mailing lists. She had brought people together from all over Europe and Asia and Australia and New Zealand and conducted outreach work also in North and South America. In June 2011 she even made it to Slovenia for the annual Bled conference. What many of us did not know however is that in the beginning of that year Elaine had battled a second unrelated cancer, this time ovarian, for which she had to undergo yet another operation and more substantial chemotherapy. On the 18th of September Elaine was admitted to hospital suffering from severe pain, and rested finally on the 18th of October 2011.

This In Memoriam is meant for all those who knew Elaine, as an opportunity to remember her life and works. Wife, mother, teacher, researcher- someone who epitomised dignity in all its forms- Elaine will be missed deeply. She was not only a fine academic but she possessed all those human qualities that made her stand out.

The record from the UTS Vice Chancellor’s Report in November 2011 stated: “We are deeply saddened by the passing away on 18 October of Associate Professor Elaine Lawrence, Head of the School of Computing and Communications in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology. Elaine has been a committed and valued member of the UTS family since 1990, and a true leader in Females in Engineering and Information Technology (FEIT). She is survived by her husband, John, and children Susie and Michael, and will be greatly missed by her friends at UTS.”

Citation: Katina Michael, April 1, 2012, "Editorial: In Memoriam of Associate Professor Dr Elaine Lawrence", Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, jtaer.com, April 2012.