10.1. Principal Conclusions
The principal conclusions from the findings given in chapter nine are threefold. First, that an evolutionary process of development is present in the auto-ID technology system (TS). Incremental steps either by way of technological recombinations or mutations have lead to revolutionary changes in the auto-ID industry- both at the device level and at the application level. The evolutionary process in the auto-ID TS does not imply a ‘survival of the fittest’ approach, rather a model of coexistence where each particular auto-ID technique has a path which ultimately influences the success of the whole industry. The patterns of migration, integration and convergence can be considered either mutations or recombinations of existing auto-ID techniques for the creation of new auto-ID innovations. Second, that forecasting technological innovations is important in predicting future trends based on past and current events. Analysing the process of innovation between intervals of widespread diffusion of individual auto-ID technologies sheds light on the auto-ID trajectory. Third, that technology is autonomous by nature has been shown by the changes in uses of auto-ID; from non-living to living things, from government to commercial applications, and from external identification devices in the form of tags and badges to medical implants inserted under the skin. A paradigm shift has been presented- from the auto-ID trajectory to electrophoresis.
10.1.1. The Evolutionary Paradigm
The evolutionary paradigm has shown us that “history matters”. Auto-ID techniques built their foundations on top of past manual ID techniques, the simplest being facial recognition using human memory. By the 19th century fingerprinting techniques were being discovered and by the mid 20th century auto-ID technologies were being prototyped. What has happened since that time has been cumulative technical change at an exhilarating speed. This rapid change, however, would not have been possible if the building blocks had not been cemented by first generation elementary breakthroughs. As more and more technological advancement occurred within the emerging auto-ID industry, and further support infrastructures, skills and tools were born simultaneously, the use of auto-ID became widespread. Progress fuelled success and success fuelled progress. While the market in the mid 1960s was not ready for auto-ID, decade after decade thereafter, techniques permeated a diverse range of applications. A domino effect of new auto-ID innovations took place, revolutionising the way people worked and lived. The conditions for entry were increasingly ‘right’ as ancillary technologies, like networks, storage devices and database software proliferated. The auto-ID explosion was energised by up-and-coming niche technology providers who had a clear vision for their innovations. Bar codes in retail, for instance, were driven by stakeholders who could see the potential impact the technology would make and the immediate path ahead. Understanding the sequence of events that shaped auto-ID was a major contribution of this thesis. Better understanding “what happened” means that efforts can be concentrated in the right places in the future.
10.1.2. Forecasting Technological Innovation
One of the downsides to exploratory predictive studies is that some researchers attempt to outdo one another with radical futuristic scenarios. This is not to discount that some of these scenarios will not happen ‘eventually’, however they neglect to use the evidence that is set before them to follow the path or direction of a particular technology, or set of technologies. This thesis puts forward the usefulness of using frameworks- like the systems of innovation (SI) based on evolutionary theory- to synthesise data from multiple disciplines to characterise and predict the auto-ID trajectory. The market today is so complex, that relying solely on one perspective, albeit technological, could prove severely misleading. What is required is an interdependence of sources. It was also intentional that predictions were not numbered or tabulated- they are present throughout the thesis (albeit in a subtle form) and more pronounced in chapter eight when the technological trajectory of auto-ID was explored. The narrative style allowed for analysis throughout. None of the predictions venture beyond 2050 and most focus between the years 2005 and 2015. Individual auto-ID techniques and their applications were considered separately at first, then as a single technology system, bringing together evidence that would indicate the direction of auto-ID in the short-term future. Among the factors explored in each case (in order of their prominence in that particular case) included: social, cultural, organisational, institutional, economic, regulatory, legal, political and technical dimensions. What was apparent was the time lag between auto-ID technical breakthroughs and developments, in for instance global standards, laws and user acceptance. Ethical considerations it was shown, were also consistently marginalised by technology and service providers until after auto-ID diffusion- an almost “let’s wait and see what happens” approach. Regardless, the technology is set to become even more ingrained in our day-to-day practices, especially for critical-response applications. New auto-ID innovations are most likely to be variations or combinations of existing auto-ID technologies, although there will be particular leaps in the use of multiapplication smart cards, the accuracy of biometric techniques (especially multimodal biometrics) and RF/ID transponders for human application. This thesis has attempted to present the forces at play that will continue to set the course of the auto-ID technology system.
10.1.3. Technology is Autonomous
That it is possible to map the future course of a technology does not negate that a given technology could be used for another subsequent purpose to what it was originally intended. Once a device is released, there is no turning back. As Rummler (2001, p. 3) put it: “the genie simply will not go back into the bottle”. The technology possesses intrinsic controls that can be set off with the right commercial conditions. What we assume is that we are in control, when in actual fact the technology has an inherent trajectory. No one ever predicted for instance, that auto-ID technologies would be inserted under the skin at the time that bar code was invented or when magnetic-stripe cards made their debut. However, today we have this phenomenon occurring- perhaps not at a rapid rate of adoption but at one that has made people take note of developments. There is now a company who has hired staff to tour the United Stated in mobile vans, to directly market the advantages of RF/ID transponder implants for emergency services. Consumers who choose to be implanted can do so at centralised clinics across the country. In brief, it is technology that to a large extent shapes society; drives changes to the way we live, to laws, to our attitudes, and our beliefs. While we have the opportunity to consider where the auto-ID trajectory is leading society, it is our responsibility to think about the possibilities. For instance, what if civil unrest through continual terrorist threats/attacks or outbreaks of fatal viruses causes governments worldwide to introduce RF/ID implants for security and safety reasons. Would society be ready for such a change? And what types of mechanisms are in place to decide whether this should or should not happen?
10.2. Major Implications
10.2.1. Reinterpreting the Meaning of Progress
Progress has often been synonymous with change over time, in a historical context. However, certain types of “progress” are not necessarily advancements. In fact, depending on the perspective taken, some technological progress could actually be considered to have caused social regress. A cochlear implant that gives a deaf person the ability to hear can be viewed as progress without much debate, whereas the proposed ‘Soul Catcher’ chip implant which will supposedly grant “eternal life” to an individual is surrounded by many unknowns. Consider the motivations for inventing in primitive times. The discovery of rubbing two sticks together to produce fire for warmth and cooking, that of the circular wheel to help move heavy objects, and of sharp stone implements to cut things, were all motivated by a practical need to survive. In contrast, today we seek monetary remuneration for inventing. A lot of money is spent on legal advice and getting an idea patented and this usually happens only when the inventor believes that they will somehow recoup their costs by the resulting royalties. Which leads to another fundamental point, most inventors today are part of corporations whose main goal is profit maximisation. Companies measure their “progress” by comparing revenue results and whether these have increased year-to-year. They are driven more by a need to make money to continue viable operations, than by a need to ensure that their product or service offerings are adding real value to human lives. Competition is so fierce in most high-tech areas, and the pace of change so rapid, that economic and commercial discourse takes precedence over moral and ethical reflection. For instance, an auto-ID manufacturer might ask “should this particular auto-ID technology be used in this new application area?” The response would most likely be linked to whether the new innovation would equate to more sales, a better company share price, and subsequently greater investor interest. The reality is that whether the technology will negatively impact individual privacy (or other similar issues) invariably remains somebody else’s problem throughout the value chain.
10.2.2. Managing Technological Innovation
The ability to manage technological innovation assumes that the right social institutions are in place to deal with developments. More often than not however, there is a great divide between technology and society’s ability to cope with that technology. The consumer’s attempt at resisting change initially coincides with the technology life cycle incubation stage. Eventually, however, widespread adoption is achieved as the technology begins to shape society bit-by-bit, and consumers and service providers succumb to a variety of pressures. It seems that individuals in society are too preoccupied with the ever-increasing pace of life to have the necessary time required to contemplate the far-reaching extensions of technological change, thus leaving the decision making to a small group of people. This results in a type of herd behaviour being exemplified. Mass consent in MDCs to adopt whatever is being flagged as the latest high-tech gadget looks to have overtaken individual reasoning. Consumers subject themselves to the impacts of these gadgets simply by choosing to adopt them, one after the next. It is almost as if adoption of “new” technology, such as luggables and wearables, is a requirement for a fulfilled existence because our capacity to remain contented with what we have is lacking. In the case of auto-ID however, there is an inherent tyrannical quality about devices like smart cards and biometrics; consumers do not choose to have them, such as in the case of computers and mobile phones, they are imposed on them by service providers. Among the most authoritarian service providers is the government, who has the ability to issue national ID cards (and other similar mandates) to its citizens. As more and more national and international auto-ID schemes begin to emerge, the need for adequate social institutions for helping society deal with these changes becomes an immediate concern. We cannot rely on a few publicised debates on current affairs television programs to address the fundamental questions. Yet going with the flow seems more effortless than constructive thinking; the masses generally feeling powerless to these changes, or even worse, indifferent.
10.2.3. Who is in Control?
The dynamic nature of the process of innovation indicates that interaction between many different stakeholders leads to the development of a given product or service. It is therefore difficult to single out one particular stakeholder as the primary force for an innovation going from invention to diffusion. Feedback between different stakeholders is a continual process. In the case of auto-ID, it can be argued that the manufacturer of the device is the main instigator, yet this denies the importance of other individual stakeholders like the government, service providers, and infrastructure providers, from being considered as equally key instruments in the creative process. It is possible that the question “who is in control?” only answers the question partially; we should also consider “what is in control?” Is it stakeholders? Is it the technology itself? It is both working together. Humans need to be aware of this when they are considering such future possibilities as creating “spiritual machines” and rejecting in essence part of what it means to be human. Some scientists may believe that doing away with the flesh will grant the individual ultimate freedom- achieving a type of resurrection on Earth. But what needs to be foremost in the minds of these visionaries, and the rest of us, is who or what will be in control of this grand scheme? Who or what will be given the responsibility to run this complex network of online brains? A human? A clone? A robot? All of these are subject to failure are they not, leading to the potential extinction of the new genus.
10.2.4. Back to the Future
When considering the possibilities of human evolution it is important to ponder on history. In 1946, the public launch of the ENIAC in the United States stimulated people’s imagination with some very fantastical thoughts. However, Kevin Warwick’s Cyborg 1.0 project did not receive the same attention. One could observe that society found this breakthrough somewhat lacklustre in comparison. Perhaps what people will find captivating is that next giant leap forward, the potential ability to download the human consciousness or more precisely the means to live “forever” through some technological course. Exhibit 10.1 below illustrates this expectant new age. Pictures of the ENIAC are shown on the left panel, and on the right an artistic piece titled “Amnesia” by Rankuchand (1994). It is almost as if humans are attempting to “enter into” the ENIAC on the left panel, and in “Amnesia” humans have successfully entered their own creation. Of course the title “Amnesia” leads one to think about whether this is really a step forward, or just revisiting a place from whence it all started and whether in actual fact this can be considered progress. One could imagine panels and panels of “Amnesia” side-by-side, stacked one on top of the other, i.e. members of a society occupying manifold times more space than the ENIAC and redefining what is meant by such terms as “technological society” and “global village”.
10.3. Research Scope
10.3.1. Links to Earlier Findings
The strongest links between this thesis and earlier findings are in the field of innovation. Lindley’s (1997), Smart Card Innovation, laid the platform for further study in auto-ID in general. The investigator stated that one of the major limitations in her analysis was the restriction to smart card technology and not other information technologies (Lindley 1997, p. 228). The gap was bridged in this thesis by exploring numerous auto-ID and peripheral technologies. In addition, one of Lindley’s major discoveries was that smart card innovation is an evolutionary process which is aligned to the findings in this thesis (Lindley 1997, pp. 212-218). Nelson and Winter (1982, p. 16) also support this finding for technology in general, as does Sharp (1985, p. 271) who uses high-tech case studies to determine that “the process of change is evolutionary”. In Sahal (1981), Dosi (1982) and von Hippel (1988) the fundamental theoretical linkages on selection environment, patterns of innovation and technological trajectory can be made. Furthermore the use of the systems of innovation (SI) framework has associated this research to numerous technology studies conducted in Europe by the Department of Technology and Social Change at the University of Linköping. Among the most relevant projects to highlight is McKelvey et al.’s (1998) work on the high tech industry of mobile telecommunications. This project especially was precedence for using SI to analyse complex technologies within the same industry. The article by Swartz (1999) on auto-ID technologies, especially his findings on convergence and coexistence frameworks also coincide with the findings of this research. This thesis offers a more detailed analysis testing Swartz’s ideas using an appropriate theoretical framework and methodology. It can be said that the findings complement those of Arthur (1989) and David (1992) who state that the idea that the market just moves from one technology to a superior one is wrong in general. Finally this thesis acts to link the technological trajectory of auto-ID with that of predictive studies in science. Among these are the many works of Cochrane (1999), Kurzweil (1999), Warwick (2000), and numerous others that have been mentioned throughout the main body of the thesis. It is the first time that the connection between chip implants and auto-ID devices has been explored in such an explicit manner.
10.3.2. To Whom Do These Findings Apply?
The findings of this study are relevant to all auto-ID stakeholders but with an emphasis on auto-ID technology providers (i.e. manufacturers) and auto-ID end users (i.e. consumers). Service providers would also appreciate knowing more about the breadth of the auto-ID selection environment and real cases they could investigate further. For the auto-ID manufacturer, perhaps the most important result was gaining a clearer picture of the auto-ID innovation process. Additionally, challenging to technology providers of single auto-ID techniques would have been the notion of the auto-ID TS and model of coexistence of auto-ID devices put forward. End-users would have gained a better overall view of auto-ID; in some instances myths would have been dispelled, and in other instances, developments and future trajectories might have been cause for apprehension. Service providers too, who generally provide the bridge between the technology providers and end-users could have identified new auto-ID market opportunities to enter into and a better understanding of the obstacles required to overcome to guarantee successful application deployment. Among individual groups of people who are likely to benefit from various aspects of the investigation include: engineers, educators, civil libertarians, employees/ employers, investors, politicians, lawyers, legislators, regulators, forecasters, sociologists, psychologists, theologians, ethicists, philosophers, futurists, science fiction writers. The list may look a little too diverse but such was the result of the multidisciplinary approach taken.
The reader should take note of several limitations inherent in this research. First and foremost, the number of auto-ID devices and applications studied were numerous, and in some instances depth was sacrificed in place of breadth. It was seen as a higher priority to investigate a broad range of devices and applications so that trends and patterns could be identified to achieve literal replication as outlined in the case study methodology. Second, the study was purely qualitative and relied greatly on secondary evidence as opposed to primary evidence. The extensive sourcing and referencing of a variety of media, attempted to alleviate the problem of investigator bias by offering a holistic perspective. Third, the systems of innovation (SI) framework, is not yet an established “theory”. One should note that there are a plethora of innovation theories in existence but I deemed this to be the most thorough, proven and well-defined. The important aspect of SI is that it is based on evolutionary theory. As much as possible the rich terms of evolutionary theory were used to describe, explain and explore the auto-ID innovation issues; and the SI framework was used to set the boundaries of research. Fourth, the researcher felt that the multidisciplinary approach used to gather evidence needed to be broad in order to satisfy the call for studies that are not purely technical in nature. Fifth, some may see the link between the auto-ID trajectory and what I have termed electrophoresis to be overdone. I felt compelled to discuss the electrophorus at length, in light of recent developments and to stay true to the predictive element of the investigation. I also believe from the literature reviewed, that many salient questions remain unanswered surrounding the direction of microchip implants.
10.4.1. Further Research
There are a number of avenues for undertaking further research. First, a quantitative study focusing on auto-ID technology providers by device and geographical target market would complement the qualitative case studies in chapters five to seven. The sheer number of firms documented in this thesis is a good starting point for this type of endeavour. Such a study could provide further evidence to support the notion of an auto-ID technology system. Second, since the term innovation encapsulates diffusion, a market sizing for each auto-ID device by industry segment could be derived worldwide, including a five year forecast. This could show the market share between technologies, and support the argument of coexistence rather than the ultimate obsolescence of individual auto-ID devices. Third, a micro study on the dynamics between auto-ID stakeholders in a geographic location cluster, using a questionnaire or interview methodology could identify the flows of interaction between individual stakeholders more clearly than has been represented in this thesis. Fourth, a further exploration into the study of potential human-centric RF/ID implant applications could complement a subsequent deeper investigation into the ethical and moral questions of this type of technology. Fifth, the notion of electrophoresis could be considered in more detail by providing relevant predictive scenarios that could eventuate, if humans were ever to embrace such a technology in the future. Again the multidisciplinary nature of the research and the exhaustive referencing, allows researchers from different disciplines to expand on many different aspects, using this work as a basis to further investigation.
Based on the outcomes of the research, I am putting forward a number of recommendations for immediate action by the relevant entities. It is of particular importance that the holistic perspective be applied to the auto-ID innovation process so that stakeholders are aware of the potential impacts of new technologies before they become widespread. It is especially important that people from the social sciences are not marginalised from the dialogue just because the object of development is a high-tech complex technology. Ethical considerations are important to maintain some sense of balance when considering what should and should not be given entrance into the mainstream. Public policy issues should also be taken more seriously and advocates branded at times as luddites given a fairer opportunity to voice their arguments. In addition laws need to be brought into line with the latest technological developments. At this stage there is a significant discursive lag between auto-ID innovations and adequate laws to cover these innovations in practice. The legal profession needs to address these matters instead of basing their rulings on outdated judgements. Above all increased user participation is required at the earliest possible stage in the auto-ID development process. Education about technologies should happen before widespread introduction, not after the technology has settled on its course. There is also an increasing need to investigate the health risks associated with wireless wearable or implantable devices, the safety of which has always been surrounded by controversy. It is my considered belief that the issues covered in this study are both timely and relevant and that each group of auto-ID stakeholders will take notice of those aspects which specifically concern them.
The idea of the human electrophorus is one that no longer exists in the realm of the impossible. This being the case, the requirement for inclusive dialogue is now, not after widespread diffusion. There are many lessons to be learnt from history, especially from such radical developments as the atomic bomb and the resulting arms race. Bill Joy (2000, p. 11), chief technologist of Sun Microsystems, has raised serious fears about continuing unfettered research into “spiritual machines”. He quotes the following example as evidence.
As the physicist Freeman Dyson later said, “The reason that it was dropped [the atomic bomb] was just that nobody had the courage or the foresight to say no…” It’s important to realise how shocked the physicists were in the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima, on August 6, 1945. They describe a series of waves of emotion: first, a sense of fulfilment that the bomb worked, then the horror at all the people that had been killed, and then a convincing feeling that on no account should another bomb be dropped. Yet of course another bomb was dropped, on Nagasaki, only three days after bombing of Hiroshima (Joy 2000, p. 11).
The question the above extract raises is will humans have the foresight to say “no” or “stop” to new innovations that could potentially be a means to a socially destructive scenario. Or will they continue to make the same mistakes? Implants that may prolong life expectancy by hundreds if not thousands of years might sound ideal but they could well create unforeseen devastation in the form of technological viruses, plagues, a different level of crime and violence. The debate is far too complex to enter into here, it is rather a pressing research topic for another work, but if this thesis has aided to highlight its importance, it has satisfied one of its objectives. Humans may have walked on the moon, and many have dreamed about colonising other planets but an attempt to “live forever” through the use of technology seems oblivious to the facts: that the Sun has a finite lifetime, that the Earth could be wiped out by an asteroid gone astray, or a full-blown nuclear war could break out between the major powers. These are not fatalistic considerations, just simple probability based on scientific fact.
To many scientists of the positivist tradition solely anchored to an empirical world view, the notion of whether something is “right” or “wrong” is redundant and in a way irrelevant. To these individuals a moral stance has little or nothing to do with technological advancement but more with an ideological position. A group of these scientists are driven by an attitude of “let’s see how far we can go”, not “is what we are doing the best thing for humanity”; and certainly not with the thought of “what are the long-term implications of what we are doing here”. The belief is that “science” should not be stopped because it will always make things better. The reality is that it will continue to grow the divide between the “haves” and “have-nots” even wider? Surely there are more immediate issues at hand than downloading our minds onto hardware. I am not referring here to the medical implant breakthroughs that are helping to save lives but to human extensions. Why not ask the question of whether or not we have directed our resources to solving the greater scientific issues facing the world such as sustainable yield for energy resources, rising water temperatures and ozone layer depletion, soil salinity and fresh water shortages? This is not seeking to be idealistic; these are real and compelling issues.
What I am trying to describe here is the importance of social responsibility, not just for engineers or professionals working on complex problems that possess the knowledge but to all humans. “[F]ailure to challenge the ‘technological imperative’ can pose serious social and moral implications, and that good technical argument, as defined by the values of effectiveness and efficiency, can be accessory to moral abominations, such as those of Hitler’s Germany” (Flynn & Ross 2001, p. 208). This is not to say that we are against technological development but wary that not all developments will make things better rather than worse. To an extent it is narrow-sighted to be like the Jacobs family who call the debate surrounding chip implants “hullabaloo”. The family see implants as a “gift” and think it is inconceivable that the technology could be used to “do anything but good” (Associated Press 2002a, p. 2). Perhaps Mr Jacobs has not done enough historical research to consider the possibilities. Cohen and Grace (1994, p. 12) investigated the claims that engineers should not pay attention to social responsibility, concluding finally that social responsibility indeed should be seen as integral to the performance of an engineer and that he or she should not only avoid doing harm but seek opportunities to do good. It seems we are facing an ethical dilemma as a human race, even though the answers to the pressing questions and issues appear seemingly straightforward. What has lead to this analytical displacement? Perhaps it is a preoccupation with short-term “band-aid” solutions rather than taking the longer-term perspective. Whatever it may be, we all need to actively and responsibly consider what these next steps should be, since generations to come will be living with the monumental and irreversible consequences of our decisions.
 “The general process of evolution of a species cannot be optimised. Optimality depends strictly upon problem specification, and the formulation of interactive problems is dependent on the environment” (Goldin & Keil 2001, p. 810).
 See Rosenberg (1994, p. 23) who described the importance of historical analysis in understanding technologies. He pointed out that this type of analysis is not only relevant to historians but to economists and other fields of study.
 See Drangeid (1991, pp. 157-179).
 See Westrum (1991, p. 238).
 See Fielder (1997, p. 120) who discusses Langdon Winner’s Autonomous Technology. See also Kline (1996, p. 2). Berry (1996, p. 4) believes that social behaviour is partially dictated by incremental technological innovations.
 “What does Ethics actually mean? The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘Ethics’ as ‘the science of morals; moral principles or ‘code’ and ‘ethical’ as ‘conforming to a recognised standards’. ‘Moral’ is that concerned with the distinction between right and wrong” (Brennan 1996, p. 1/1). See also X. Wu et al. (2001). “[E]thics has a positive side which describes the human values which help to specify what one should do… what is the ultimate goal of human life or of society and, thus, what are the priorities for the work to be done within the particular activity or profession” (Brown 1998, p. 301).
 For a discussion on managing technological innovation see Twiss (1974) and Lundstedt and Colgazier (1982).
 See Hewitt (1993).
 See Moravec’s idea of doing away with the sarcous (i.e. the body) altogether (Dery 1996, p. 300).
 See also Fixmer (1998, p. 3).
 Some of the findings of the Innovation Systems and European Integration (ISE) studies of which McKelvey’s work belonged to are quite similar to the findings on auto-ID in this thesis. See Edquist et al. (1998) “Findings and Conclusions of ISE Case Studies”.
 See also Cohendet and Llerena (1997, p. 233).
 A university research project under my supervision is currently being conducted on this topic by Amelia Masters (University of Wollongong). See Masters (2003).
 Ellul (1964, p. 99) quotes from a lecture given by Soustelle on the atomic bomb: “[s]ince it was possible, it was necessary”.
 To the “haves” and “have nots”, O’Reilly (1999, pp. 973f) adds the “can-nots”.
 “It has been said that what distinguishes professionals is their possession of “dangerous knowledge.” A physician has the means to cure you or kill you. An engineer can design software that is reliable and promotes your safety, or that is critically flawed and precipitates disaster. To repeat an earlier theme, knowledge is power, and the specialised knowledge possessed by professionals gives them power over our lives. Society is rightly concerned, then, that this power is used properly” (Frankel 1988, p. 199).
 There are “…five circumstances in which the engineer might choose not to hold the health, safety, and welfare of the public paramount: 1) if the engineer believes that the requirement is internally inconsistent, 2) if the engineer’s religious convictions prevent adherence to the requirement, 3) if the engineer believes that the public does not know what is best for it, 4) if the engineer is forced to do otherwise, and 5) if the engineer believes that damage to the environment outweighs short term public interest” (Vesilind 2001, p. 162).