DYI Cyborgs – the Grinder CommunityImplantable technologies and bodymodificationAbstractImplantable technologies are gainingpopularity. This paper aims to provide a brief insight into thehistory of implantables and the emergence of the so called Grindercommunity. I’ve reviewed some of the devices avaliable today, theirimpact on society and how they might revolutionise smart technologiesas we know them.1. Brief history and notable personsImplantable medical devices such ascochlear implants and real-time blood pressure sensors have beenaround since the first pacemaker implant in 19581, non-medical useis still relatively new, and has only gained traction in the past fewdecades.
Most of the emerging applications use radio-frequencyidentification (RFID) tags for conrol and convenience.1.1 Professor Kevin WarwickIn 1998 Professor Kevin Warwick becamethe first recorded human to be implanted with an RFID device. Usingthe transponder, he was able to interact with the ‘intelligent’building that he worked in. Doors automatically opened, lightsactivated when he entered a room and upon sensing his presence hiscomputer greeted him. Warwick’s ‘Project Cyborg 1.
0′ experimentshowed enormous promise for humancentric convenience applications ofRFID. 2 From that moment on, Warwick embarked on a research projectthat he hoped would lead to successful communication between humannervous systems and computers providing applications toward medicalcures 3. Warwick’s background in telecomminications also had aprofound influence on the reason why he implanted microchips into hisbody: “I am historically from the communications field… For me,it was the possibility of opening up a new communication channel”4.
His research is also helping patients diagnosed with certainillnesses. There is a number of neural microchip implants developedby Warwick providing benefits for spinal injury 5, epilepsyandParkinson’s disease sufferers, as well as a wide range of otherterminal disease sufferers 6. By experimenting with microchipimplants in his own body, Warwick is able to develop applications forothers.1.2 Amal Graafstra Amal Graafstra of Bellingham,Washington, is theowner of several technology and mobilecommunications companies, including an online biohacking store heopened in 2013. He became interested in technology and the mechanicsof how computers worked. His tech-savy nature combined with theobservations he made from RFID tags implanted in pets were thestimuli that inspired Graafstra to introduce RFID implants into hisown life.
7 He has simplified the process of hacking the body byselling kits packed with the necessary supplies so that anyone canembed technology into their flesh. He’s selling implantable devicesincluding near-field communication (NFC) chips, radio-frequencyidentification chips (RFID), biomagnets, and other materials topeople who want to “upgrade their body” to be more connected tothe devices around them for easier accessibility. 8 To date,Dangerous Things has sold several thousand implants and the clientbase has expanded to a much more diverse group of people. He believesthat “The body isn’t this spiritual, sacred, mysterious vesselanymore. And like with anything when you remove the mystery and youlook at the truth of the matter, it kind of becomes less romantic andmore utarian.” 81.3 VeriChip – The first commercialimplantable RFIDThe VeriChip Corporation in the United States wasestablished soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist strike.
Onthe 11th of May 2002, the Jacobs family volunteered to be the firstconsumers to undergothe chipping procedure which was broadcast liveon American television. VeriChip then chose to implant some highprofile people, including Mr Rafael Macedo de la Concha (Mexico’sAttorney General) and a number of his staff citing security purposes.In 2004 and 2006, Baja Beach Club and Citywatcher.com respectively,were engaged in human implantable programs on their company premises.9When VeriChip first launched theirproduct range, they had four cornerstone application contexts: (1)VeriPay, (2) VeriMed, (3) VeriGuard, and (4) Corrections. The VeriPaysystem allowed end-users the capability to perform cash and credittransactions with the embedded implant. VeriMed was a user-drivenhealthcare information portal whereby consumers (i.e.
patients) couldmaintain their own personal health record (PHR) online. Hospitalstaff and emergency services personnel could then access thatinformation to get patient history, as well as allergic reactions todrugs and more. The VeriGuard application was considered to beversatile secure access technology which let in authorized personsand blocked out unauthorized persons. Finally, VeriChip’s’Corrections’ product had to do with chipping people who hadcommitted a crime, were on parole or probation, or were awaitingtrial. According to VeriChip about 2,000 persons had been implantedworldwideby the end of 2008. 92. Effects on societyAs we can see from the above examples,the application of implantable technology ranges from academicresearch through a hobby to commercial uses.
As it’s becoming morepopular, it also raises more and more questions and issues.2.1 Conspiracy theoriesAs with all conspiracies, there arevariations on the theory and they vary in extremeness but the mainclaim is that governments will eventually force everyone to getimplanted, either by phasing out cash so the only way to buy anythingwill be with an implant that also functions as an ID, or secretlyimplanting people through vaccination programmes.
Then the governmentwill use the implants to constantly monitor our every move, like inan Orwellian nightmare. The most extreme claim ties in with religiousconspiracy theories and deem the implants the Mark of the Beast asreferred to in the Book of Revelation. 10 Even less exteme sources seem tobelieve that the implants mihgt be used for some form of tracking.These fears can be dismissed immediately as tracking is simply notpossible with this technology, as the passive RFID tags don’t havetheir own energy sourse, they collect energy from a nearby reader’sinterrogating radio waves, which makes constant tracking impossible.