Chips Under The Skin – "Convenient" But Not Wise

Melbourne, Australia: 26 May 2015 – The relative willingness of Australians to accept subcutaneous microchips potentially raises more problems than it solves, on the ethics, privacy and mental health fronts, according to Social Futurist Mal Fletcher.

In a paper published today by the London-based international think tank 2020Plus, Fletcher argues that the introduction of under-the-skin payment devices, suggested by a new Visa study, raises the possibility of bio-hacking and will likely boost the problem of digital debt.

Meanwhile, concerns regarding privacy, recently exacerbated by stories about government surveillance and potential abuses of Big Data analytics, will likely increase as we merge physiology with technology to produce android-like conditions.

“Big Data provides too many benefits for us to attempt to turn back the clock,” says Fletcher. “However, any programmable device is potentially hackable and the hacking of biochips would render personal privacy even less intrusion-proof.” 

“Commercially-oriented chip implants also raise questions relating to digital debt,” he adds. “The uncoupling of spending from the weightiness of physical cash has doubtless played a key role in boosting personal debt.”

“The ones and zeroes of binary code have no substance at all. Implanted chips will continue to erode the link in human consciousness between spending and real-world value.”

Companies like Visa, he argues, have little interest in this problem. There are real benefits for them in divorcing the act of a consumer’s spending from any process of forethought.

He also cites studies linking “digital dementia” to our growing reliance on technologies as extensions of the human frame.

Mal Fletcher asks, “Will conditions we now associate with dementia, such as the loss of short-term memory and numeracy skills and feelings of confusion, become normal cognitive function as we increasingly cede areas of our thinking to machines?”

Already, British children as young as five are exhibiting borderline autism-like symptoms. They are unable to read the subtle facial signals in normal human conversation because of their engagement with digital screens.

The answer is not in taking a luddite approach or attempting to turn back the clock. Digital technologies have brought and will bring enormous benefits to the human experience.

“The potential benefits of digital technologies should not,” Fletcher concludes, “make us oblivious to the potential pitfalls associated with making devices an extension – or an integral part – of the human frame”.

For interviews or further information contact Mal Fletcher at +61(0)432 625 994 or by email at


Mal Fletcher, a Social Commentator, leads the 2020Plus Think Tank based in London. Originally from Australia, he is a regular commentator for the BBC and other media outlets and is a widely published author, having researched social trends for two decades. He is currently visiting Australia as an invited keynote speaker for several conferences and events.

To read the full article, Chips Under The Skin - "Convenient" But Not Wise,

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