Replacing the Umbilical Cord with a Digital One

Written by Lubna Dajani

12 Aug 2022

"From May 2014, throughout Europe, every unborn child will be obliged to receive a subcutaneous RFID chip. We will provide the chip in question with an information sheet on the newborn. This chip will also contain a powerful GPS sensor.”

When this circulated on social media in late 2013, it triggered a harsh emotional reaction, even though no reports confirmed these claims in any credible news publication. Still, if the date changed from May 2014 to May 2023, would it have generated outrage or even disbelief among us? Probably not; in fact, it is not such a farfetched idea. Today, most parents give their schoolchildren mobile phones to access them and know their whereabouts. In 1998, Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University outside of London, implanted a chip into his arm to experiment to see if Warwick’s computer could wirelessly track his whereabouts within the university’s building. Last week, I had a chip implanted in my dog, Parker, in the event she gets lost (which, of course, will never happen).

Today, the concept of chip-enhanced people is being brought into the everyday world. For example, experiments are being conducted with similar microchips that can be encoded with bits of information and implanted in humans under a layer of skin. When scanned by a nearby handheld reader, the embedded chip yields data, for example, an ID number, that links to a computer database file containing more detailed information. Another example is pill-shaped chipsets that, once swallowed by a patient, can transmit data and images from within to diagnose and treat diseases.

Such vast amounts of health-related data can significantly advance medical science while improving the quality of life. The challenge here will be to balance harvesting knowledge and ensuring patient privacy and anonymity. In this case, access to our data, and medical records, is at the patient’s discretion and not used as a means to judge or discriminate.

As a rule, inclusion should be at the forefront of all technological advances, and as innovative women, we should take the lead in shaping the world.