Thursday, June 23, 2011

Of Cyanide and Silicon

This video is stunning.

A couple of years ago, there was a Saudi inventor who tried to patent a microchip in Germany that could be used to track criminals via GPS. That, in of itself, is not necessarily a new concept. This device, however, would also contain a dose of cyanide that could be triggered remotely.

Several questions spring to mind.

If patented and produced somewhere else (which just might happen), who would define who gets such a chip? Secondly, would a chip actually stop that person from committing a crime? Third, who makes the call on when it's time to press the button and terminate the person?

In a way, you could call this a sort of "kill switch" for criminal behavior, although usually a kill switch is meant to save someone's life from death or injury, not take it away.

Another question that comes to mind is what if an innocent person is incarcerated, given such a chip, then set free? What if there is some administrative mistake and they get taken out? Sure, those types of issues may represent a minority of the problems that could arise, but nonetheless they would exist...and that is not something I'm seeing being addressed anywhere.

Ultimately, though, it is alarming that someone came up with the idea in the first place. Also, in the patent application, the list of possible uses was rather broad (criminals, fugitives, political opponents, etc.). That is one very slippery slope of possible recipients.

And as I've stated before, there are usually two sides to every new piece of technology. This one, however, seems quite dark on both sides of the equation.

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