A peek into the not so-distant future
Three women, two younger, and one senior citizen were sitting naked in a sauna. Suddenly, there was a beeping sound. The young woman pressed her forearm and the beep stopped. The others looked at her questioningly. “That was my pager,” she said. “I have a microchip under the skin of my arm. A few minutes later, a phone rang. The second young woman lifted her palm to her ear. When she finished, she explained, “that was my mobile phone. I have a microchip in my hand.”
The older woman felt very low-tech. Not to be outdone, she decided she had to do something just as impressive. She stepped out of the sauna and went to the bathroom. She returned with a piece of toilet paper hanging from her rear end. The two others raised their eyebrows and stared at her.
The older woman exclaimed: “Wow, look at that! I’m getting a fax.”
With the accelerating speed of technology, this story may no longer be a joke. It can be a reality. Who could have foretold about smart phone three decades ago? In the 80’s our security guards, supervisors and managers were tugging bulky radio sets and close their inter-talk with a loud, “Over and out.” When we had a strike, we ordered our security guards and managers left inside the plant to monitor the strikers through large cameras. With the advent of CCTV and the smart phones one can easily monitor the picket line.
The advances of technology ’faster than the speed of light’ could just boggle our imagination. I’m just fascinated by an article in the San Jose Mercury News entitled “Human 2.0” that shows an x-ray picture of a human hand with a chip implanted in it.
The human hand unlocks his car door by passing it by a sensor. Who needs a key that could easily be lost, stolen or duplicated by a thief? Is this a science fiction movie starring Tom Cruise? No, it’s for real. The name of the guy with an implanted bioengineered device is Amal Graasfstra. But it reminds me of a futuristic TV series in the 70s, “Bionic Man” followed by “Bionic Woman” who could run fast like a super human being because of some implanted electronic device.
The article talks about the move in the Silicon Valley and beyond to outfit people with electronic devices that can be swallowed, implanted in their bodies or attached in their skin via “smart tattoos.” This could “revolutionize the health care and change the way people interact with devices and one another,” says the article.
Critics call the trend intrusive and even sacrilegious. But others say it will make life better for everybody. Researchers and executives envision a day when devices placed in people will enable them to control computers, prosthetic devices and many other things solely with their thoughts
Can you imagine that? Some fear that implants might become mandatory for health insurance to monitor a patient’s health 24/7 days a week or monitor what a worker is doing in the absence of his/her supervisor. Google’s Motorola Mobility branch is already toying with the idea of an “electronic skin tattoo” – with a built-in microphone, battery and wireless transceiver – that would let someone operate other devices via voice commands.
Google is also in the thick of research of bioengineered devices. The CEO of this Mountain View search giant was quoted saying, “Eventually, you’ll have an implant, where if you think about a fact, it will just tell you the answer.” Not to be outdone, Finnish phone-maker, Nokia proposed a tattoo that would vibrate when the person gets a phone call or serve as a mobile-device password and attach to the skin with “ferromagnetic powder.” Intel predicts that the gadgets -particularly those providing health care benefits – will become common some day.
There is a downside issue on this trend of bioengineered devices –the intrusion into the privacy of an individual. I could just imagine how the Civil Rights movement and labor trade centers in our country would violently react to these devices. A Cincinnati video surveillance firm is already in hot waters for requiring their employees to have a chip inserted in them.
But the advance of science and technology cannot be stopped. Microchip implants are portents of things to come that would revolutionize our way of life and our way of managing people. For one, it would eliminate more jobs, force management to redesign jobs, restructure the organization, render some managers redundant, and employees’ homes virtual workplaces. At the vortex of this change is the HR, the change agent.
(The author is Chairman of Change Management International, Inc., a management consultancy firm. Past president of PMAP, past president of Society of Fellows in Personnel Management and currently Vice-President of ECOP and Commissioner of the Tripartite Voluntary Arbitration Advisory Council (TVAAC), he is co-author of the book, “Personnel Management in the 21st Century” and author of the book, “Human Resources Management – From the Practitioner’s Point of View.” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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