Microchip implants get under his skin

I have a wallet full of department store, gas station and restaurant loyalty program cards. Some I use on a nearly daily basis. Sheetz, Giant Eagle, Panera Bread, and others get frequent swipes.

The others? Not so much.

In fact, I have a stack of loyalty cards saved in a plastic container, tucked away in the family junk drawer, because I foolishly think I’ll start frequenting those businesses some day.

When a cashier says, “Hey, if you join our loyalty program, you can get 20-percent off your purchase today. And it’s free,” I’m usually game.

Okay, I get it. It’s their job to get me to sign up. And okay, the loyalty program is not technically free. I’m paying for those benefits with my data and info on my purchasing behaviors.

Obviously I have no major hang-ups with loyalty programs or giving them my data in order to tailor shopping and dining experiences to my tastes. I am, after all, the stereotypical middle-aged Dad who likes his grocery discounts, free restaurant appetizers, and fuel perks.

But being connected to my favorite businesses is important to me, too – businesses that serve my needs and that want to have a relationship with me through these programs.

I just wish it didn’t involve so many darn cards.

So, it was with both excitement and utter terror this week when reports surfaced of Sweden’s new human microchip implant initiative.

Thousands of Swedes agreed to be “chipped,” a process that includes injecting a tiny microchip under the skin to be used in place of credit cards, workplace IDs, gym memberships, and those pesky loyalty cards.

Conspiracy theorists have taken to the streets (and message boards) to protest chipping and offer end-of-days warnings. Futurists and technophiles have, for the most part, offered a few cautions while also praising the possibilities for implementing this technology.

It’s safe to say I fall somewhere in between those favoring the new tech and those scared to death of it.

Chip implants are actually old news for the Swedes. They’ve been at it since 2015. What’s new in this iteration is the level of information that can be stored on a chip. Also, aside from New World Order fears are more pressing matters, such as privacy and security (e.g., hacking an chip), though it seems for the time-being some are willing to ignore these issues in trade for convenience.

This begs the question for Swedes and others welcoming a future of wrist or hand or, dare I say, forehead scanning: how much are we willing to sacrifice for access to cheap food, clothes, and gas?

Convenience is a factor when embracing or rejecting chip implants. Injecting a chip under our skin may come with a price most aren’t willing to pay, even if it means missing out on a few restaurant discounts.

Adam Earnheardt is chair of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn and on his blog at www.adamearn.com.

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