There is a fast-growing movement that you might not have heard of before, but it’s raising eyebrows across the world. It’s called “body hacking” or “biohacking” and yes, it’s pretty much what it sounds like. Body hackers, who sometimes call themselves “transhumanists” are hoping to augment their normal human bodies with futuristic technology in an attempt to enhance their own mental and physical abilities.
It’s all very Six Million Dollar Man and very creepy, but for some reason, the body hacking community is growing in popularity. It raises a lot of questions that don’t have any definite answers. Body hacking falls into a weird grey area of morality and privacy issues.
A recent episode of a show called Dark Net explores the strange world of biohacking, focusing on one man who lost an eye in an accident and decided to replace it with a camera. Another subject on the show got an RFID chip implanted under her skin to easily store all of her personal information in one place.
Having a camera attached to your face is, on the surface, a clear violation of other people’s’ privacy. Remember when Google Glass was introduced and everyone freaked out about the idea of people walking around quietly taking videos and pictures without you ever noticing?
Privacy concerns, among other issues, effectively shut down that project without another word. Wearing cameras on or in your body definitely seems to cross the line of privacy invasion when you’re filming or photographing people without permission. But if you think about it, practically everyone has a cell phone capable of quietly filming you anytime. Any public street or parking lot or building you enter is almost definitely filming you without asking you sign a waiver first. We already live under near-constant surveillance. Maybe this isn’t any different. Although I certainly wouldn’t want my private one-on-one conversations with anyone being filmed without my knowledge.
Wearing an RFID chip inside your body presents a whole other privacy issue, this time for the person with the implant. If you’ve got all your personal information stored there, anyone who can get their hands on a chip reader can steal everything without even getting that close to you. Not to mention the usual paranoia humans have always had about the government being able to track their every move. Of course, the government already can sort of do that. Every time you use your mobile phone or swipe a credit card or scan your passport (which has an RFID chip), the government knows where you are already. Perhaps some transhumanists don’t see a difference or are simply more concerned with convenience than privacy.
In some way, the whole biohacking movement seems enticing. Imagine being able to improve upon your own basic human abilities and turn yourself into a sort of cyberpunk Inspector Gadget. You wouldn’t need to use a phone or a camera or a computer or a credit card, because your own body would be able to perform all of those functions on its own. You could enhance your vision, your sight, hearing, athletic performance, the possibilities are endless.
But anything that sounds too good to be true almost always is.
Messing around with nature never ends well. Anyone that’s ever explored the realm of dystopian fiction like “Brave New World” or “RoboCop” knows that the consequences of artificial human enhancement can be terrifying, and it’s never good when the lines between humans and machines blur. Forward-thinking writers have been warning us for literally centuries about this kind of thing. The introduction of real-life cyborgs into our world could have some pretty f***ed up consequences for society later down the line.
As fun and exciting as these bodily enhancements sound, it’s verging on really disturbing territory. If the body hacking movement continues to gain popularity, we can expect to be hearing a lot more arguments about the legal and moral implications of such things. For now, it’s one of those things that is neat in theory but terrible in practice.
Before you jump at the first opportunity to get your own eyeball camera or bionic hand or Iron Man heart, think about how much you value your own personal privacy and your human identity. Are you willing to compromise who you are and how you live to have some cool gadget attached to you forever?