Microchips may soon administer medicine

MATTHEW SANTIAGO
STAFF WRITER

As the technology of the modern era continues to rapidly evolve, so does the potential for researchers to improve medical treatments for patients. Scientists such as Robert Langer, a cofounder of the MicroCHIPS company, envision a future world where medication can be administered by implanted microchips rather than traditional pills or injections. Langer has been progressively looking into the possibility of loading drugs onto a chip, which can then be remotely controlled by doctors to manage their patients’ daily medication intake, since the 1990s. This could decrease the possibility of patients developing medical issues because of overdosing on drugs or neglecting their daily prescriptions. MicroCHIPS researchers successfully showed in 2012 that their technology could be implanted into osteoporosis patients to safely provide them with their daily drug dosages. Heralding this technology as the greatest medicine delivery method since the tablet pill, CEO Bradley Paddock plans to put these microchips on the market by 2017. If this ambitious vision for the future of healthcare comes to fruition, the company could further push modern society into a world dominated by microchip technology.

Though the idea of administering drugs with microchips may be rather new, the practice of implanting microchips certainly is not. Many researchers have recognized the potential in producing embeddable microchips that can improve the daily life of the common consumer. These specialized microchips use a wireless technology known as RFID, or radio frequency identification. RFID technology carries a unique identification code and transmits stored information via a radio antennae. Anything imbedded with this technology can be recognized by compatible reading devices, and a computer system can then utilize the code or information for various purposes.

Some companies use this technology to simply keep track of their products as they are made at their factories and shipped to stores. Pet owners and farms have found it useful to implant their animals with this technology, making it very easy to find them when they become lost. Other companies use RFID technology implanted keep cards for added convenience. Establishments have found that security cards with RFID microchips are much quicker to use than cards with a magnetic strip that must be swiped. Credit card companies foresee a future when all their cards have RFID microchips, making cashless payment more efficient than ever. The market for RFID technology is rapidly expanding, and analysts are forecasting the market value to be worth $30 billion by 2024. If the market continues to expand at its current rate, RFID technology has the potential to drastically change the way future generations will operate on a daily basis.

Though microchip technology already holds a lot of promise, its potential truly expands when considering the benefits of implanting microchips into human beings. Devices that utilize the benefits of RFID microchips can increase in efficiency; however, implanting humans with the same chips can eliminate the need to even carry these products around at all. Researchers imagine a future when one chip inserted into the arm can hold all the information unique to the user, including credit card information, medical records and personal identification. Instead of needing a security card to get into a building, members with microchip implants could simply walk past a scanner. Instead of swiping credit cards at department stores, customers could just swipe their wrists at the cash register. In a world where everyone has a microchip implant, patients visiting a hospital would always be carrying their medical history. Visitors at an airport, bar or government agency would always have their identification. Since RFID chips can be tracked, kidnapped children or criminals could always be located by latitude and longitude. Projects such as the medicine-administering chips being designed prove that there is unlimited potential in the utilization of human microchip implantation.

RFID technology can change the world as we currently know it, but fully implementing it into society requires a thorough evaluation of the inevitable health and ethical issues. Studies on animals have already suggested that implanting microchips into organisms has the potential to promote cancer. When the public was made aware of the health risks tied to chip implants back in 2007, the production of human microchip implants faced heavy opposition. Verichip, a product of Applied Digital Services and once the only FDA- approved microchip implant, became discontinued in 2010 because of this negative reaction and will not be returning until 2025.

Though health concerns are certainly a hindrance to the progress of this technology, the risk to privacy has become the major topic of concern with microchip implants. It may be convenient to place a chip in every human being, yet such a world would mean that every human being can be tracked, monitored and infiltrated for personal information. It could certainly be possible for criminals to steal all of a person’s information simply by surgically removing or hacking his or her chip. This could add a new layer to the identity theft scare currently in the spotlight. In the midst of concerns with government surveillance, many fear that microchip implants would give the government the ability to monitor every aspect of its citizens’ daily lives.

If microchip implants were to ever become a legal requirement, skeptics fear the government would become an oppressive, omnipotent presence. Religious believers also claim that RFID chips may possibly be the “mark of the beast” foretold by the Bible. Revelations foreshadowed a future when all people must be marked in order to buy or sell products. Many Christians believe this prophecy will come true if the government ever enforces chip implants onto the public.

Considering the many ways it can drastically impact society, it is safe to say that human microchip implantation has the potential to evolve the role of technology in the modern era. Technology in general has been rapidly advancing to become a presence in every aspect of human life.

The world today has become so tied down to consumer devices that technology has practically become a part of us. Yet human microchips are not simply new consumer devices. This marriage between organisms and technology can potentially be a divorce from the original understanding of the human experience. As the world continues to engage in the advancement of the technological age, we must propose an evaluation of what is truly worth sacrificing for the sake of progress.

Contact the writer:
matthew.santiago@scranton.edu

One Response to Microchips may soon administer medicine

  1. Matthew Cocking Reply

    March 10, 2015 at 9:44 am

    My personal view on this is that the dangers are much better than the potential uses. For example, what if a microchip malfunctions and administers an incorrect medication for an ailment that doesn’t exist? Computers have always had their “problems”, however in this situation, we couldn’t really afford for there to be any problems. There would at least be a need for largely extended periods of testing before something like this could even be considered. And besides, whats wrong with a good old fashioned supplement

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *