Over the next five to 10 years, perhaps even sooner, it is possible that the next major political battle that is going to hit the scene is going to be one that previously was only thought to exist in science fiction: microchipping human beings.

Don't laugh, it's already happening. At the end of last month, several major news outlets began reporting about a Wisconsin vending company that had some 40 employees voluntarily be "chipped" with a Radio Frequency Identifier, or RFID, about the size of a grain of rice embedded in their hands between the thumb and forefinger.


The chip, said Three Square Market officials, replaces company badges that allow access to buildings, log-ins to company computers and paying for snacks from break room vending machines — the latter a sort of beta test of the company's products. It does not include a GPS, company leaders told the media outlets and, in fact, the president of Three Square Market told them anyone concerned about Big Brother monitoring your movements and activities should probably "take your cellphone and throw it away."

Carter: What's an xennial? Me, apparently

For years, I've suffered from a case of identity crisis when talkin' 'bout my g-g-g-generation.

Response to this story on social media outlets has unsurprisingly polarized, from those who seem ready to embrace the idea and its potential societal benefits as the next wave of the future to others referring to human microchipping as the mark of the beast prophesied in the New Testament's Book of Revelation as a sign of the End of Days.

Count me among those who aren't readying for the Apocalypse just yet, but who is also a little freaked out by the concept of being embedded with a microchip. Honestly, I thought it was kind of weird when we had it done to our dog some nine years ago, but I do see some potential benefits. (And honestly, the idea of not having to remember 47 unique passwords each including upper and lowercase characters, a number and a special symbol all different from the one I used three months ago might be enough for me.)

It's not hard to envision a world where, within a generation or so, voluntary microchipping at birth will become a standard practice. Trust me, it's coming that quickly. But not without a political fight. In fact, that's already happening too.

Back in February, a Las Vegas Republican named Becky Harris submitted a bill in the Nevada state senate to outlaw forced microchipping of humans, making it a felony, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The article noted that the legislation mirrored laws already passed in a few other states, including California, Oklahoma, North Dakota and, perhaps ironically, Wisconsin, where the vending company voluntarily embedding employees is located.

The Nevada bill died in committee. Maryland has no such law on the books at the moment. That is likely, in part, because lawmakers don't think it's a problem. And, quite honestly, it isn't — yet. Wait until it does become a problem, as government is wont to do, and it might be too late.

Everyone, I think, can agree that forcing people to have a microchip — or anything else — implanted inside them is a horrible idea and likely unconstitutional.

Carter: Forget something? It might be a good thing

Do you ever find yourself reminiscing with friends about past experiences, only for them to remember it far more specifically than you? Ever play a trivia game

But there are some practical merits to certain people being chipped either with RFID devices like the ones in Wisconsin or more sophisticated GPS chips. Much like pets, I can immediately think of three situations where a human might go missing and having an embedded microchip to track them down would be useful — children, the elderly and prisoners.

How often to be hear about Amber and Silver alerts when a child disappears or a senior with dementia wanders off? Chips embedded in these individuals could make them easier to find and return them home safely. Likewise, the public safety risk could be reduced if certain felons were embedded with these chips. A chip could alert the authorities if a prisoner escapes from jail or a registered sex offender starts wandering toward a school, playground or a victim's home.

Beyond the slew of ethical questions that might come with microchipping the young and the elderly unable to make decisions for themselves, not to mention people who might be wrongly convicted, but chip these individuals and suddenly the slope gets awfully slippery. Liz McIntyre, who wrote "SpyChips," in 2005, told conservative blog site WorldNetDaily that "it's human nature to see how something works in one segment of society and want to extend it to others."

Which begs the question — how soon before more and more companies starting asking employees to be voluntarily microchipped like Three Square Market, and before the pressure is ratcheted up to the point that volunteering essentially becomes mandatory? The answer: Probably sooner than you think.

Wayne Carter is the editor of the Carroll County Times. Reach him at wayne.carter@carrollcountytimes.com.