Got A Chip On Your Shoulder — Literally?

When I wrote about the impending light bulb travesty a while back, I noted how amusing it is to listen to people screaming about their "civil liberties" being taken away by Bush, the NSA, the FBI, Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, etc, etc, when, in fact, virtually none of our civil liberties have been taken away since 9/11.  Yet, in the meantime, a whole bucketload of our real 'liberties' have either been removed, or massively eroded — and nobody says a damn thing.

Consider, just since 9/11:

  • The right for a 6-year-old to draw a stick figure holding a gun now means a school suspension under 'Zero Tolerance'.
  • The right to call a gay or black person any word that could possibly be viewed as derogatory is now (or will be soon) a mandatory prison sentence under 'Hate Crime' laws.
  • The right for a professional comedian to mimic someone else's language is now considered 'racism' by the rules of Political Correctness.
  • The right to judge a political candidate by what they are, as well as what they stand for, is now deemed one of the greatest of crimes by society's dictums.  If you, an average guy from the Midwest don't feel that a female, growing up in the South, going to a radical school like the UC of Berkeley, would adequately represent you, then that's the horrible, unforgivable crime of 'sexism'.  The same twisted logic applies to Obama and so-called "racism" if you dare to take the fact that he grew up hearing about "the white man holding us down" into account.
  • The right for a child to grow up as a child, complete with bumps and bruises and painful lessons, has certainly been lost as bicycling without helmets, dodgeball, tag, jungle gyms, diving boards, and pretty much everything else that could possibly cause an injury has been eliminated from their lives by the nanny-staters and a hungry mob eager to award every injured child millions of dollars in compensation.

And that's just what pops into my head at the moment.

Then we have the light bulbs, which, as the WSJ article points out, is the first time in history that we've been nanny-stated into something unwanted because of a possible effect hundreds of years in the future.  That is to say, global warming.

While the paranoid delusional Lefties are screaming about our so-called "civil liberties" being lost, the real liberty of choice is being stripped from us, and they say not a peep.

Well, to all of you out there constantly worried that our "civil liberties" are being eroded by Bush and his gang of evil henchmen, again you're looking in the wrong direction:

Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future:

— Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items — and, by extension, consumers — wherever they go, from a distance.

— A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them.

— In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets — all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives.

Science fiction?

Nope.  RFID (Radio Frequency IDentification) chips have been pushed for years, and there are already billions of them in circulation.

Your shoe might have one in it.

The article is both extremely sobering and fair and covers all of the bases quite well.  There's no doubt that there are many valuable uses for RFID chips, and considering how much money goes out the back door every year in the way of employee theft, it's hard to blame the manufacturers and retailers for wanting to protect what's theirs.

The biggest problem at the moment is that there's zero government regulation of the industry, so they're free to do whatever they want.  As I said, check your shoes.

If you haven't read the article, you really should.  It also discusses the potential for misuse by nefarious hands, which will inevitably happen.  Imagine a burglar knowing the contents of your car's trunk or suitcase from 20 feet away.  You could program your 'sniffer' to only alert you when it sniffs out a particularly expensive laptop computer or camera, for example.

You want to mug somebody for the cash, but all those businessmen walking by look alike? Just set your sniffer to sniff out the guy with the real expensive RFID-chipped wallet.  Or shoes.  Or even business suit.  Or expensive purse for the ladies.  These people aren't carrying around expensive designer wallets and purses because they don't have anything to put in them.

I see a whole legal cottage industry grow from this, and I'll give you two parallels:

  • Back in the 80's, when everything for the computer (games and programs) arrived on floppy diskette, the disks (especially the games) were often copy-protected by the manufacturers so you couldn't hand out copies of them to your friends.  However, because disk media is so flaky, we were (and are) allowed by Fair Use laws to make one backup copy "for archival purposes only".  Thus, it was perfectly legal to sell programs to break the copy protection.  The one I remember was called "Marauder".  As new games came out with the latest copy protection code, we'd call up the Marauder BBS and download the latest update to crack it, all perfectly legal.
  • Remember 'black boxes' for cable TV? I had one back in the 90's.  The thing is, it was perfectly legal to sell them, buy them and own them — just not legal to use them.  Myself, I, uh, used mine for experimental purposes only.  That is, I just wanted to experiment and see how many stations I could pull in and how long the high quality of the picture could be sustained.  And, when the cable TV companies changed the signal, you could send off to the black box company and get a new chip, again all perfectly legal.

I foresee legal 'sniffers' on the market, and, when Gucci updates their RFID chip, you'll be able to go to the sniffer web site and download the update.  Plug your USB sniffer into the computer and voilà!  You're ready to head to the airport and sniff out the latest good stuff.

You'll be fastening more than just your seat belt, folks.

I found one line from the article of particular interest:

In 2002, Fleishman-Hillard produced another report for the industry that counseled RFID makers to "convey (the) inevitability of technology," and to develop a plan to "neutralize the opposition," by adopting friendlier names for radio tags such as "Bar Code II" and "Green Tag."

Given how the levers activists use to sway public opinion are usually 'green' and 'for the children', I wonder how long it'll be before Wal-Mart or Target claim how the 'Green Tag' in your underwear helps save the environment. 

Wait a sec — a quick scan of Wal-Mart's 'Press Releases' reveals this:

Decaying Underwear Unhealthy for Environment Claims Noted Researcher

BENTONVILLE, AR (AP): In an effort to strip fact from fiction, acclaimed environmental scientist Harlak Jorgenson has shown in laboratory tests that decaying underwear emits measurable amounts of carbon dioxide, a known contributor to global warming.

"It's small when measured on a garment-by-garment basis," he said, "but it all adds up.  What's incremental now means a premature death for your great-grandchildren if the earth continues to warm as it has."

Independent investigation by J.F. Hutchins Laboratories, conveniently located in the same building as Mr. Jorgenson, confirmed his findings.  Mr. John Hutchins, president, owner and CEO of Hutchins Laboratories, Inc., stated unequivocally, "There's no question decaying underwear creates toxic gases, and the longer one waits, the more damage one is doing to the planet."

One company that's doing something about the problem is Wal-Mart.  The new Green Tags currently being introduced in the Wal-Mart clothing line will carry a number of modern benefits:

— As shoplifting and employee theft is virtually eliminated, expect dramatically lower prices as a result.

— When your old undergarment becomes a danger to both yourself and the environment, the friendly Green Tag will automatically let Wal-Mart personnel know, who in turn will notify you of the danger either by phone or email.

— If you haven't opted out of their new Green Tag AutoCharge Plan™, new underwear will immediately be shipped to you without the bother of having to visit the store.

— And, most importantly, should anyone ever steal your Wal-Mart underwear, the helpful Green Tag will spring to the rescue and notify authorities as to the exact GPS location of the perpetrator.

Target, K-Mart, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Home Depot, Lowe's Hardware and other major retailers plan on following Wal-Mart's lead by the end of the year.

"We care about the planet, too," said Michelle Lithgowe, public spokesperson for Bed Bath & Beyond.  "We're doing it for the children."

I see.

Exit question:

Over the past century, there have been many futuristic novels that warned of the dangers technology poses, and especially its misuse by the government.

And, while it was a fun, interesting topic to write about, and it was certainly a good thing to help keep people aware, the question is, how many of those who wrote about the government keeping track of every single individual actually thought that their futuristic nightmare scenario would turn out to be real?