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‘Body Hacking’ Movement Rises Ahead Of Moral Answers


A curious crowd lingered around Amal Graafstra as he carefully unpacked a pair of gloves, a small sterile blanket and a huge needle. A long line of people were waiting to get tiny computer chips implanted into their hands.

Graafstra had set up shop in a booth in the middle of an exhibit hall at the Austin Convention Center in Texas’ capital, where he gathered last month with several hundred others who call themselves “body hackers” — people who push the boundaries of implantable technology to improve the human body.

The movement evokes visceral reactions, brings up safety and ethical concerns and quickly veers into sci-fi questions about the line between human and cyborg.

Graafstra is a pioneer in the space. Using his own body to experiment, he designed bio-safe magnets and the microchip he was about to implant into the hand of A.J. Butt, who was sporting a tall, blue mohawk

The implantable RFID chips hold encrypted information, and their unique ID numbers can be used to open doors or unlock the owner’s smartphone, which is what Butt wanted to do.

Butt took a deep breath. The needle plunged into his skin at the base of his thumb, and a chip bigger than a grain of rice slipped just below the surface.

Across the way, Sasha Rose, who was working a meditation booth at the convention, watched the people line up to be “chipped.”

She shook her head: This was the craziest thing she had seen. She wondered about Graafstra’s credentials. She thought this was a medical procedure, so should he be performing it? Did his clients know the potential consequences of carrying personal information on a device inside their skin?


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