Asla already had the chip in their hand.
The slim surgical glass tube (a grain of rice is the most commonly used reference to scale although this is a generous comparison) had been nestled in the elastic webbing between their thumb and palm for almost three years now. The method of acquiring it seemed—in retrospect—surprisingly reasonably crude: a large syringe, that was wielded more like a piercing gun, was preloaded with the implant, their hand was placed on a nondescript laminate table top and then sharp end of the syringe was pushed in just under the skin (somewhere around where the Stratum Granulosum is found to be more precise—Asla knew this because they had stared through the layers of epidermis at the cylindrical object in their hand, gripping it and pushing it closer to the surface many times).
The chip contained inside the glass tube was the object closest to the size of a grain of rice. At the time Asla had their implant the largest amount of memory available was around 1KB. Of course this has increased exponentially over the short amount of time since. Still, 1KB was enough to house the amount of NFC (Near Field Communication) technology required to trigger various card readers without the chip needing it’s own isolated power source. Asla had noticed, not without some repressed envy, that many recent chips now allowed for tiny LEDs to be triggered, transferring just enough charge from the reader to the chip to power them. This created the neat effect of having a tiny spot in your hand glow when the chip was ‘transacted’ with.
What Asla boasted about these days was who had installed the chip at the time. They had been following Swedish entrepreneur Jowan Österlund for a few years previous to their encounter. There had been glimpses of him through enthusiastic crowds at various tech events (Asla’s own company, which they helped set up directly after university, were pioneers within the field of frictionless feedback, which initially involved the promotion and installation of digital screens at the end of checkouts that asked customers to rate their experience from a scale of yellow happy ‘smiley face’ to red angry ‘frown-y face’). Jowan was/is a confirmed member of body modification industry (tattoos and piercings mainly) and wore the marks of his trade literally albeit increasingly often hidden under a crisp white polo shirt. It was his interest in sub dermal modification that lead him down the path of the commercialising of this gentle hybridisation of human and human technology—the least dystopian melding of soft gooey insides with harsh, hard wearing machine shaped outsides.
It was this via this thought through which Asla recalled a tatty monotone A4 flyer that was ripped from a street lamp back in the days when they would roam city centres, with student friends, hopping between escape rooms and ‘geek’ bars aimed at students who felt guilty going anywhere that didn’t label itself as vaguely educational. The flyer read ‘Cyber Data Manifesto’ across the top. The design of the text, which filled the page, sort to embody the faxed and re-faxed, photocopied and recopied machine-fetishing aesthetic of an era on the brink of recognising the internet. If Asla could place it historically they would guess mid 90s, around the time of the ‘death (mainstreaming) of rave’ culture. It was an era they were interested in hence the ripping of the flyer. Further research traced back to Troy Innocent, an artist at the forefront of digital imagery at the time. In it he advocates (how ever seriously) for the ‘rejection of the meat of our bodies’ and the ‘uploading’ of our entire selves. Asla was charmed by the naivety of the statements and warmed by such a complete vision of a future vision that stubbornly failed to manifest in the way it was once described.
After all the body was the material. Upgrades needn't be so dramatic (or as exciting or horrific as was once portrayed via films such as Hardware and the Tetsuo series). Asla thought about how easy it would be to increase (upgrade) the amount of data they could carry within their hand by comparison. Since the splintering of systems of border controls between authoritative and territorial bodies and private enterprise the passport had been manoeuvred into different shapes and forms. The more inconspicuous the wider range of access you had. Wealth had aligned with invisibility.
Only those on a basic income carried physical pass 'book’s. They queued. If you had enough cash and the will to afford a fast track passport card or app you could achieve frictionless travel. Borders melted away… in theory. It occurred to Asla that implanting their passport into their hand might be a way to pioneer this type of access (and bypass the variety of often extortionate fees attached to this new type of access). Asla made a mental note to do a search for implant companies expanding into this field… and also what was the smallest size LEDs could go down to now. ●
🄯 Michael Bojkowski, 2019
Birth Control Subdermal implant / Credit: Getty. / Source: cosmo.ph
‘Erik Frisk, a Web developer and designer, uses his implanted chip to unlock his office door in Stockholm’. / Credit: Maddy Savage. Source: NPR.
Cyber Dada Manifesto c.1990. / Credit: Innocent, Troy. / Source: V&A Image collection
Albert Heijn cashier-less store / Credit: AH. / Source: retailcustomerexperience.com