We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Sergeant Stinger reporting for duty

The U.S. Army is using smart tag-equipped bees to detect landmines, the Financial Times reported recently. Bees have a liking for the explosive TNT. Smart tagged bees, returning to the hive, land on special mats that can detect TNT and identify individual bees. The direction of a bee’s flight and its flight time are used to calculate the approximate position of any landmines. I’m assuming these are surface mount Claymore style mines, not the buried kind. Even so, the application of the technology is astonishing!

Smart tags are radio wave emitters. They come in all shapes of tiny sizes and in a wide variety of frequencies with a range of a few millimeters up to several kilometers. They are similar to the anti-theft tags common in many retail stores, but they have the added ability of also sending data. Smart tags can be built or embedded in anything. With the advent of polymer electronics (plastic microchips), they may one day replace the ubiquitous barcode.

Meanwhile, look for them to turn up in ever-widening circles. Benefits will be as enormous as the potential for abuse. Security and anti-counterfeiting are the two most obvious applications. Governments are especially interested in the movement of money. That metal detector you walk through on your next trip may soon also report just how much cash you’re carrying, right down to the denominations and serial numbers. Got a nest egg squirreled away at home for unforeseen circumstances? With embedded chips, would-be thieves (government sponsored or private entrepreneurs) could drive by outside and use their receiver to count up how much you have and get a good guess about where you’ve hidden it.

Warehousing and inventory is another area to benefit from smart tagging. Parts for everything from toasters to tanks will have embedded chips. After the finished item leaves the factory, the combination of tags will produce a unique radio frequency fingerprint like a remotely accessed serial number.

How about food that tells you when it’s spoiled, makes preparation suggestions, or even programs the microwave? When tagging gets commonplace, we will soon be able to know from afar if that really is a pickle in your pocket.

Personal convenience could also be greatly enhanced. A door could open or your car could start up as you approach. Subway and underground turnstiles could let you pass as long as the card tucked in your wallet is up to date. You can know where your children are at all times. Where they are, whom they are with, what toys they are using, and even what they are eating.

Think about it. The ability to remotely track anything or anyone at anytime and anywhere. A parent’s’ – or secret policeman’s – dream come true.

The widespread use of smart tags will lead to a much more open society. Open in terms of knowing who is going where with what or whom. Personal privacy will become a question of how many counter-measures you can afford, but individuals paying for the privacy will be regarded with suspicion. Intrusive governments and envious neighbors will especially want to know, “What are you trying to hide?”

Hmmm. Come to think of it, it’s not too much different today, is it?

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