Ocean City Today

A ghost in the machine

By Stewart Dobson | Apr 13, 2017



printed 04/14/2017


Ever since Keanu Reeves had a computer chip implanted in his head in the 1995 action movie, “Johnny Mnemonic,” I have wondered about two things: One, did someone put a chip in my head and not tell me? Two, what kind of last name is Mnemonic anyway?

Does Johnny introduce himself by saying, “Hi, I’m Johnny Mnemonic, you know, of the Boston Mnemonics? Old family, came over on the Mnayflower.”

As we all know (after we look it up), a “mnemonic” is a device that aids memory and, in Johnny’s case, it’s a chip carrying some nasty information that he must download in 48 hours or his head will explode, a possibility that could create more than one problem.

“Hi, Johnny Mnemonic, here. I’d like to buy a hat.”

“What size?”

“It depends.”

But I digress. The thing is, this is no longer science fiction. So far, a company in Belgium has sold 10,000 hand chip implants that eliminate the need for car keys, house keys, work keys, credit cards and even offers health monitoring.

“It makes life simpler,” many chip recipients say. They can simply wave a hand and start the car or open this or that door.

Sure, I carry 45 or so keys, and know where maybe two of them go. But it isn’t like I spend time worrying about it or trying them here and there to see why I carry them … “Hmm. Not here, not here, not here, or here …”

Okay, maybe I do try now and then, but the problem with these chips is, like everything else, they can be hacked. For all we know, you could be walking up to the checkout counter in the grocery store, whip out your credit hand and — blam-o! — start slapping yourself because of some guy in Bulgaria having fun with a joystick.

“Look, Yosif, I smack the American and smack him and smack him. Ha!”

And there could be little voices broadcast to your brain:

“You vill obey. You vill obey.”

Which brings me back to my original point: do I have a head chip implant?

I had embarked on what I thought would be an extended beer tasting the other day when, as I suggested to the bartender that if he served quarts rather than pints I could honestly say I only had three, when this little voice invaded my thoughts.

“Really?” it said. “You get yourself home this instant.”

“Or …” I said aloud.

“Your head will explode.”

There’s only one thing you can say in a such a situation and that would be, “Yes, master.”

I was going to bring up this question at home, but just as I was about to comment, this little voice said, “Don’t start.” It makes you wonder.


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