Old Wives' Tales
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Toxin du jour
Claim: Mondex is planning to replace money with biochips embedded in people's heads and hands.
Origins: March 2004 saw the latest iteration of a form of conspiracy theory that attempts to tie automated systems related to financial transactions to the "mark of the beast" prophesied in
[The beast] causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads.In earlier days conspiratorial rumors linked this bit of scripture to the advent of
And that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.
Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.
Our conspiracy train has already jumped the track by the third slide, which conflates two distinctly different types of technology.
The device pictured above is a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip (also known as an "ID chip"), used (among other purposes) to assist retailers with Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). Described as "bar codes on steroids," tiny RFID chips can be embedded in products (or their packaging); when triggered by sensors, these chips emit short bursts of identifying data streamed via radio waves (or "RF"). This system offers a significant improvement over the current bar coding system for a number of reasons, including:
(Technically, a biochip is a computer chip made from organic molecules rather than from silicon or germanium. The term "biochip" is also used more generally to refer to any type of chip implanted in living beings, but RFID is only one of many technologies that might be used in such a chip. Kevin Warwick, a Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University, made news in 2000 when he had a silicon chip transponder surgically implanted in his arm.)
The concept described in the text accompanying this photo, however, describes a different type of technology: the smart card.
Almost every credit card issued nowadays includes a magnetic stripe which encodes information about the card that can be read when the card is swiped through an electronic card reader. (In most cases the information encoded is merely a repetition of the account number and expiration date embossed on the card, allowing the card to be more easily read by electronic scanning devices.) The
Another envisioned use for smart cards is in electronic payment schemes. Rather than carrying around currency and coins, consumers could use smart cards that would be able to tap into centralized systems which keep track of how much each person has available to spend. The purchase price would be automatically deducted from the buyer's account at the point of sale, conceivably eliminating the need for money altogether someday.
Here the text goes even further astray in an erroneous attempt to tie smart card technology to specifics of the Biblical prophecy found in
[The beast] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name.First of all, smart card technology involves microprocessors embedded in cards, not people. Secondly, the uses of biochips in humans and other animals for identification purposes do not involve implanting such chips in the head or the hands. The preferred location for such chips is an out-of-the-way fleshy area that will allow for tissue to bond the chip and lessen the possibility of any irritation or discomfort to the host, making the head and hands (too bony and exposed) non-ideal for such purposes. The recommended implantation location for biochips is between the shoulderblades, towards the back of the upper arm (or on the back between the front legs of a dog or cat).
The statements included in the last slide above are all misleading or inaccurate:
MasterCard did acquire a 51% stake in London-based Mondex International in 1996, and they have been trying to establish a variety of Mondex-based applications in a number of countries in recent years. However, attempts to launch the use of Mondex smart cards as "electronic purse" alternatives to cash over the past decade have so far been disappointingly unsuccessful, as this
A number of electronic payment schemes have been launched in the past decade but many have languished because they have not found resonance with consumers. The Mondex card was launched in the UK in 1995 by a consortium of banks and BT, the telecommunications group. It looks like a credit card and contains a chip that can be "loaded" with cash from a bank account. It was seen as as ideal for small purchases such as newspapers and rounds of drinks in pubs. It was introduced in Swindon in 1994 and then on university campuses at Exeter, Edinburgh and Nottingham. But in spite of trials in about
Again, Mondex is a smart card technology, not a biochip technology. Mondex has nothing to do with implanting chips into people, nor are biochips inserted into heads or hands. This bugaboo about heads and hands is just a silly attempt to tie this Mondex screed to the mention of "foreheads" and "right hand" found in the portion of
Once again, Mondex is not a biochip technology — it is a brand of smart card technology (which uses chips produced by other companies), and the Mondex card itself was introduced at least ten years ago. Neither MasterCard nor Mondex has reported problems with smart card fraud or announced plans to insert smart card chips into human beings rather than place them within cards because otherwise the "chip could be cut and the information would be changed or falsified." (Extracting an implanted chip from a human being isn't really prohibitively more difficult than removing one from a plastic card, certainly not enough to absolutely prevent dedicated criminals from pulling it off.)
Now we've zoomed into the area of the nonsensical. Even if we were to contemplate implanting the chips utilized in "smart card" technology into human beings, locating them in the head or the right hand wouldn't make them any more difficult or impossible to remove than locating them elsewhere in the body. (Again, this is a rather silly attempt to tie "Mondex" to the prophecy of
The name Mondex, of course, is derived from "monde," the French word for "world."
Well hey, there's nothing we take more "serious" than bad grammar or an exhortation to forward a nonsensical message to everyone we know.
VeriChip is one of many companies that produces implantable identification technology, but they really have nothing to do with smart cards in general or the Mondex brand of smart card in particular (other than that they have overlapping areas of interest in systems for personal identification and guaranteeing the integrity of financial transactions).
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