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Hersh 2.0 Tuesday

Posted by James Dubois in CHOIRS, Tech.
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As part of a new security protocol here on Liberty, I’ve been implanted with a “key capsule.” Now, as you all know by now I’m a bit leery of any kind of invasive identification beyond standard biometrics (right to privacy and all of that) but after the incident here a few months back, security and safety are the operative watchwords. There’s no safety net up here in the aether.

The procedure was simple and to the point. It’s similar to the ID tags they implant in animals and prisoners back on Earth, but the key capsule is much more than a simple transponder. I talked to one of the developers of the key, a chap named Jayesh who’s stationed on Luna. He studied with Dr. Warwick at the University of Reading a decade back while Warwick was doing his Cyborg 1.0 and 2.0 programs.

The key is based on Warwick’s implantation experiments at the turn of the century, but (thankfully) much smaller. And while Warwick’s chips were surgically implanted in his arm, the key is now inserted under the subclavius muscle (near the collarbone). I asked Jayesh why the implant wasn’t placed in the arm and he told me a gruesome story about an accident on Luna where they tracked a missing person to a collapsed tunnel and only found an arm. They found the arm’s owner a few hours later and only a few hundred meters away. Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. So the collar it is, then. Jayesh says he has the new version implanted in his palate — the lunars are much more gung-ho about the cybernetic lifestyle than I am. I’m perfectly happy with my workstation’s retinal scanner! Such is progress.

His design is intriguing and similar to some of CHOIRS’ security and tracking systems we’re planning to implement. The main difference is that whereas the CHOIRS ID chip is a static piece of hardware implanted in the subject, the lunar key capsule design contains software that can be upgraded and even modified by the user. The user can walk into an ad-hoc living space and have the room adjust to his preferences. The security system grants him access to the room as expected, but can also dim the lights, puts on some music and a pot of coffee and and re-configure the user’s workstation as soon as he sits down. Each capsule is registered with a unique serial number and the network tracks that bearer of the capsule in relation to its environment. I asked him if the key’s serial number could be hacked and he said no, that the number itself is part of the hardware, not the software. The only way to hack the ID of the capsule is to hack the network’s database (which is virtually bulletproof as its so vital to life support) or to extract the capsule itself and replace it. That seems like a more likely solution but he says that they’re working on that.

We spoke at length about privacy in closed environments. He’s of the mind that humans need to adapt and to use technology to enable us to live in non-private, confined places. He says the classical model of orbital life, all wide-open vistas and green spaces and Earth gravity is outmoded. That in order to live, we’ll need to change ourselves not just to survive but to prosper in what he calls “technological spaces.” That the concept of “privacy” is antithetical to cooperative life in these technological spaces. I told him my position, which is a lot less radical and more humanist, that people need privacy. We’re not bees!

His response was short and to the point: “Maybe we need to change.”

After my implant was installed, he called up the sysconfig of my key and we spent about a half hour tweaking and tinkering the system preferences. At first I was a bit nervous about the whole endeavor, then fascinated, then excited as soon as I realized the sheer utility of the device. I can now “squirt” biometric information from my key to the cardio equipment in the gym where I work out in the morning. No galvanic response, no electrodes, it’s all wireless and instantaneous. All it needs is storage memory, or the ability to access storage… hmm, I’ll have to whiteboard that when I get a chance.

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