"If I were empress of the Universe," science fiction author Elizabeth Moon tells the BBC, "I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached [at birth] — a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast, inexpensive way to identify individuals." Such a permanent ID marker would have many advantages, she explains in the BBC's "60-Second Idea" series, such as bringing accountability to war by cluing soldiers into which people are legitimate targets and which are innocent bystanders. Predictably, Moon's idea was greeted rather coldly. But is barcoding babies at birth an idea worth taking seriously?
No. This is a terrible idea: Moon's "creepy" proposal would be "an Orwellian nightmare," says the pseudonymous John Galt at Salon. We're already too close to a world where every adult is marked with a barcode, be it on your credit card, driver's license, or passport, and branding everyone at birth is "one giant step closer to hegemonic dominance" by Big Brother and Big Business. So "with all due respect, Elizabeth, don't you or anyone else ever come to my home telling me I have to take a microchip."
"BBC: 'Barcode everyone at birth'"
Relax. It wasn't a serious proposal: There are actually some "solid reasons to implant data about medical history, medications," and other life-saving information in everyone, says Lisa Vaas at Sophos. But we're not there yet, and despite what she wrote, Moon isn't "espousing Nazi-like Mark of the Beast chipping or barcoding." As she explains on her blog, the whole "Empress of the Universe" thing should have been a tip-off that she was merely providing a "light-hearted interlude" for the BBC.
"Take a 666 chill pill: 'Barcode at birth' author was just joking"
But why not consider Moon's idea? The BBC's "60-second idea" submissions tend to be "wild or controversial," says Natt Garun at Digital Trends. But Moon's crazy "barcoded babies" idea has some merit: It would, for example, "reduce, perhaps even eliminate, the need for people to carry around physical identification cards with matching photos," saving a ton of plastic and disabling the entire fake-ID market. Could the system be manipulated, hijacked, and abused? Yes, but you can't solve everything in 60 seconds.
"Barcoded babies: Grand idea or simply ridiculous?"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- 13 Urban Outfitters controversies
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- What political elites don't understand about Scotland's push for independence
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Do you need to be crazy to be the best?
- Why gay people of color are still losing
- In defense of family dinner
- Is 'feminism' just another word for 'liberalism'?
Subscribe to the Week