MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s something you’ve likely seen in the movies — it’s something you may not know is also happening in real life. People are getting chips implanted into their hands in an effort to make daily life a little bit easier. From opening doors to making contacts to sending emails — a growing group of people are all-in.
People here in the Twin Cities are embracing the extra-personal technology. Set in the far-off year of 2021 is the 1995 film “Johnny Mneumonic.” A movie that inspired a boy named Tim Shank, growing up in Indiana.
“What little boy didn’t like sci-fi, I loved sci-fi. “Star Wars,” all the way through it,” said Shank.
And thus a passion was born.
“That to me is a very inspiring concept, that we can be more than we’re built to be,” Shank said. “That’s really where a lot of my passion comes, because there are so many limitations and conditions that we have as people that we can overcome if we put a little energy into it and a little technology.
That fearless quest is how the software engineer ended up with a scalpel in front of him and ice at his side.
He’s already got several microchip implants. Now, he’s getting another.
“This is an NFC chip so it’s similar to what phones have nowadays where you can tap them to sometimes stickers or keychains. It’s the same technology as that uses,” he said.
Despite the equipment used, implants aren’t done by doctors or nurses. The go-to in the Twin Cities is a body piercer named Verno.
“I’m humbled by it. I’m humbled that anybody would even be interested in having us do that,” Verno said.
Chip makers are relying on piercing artists like Verno to implant the rice-sized technology you can order online. He’s done about seven similar procedures.
“After doing a little research there, I’ve found more than enough information to validate why he’d want to have this done,” Verno said.
Without flinching, Shank endured six stitches without anesthesia — Verno can’t legally use it in this procedure. The pain, Shank says, is for gain.
“I love this, actually,” he said.
This chip will soon act like the others he has and uses at his Crystal home. A chip in his wrist clears his daily path: It unlocks the door to his home, controls a computer and operates his smart phone.
If he has his way, it will do much more.
“I’m hoping that this will make it possible for me not to have to carry a wallet or credit cards or keys,” Shank said.
And he’s in good company talking about things like that. He meets with a group of people regularly. They have happy hours and events. The group of fellow techies is called Twin Cities Plus.
But experiments come with risk, if you ask an artificial intelligence expert from the U, professor Maria Gini.
“As far as I know, nobody knows the long term health implications of those things so I would never do it myself,” said Gini.
She says the advantage is that because they transmit at close range, unlike cell phones, it would be hard for people to steal information and track people from a chip. She says there is an appeal, though she’s not convinced it will ever be universal.
“I think we’d be more likely, some point, maybe your smart watch that is outside your body, then can have ways to unlock your house, your telephone and everything, but is not inside your body,” she said.
But Shank, whose dogs are also microchipped with information, says he’s not worried.
“I hear a lot of people, ’What if people are using it to track you and locate you and identify you, what if somebody cuts your hand off so they gain access to your house?,’ and I’m thinking, ‘A crowbar is a lot cheaper and a lot easier and much less messy,'” he said.
Shank says he firmly believes chipping is the way of the future.
“I do, I think every indication of it is we’re all moving closer and closer to internalizing our technology,” he said.
Tim has started a non-profit to help outfit people with disabilities with implanted technology. The hope is it could give people with visual disabilities sensors or magnets so they’d be able to better navigate.
To find out more about Tim’s group — and biohacking — click here.
A chip costs about $50 to $100, and the procedure for implant is around $150.
The Minnesota Department of Health says as of now, they do not regulate chip implants.