For about $US40 you can turn yourself into a cyborg — at least in part.
Dangerous Things, which is an online biohacking store, has simplified the process of hacking the body by selling kits packed with the necessary supplies so that anyone can embed technology into their flesh.
For the last two years, Amal Graafstra, the founder and CEO of the Seattle-based company, has sold implantable devices including near-field communication (NFC) chips, radio-frequency identification chips (RFID), biomagnets, and other materials to people who want to “upgrade their body” to be more connected to the devices around them for easier accessibility.
“It’s fundamentally changing the human condition, one step at a time, incrementally, to give you more freedom,” Graafstra told Tech Insider.
How exactly do these implants give you more freedom?
For now, these devices primarily act as identifiers, enabling people to use them to replace keys, passwords, and things you would keep inside your wallet, like loyalty cards, Graafstra said.
For example, Graafstra, who has an RFID chip implanted in each hand, has almost completely stopped using keys and passwords. His chips enable him to do things like lock and unlock doors and log into his computer and password-secured websites. He even rigged his motorcycle and car so that he could start it without a key.
If you have a NFC enabled phone, like most major Android phones, you can also unlock it with an implanted device just by holding it.
Eventually, implantable devices could even be tied to your bank account so that you can make transactions, Graafstra said.
Prices for products range from $US39 for a basic RFID/NFC glass tag to $US99 for a NFC injection kit and take only a few minutes to implant into the hands. It’s worth mentioning that there is no battery or power supply in these devices; they’re powered by the readers you bring them close to.
While each implant comes with a manuals on how to implant the device, Graafstra recommends not performing the procedure yourself.
Instead, the company has partnered with professional piercers and body modifiers across the country to create a network of individuals it recommends to use for installation.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved RFID chips for human implantation in 2004. However, the legality of a piercer performing the procedure varies depending on your location. Some states have specific laws about what a piercing is, so it’s technically illegal for a piercer to implant devices in these states. But a person can still legally implant the chip in themself.
While some might consider implanting a device inside the body to get easier accessibility a bit extreme, Graafstra argues it’s really not as unnatural as it seems.
“We have been picking up things like rocks and sticks forever and used them as tools. That is nothing new and this is just a natural progression of that. We are just now putting our tools inside of our bodies,” Graafstra said.
“In my opinion, these implants are perfectly designed. They are not this obtuse, destructive, difficult thing to deal with. It’s just that I have this new capability. I can talk to machines in this very low level magnetically coupled way, whereas I couldn’t before.”
As more of our devices become connected we will want to interact with them in more natural ways, and biohacking is one way to accomplish this, he said. To date, Dangerous Things has sold several thousand implants and the client base has expanded to a much more diverse group of people, Graafstra said.
In fact, Graafstra said he launched Dangerous Minds in 2013 because he was being bombarded with inquiries regarding the best equipment to use.
“There is more interest in this kind of thing, biohacking in general, because people look at the body and because we know so much more about it now, we can recognise that it operates more or less like a machine,” Graafstra said.
“The body isn’t this spiritual, sacred, mysterious vessel anymore. And like with anything when you remove the mystery and you look at the truth of the matter, it kind of becomes less romantic and more utarian.”
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