Perils And Convenience Of A Microchip Implant In Your Hand

Microchip, maxi danger?
Microchip, maxi danger?

Big Brother, if and when he arrives, will start out looking small.

Take that mundane office badge or key card you use to pass security before entering your office. Rather than having to carry one around, and risk losing it, technological advances make it easy enough these days to get an RFID microchip implanted in your hand. What's the big deal? Sure, you might feel a little pinch when you get the grain-of-rice-size device implanted, but you won't ever have to worry again about leaving that stupid badge at home. Plus, you get to pretend you're a Jedi whenever you pass through the sliding security turnstile.

At New Fusion, a Belgium-based company, eight employees recently volunteered to be "chipped", allowing them to enter the company's building and connect to their personal workspace on their computers with just a flick of the hand, Brussels-based daily Le Soir reports. The first such application was done in Sweden two years ago, where the device was developed, but the practice may begin to start spreading to new countries, both inside and outside the workplace.

But while RFID implants hold the potential to revolutionize how we interact with certain objects, the practice poses a "real danger," Alexis Deswaef, president of Belgium's Human Rights League told French daily Le Figaro. "We're now tracking employees from within their own flesh. It's a tool for total control."

Indeed, such "innovations' raise a number of difficult questions. Should we sacrifice our bodily integrity for modern practicality? What's the cost of ceding control of personal privacy? And, as humans, will we manage to impose limits on technological developments — or will the technology "take on a life of its own"?

At a time when the disciples of transhumanism, "a new kind of Promethean hubris' as Dr. Agneta Sutton put it in a 2015 article, are making plans to merge man and machine, it's becoming increasingly urgent that we address these questions. We can start small, just by glancing down at our hands.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!