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Let's say that we all have digital chips implanted into us as babies which are embedded deep into our nervous system and hooked into our senses- short of surgery, which isn't an option in this world, how could a person disable, even temporarily, such a device?

I was wondering if building a faraday cage would work and then entering it when you wanted the chip to be inactive? But I'd love to hear other ideas or issues.

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    $\begingroup$ Faraday cages provide shielding from electromagnetic waves but only between the inside and the outside. They don't nullify all electromagnetic activity inside. Why would a Faraday cage affect a chip? At best, you can cut off any communication it might be doing but it's still going to be active. $\endgroup$ – VLAZ Aug 12 at 11:11
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    $\begingroup$ My poochie had one too when she was still a baby, the vet said it is not powered and won't fry anything. So what do yours do? $\endgroup$ – user6760 Aug 12 at 11:23
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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide more details about the role of the chip (how does it affect the person? Who and how has access to it?). On the other hand - are you looking for a solution for a "hero" (a single probably lucky one) or something that is repeatable and can be mastered (to be used by some sort of a resistance group)? What level of collateral damage is acceptable (e.g. the method to disable it can also impact the neighbouring areas of the brain, causing various effects, e.g. impairing emotions, eliminating the senses etc.)? Is it to be performed alone or with some external help? $\endgroup$ – Ister Aug 12 at 11:30
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    $\begingroup$ So the primary function of the chip is that it enhances the person's senses- food tastes better, things smell nicer, visually everything is stunning. But it also allows the company to see through the eyes of the person. I'm hoping they can find a way to stop this effect and I don't mind if they receive external help to do so. But it can't be surgery. It's not affected by adrenaline but I do wonder if some sort of drug could mess with your brain chemistry enough to kick it $\endgroup$ – James B Aug 12 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ These opposition topics (opposing something constructed by another character) are always tricky because they 100% depend on what the opposition overlooked. That can be tremendously specific. Really think about what the chip designer would have wanted to do. For example, this thing literally has your nervous system in its grasp. If someone tampers with it, it may choose to do something very drastic and painful in retribution. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Aug 13 at 2:02

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Shielding is a solution when you need to prevent the embedded chip from communicating with some external system. Using Faraday cage or just going outside the range of network is the least invasive method, but is usable only when the chip is meant for sending data out or receiving something. This includes the passive RFID-type tags that send respose to certain radio frequency.

When the chip has some some other function, for example affecting some biological process or acts as a recorder, then the shielding has no effect. To prevent the chip from functioning, one must either:

  1. Hack the software.

  2. Attack the chip physically by using focused ultrasound or microwaves. Such methods are used in real life medicine to ablate fibrous tissue, break kidney stones etc. The effect will be permanent.

  3. Alter the biological environment so that the chip fails to function. There must be some biochemical interface that connects the electronics to nervous system. One could find certain drugs that make this connection to go haywire. Like LSD or something specific that the people of your world have discovered.

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  • $\begingroup$ That the chip will be able to buffer its output for some time is a concern - but how much memory can we expect of such a device? I mean, a MicroSD is far too big to chill in the brain, and 512GB isn't nearly enough to hold much useful data... right? $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 12 at 12:44
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    $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak I disagree, why would be a MicroSD be too big? People have lived for extended periods of time with some comparably huge things (rods, bullets, etc.) in their brains, so if it doesn't damage the brain, something MicroSD-sized could just sit in there for a lifetime. Also, different data types vary HUGELY in storage demands, a handful of sensor readings a few times a second can easily fit into a few kBps or TBpL (terabytes per lifetime). $\endgroup$ – BIOStheZerg Aug 12 at 14:35
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    $\begingroup$ Also, there are currently microSD in the TB of size, but no technology to implant chips in the brain. In OP's world, having the second I would assume they have superseded the first too, alllowing to have TB in smaller chips, or maybe even more. And all this without necessary having the chip completely isolated, so that you could effectively have a buffer of 10s of years, but still have it dump the data online for mass surveilance. $\endgroup$ – bracco23 Aug 13 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft you are assuming today storage means. There are far denser storage techniques that we already know, even if we are not yet able to use them at large scale. For instance, quantum holography aims at 4000TB/mm². And DNA based storage is expected to allow a density of 200+ PB per gram. And yes this is near future, there are prototypes in development right now. $\endgroup$ – spectras Aug 13 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @Rekesoft well, actually, the visual system runs at 10 FPS x 2Mpx (the brain bit at least; the preprocessing in the eye runs at a much higher frequency and resolution, but most of the raw data isn't passed through). With the storage I mentioned, you can hold over two hours of unprocessed footage. With a decent real-time codec it should be much longer. Maybe you could capture the output of the visual cortex instead - writing (or actually, training) the decoder will be fun, but at least you can throw at it as much processing power as you like. And it won't show anything the viewer hasn't notic $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Aug 13 at 13:08
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All natural solution

If the chip's relevant activity is detectable, biofeedback may be a possible solution. While observing the chip, maybe with a receiver or EMI detector, one trains oneself to selectively shut down or bypass the neural connections being monitored.

As a plot point, you can set the difficulty of learning this skill to where only 10% bother with the training, or that only an elite few can master it, so it's fairly flexible. It could even be possible, but extremely rare, to find individuals who can hack the feed, for instance by feeding it an imagined or remembered scene rather than their current field of vision.

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it allows the company to see through the eyes of the person

The human eye is roughly equivalent to a 15 Megapixel camera and has a frame rate around 60 fps (your visual system is way more complicated than that but it's a useful analogy). If your brain-chip is recording using 24-bit color, it's having to process ~2.5 GB of uncompressed video data every second. Processing and transmitting that much data will require significant bandwidth and power.

Blocking the chip's transmissions should be easy enough: either block the signal (shielding or a Faraday cage), drown it out with EM noise, or set up a counterfeit base station for the chip to transmit to (similar to how some law enforcement agencies intercept and re-route mobile phone traffic). If the chip can detect communication failures and buffers the video feed for later transmission, defeat this easily by blocking the signal for a longer period of time. Given the rate at which video data is being generated, buffering will be limited to fairly short bursts. Block the signal for longer than the buffer length and some of the data will have to be overwritten before it can be transmitted. If you can't block the signals, you can always use the Spartacus defense. Hack many people's chips to all report the same person ID. When the company receives a flood of different signals all claiming to be Spartacus, there's no way to tell which video stream is the real Spartacus and which are the imposters.

The fact that the chip needs to transmit means that the chip has an antenna of some sort and isn't completely shielded. A strong rotating magnetic field (an MRI machine, for instance) could induce enough electrical current to fry the chip or melt the antenna.

The other way to disable the chip is by attacking its power source. If it runs off of an implanted battery that has to be occasionally recharged, simply "forget" to recharge it. If it runs off of the electrical energy produced by your nervous system, reducing the amount of available energy (via drugs that inhibit the nervous system, extreme starvation/exhaustion, etc) should disable the chip. I'm assuming the chip includes a protocol to shut itself down in such cases to help the host survive (the chip wouldn't seem useful if it killed the host).

In the real world, video processors can be hacked by forcing it to process a carefully-crafted video stream that exploits defects in the processor's design, causing it to do things it was never intended to do (such as run code written by the attacker). This becomes much more interesting when that video stream comes from the eyes, as it means that looking at a certain painting or watching a certain video clip could cause the implant chip to crash and give the person a short window of time before the surveillance system comes back online.

You said surgery isn't an option. If you only meant that to mean invasive surgery, then something like the "Gamma Knife" procedure could be effective. Many small beams of radiation are fired at the patient from different angles. Each of them is far too weak to affect anything. They all converge at a single point, though, and at that one point their combined power is capable of burning away tumors. A system like this could non-invasively destroy or disable the chip permanently.

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Bio-engineer a bacteria that really likes the "taste" of silicon/whatever else is in the chip.

The bacteria would need to be able to cross the blood-brain barrier. Then, once it's in your blood and crosses into your brain, it starts "eating" the chip breaking it down.

You'd also then have plausible deniability when the authorities realize your chip doesn't work. You could claim "I didn't know I'd picked up this disease!" even if you intentionally injected yourself with it.

Or, maybe the disease is naturally occurring, and now your protagonist has to go on the run because their chip was disabled by the disease.

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If it is deep in or Nervous System, getting it out there is probably not easy to do.

If the Chip isnt shielded, a small EMP or maybe just a Strong Magnet could do the job. But if it is shielded, yeah you are kind of out of options.

A Cage would only work to Block the Signals, but the Chip itself still does its thing so it would just record everything you do. I mean, it would be logical do designe it in such a way as people will be out of range sometimes, or have no signal. Maybe it even has some sort of Self Learning Algo in it that compresses the Date more and more so you can record a life worth of information on a few Gig´s.

Disabling the Chip, depending on what it does and what it can do might be close to imposible. It is at such a critical point of or body that even a slight error that blows the chip would result in you being disabled too.

MAYBE, you could "hack" it or flash the Software and disable it that way.

Idea: You know how, when you flash the BIOS of a Motherboard and the power turns of, your Motherboard is dead. It has no software to run with. Maybe you could do something like that with the Chips. Idk they get Updates once every Week or so or just do a System Check and if you manage to cut power during this time, the Chip is dead as it has no software to run on. It stands to reason that the Chip has some sort of UI for the Government to extract data even if the Transmitter is busted. So you would probably be able to send in some code that Cuts power, maybe you force the chip to restart during a BIOS flash which kills it ?

In the end, it is a much better option to try and kill the software then to try and kill the chip.

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Use another chip.

enter image description here

In the movie Speed, the camera monitoring the bus is fed a looped video of the bus interior, so the bad guy does not know that the passengers have been evacuated.

So too in your scenario. The bad chip receives inputs from the optic nerves that lets the company see thru the eyes of the chip carrier. Use a second chip to work around that. Clearly this world has advanced neural chip tech. The second chip might feed the first one a stream of data from a different individual, or prerecorded data. Or the second chip could produce inputs to the visual system from an external camera or device - so the chip carrier seems to be asleep with eyes closed, but can see via the camera - brain (or nerve) interface.

I like this because your fiction has nifty brain chips. Then when you need a workaround you are true to the theme: even more nifty brain chips. Also it gives an option for how the company discovers what is up - the chip carrier is supposed to be asleep with eyes closed, but the company gets data on taste; she is eating wasabi. And so is unlikely to be asleep. I hope when he finds out the bad guy rages like Dennis Hopper in Speed.

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An EMP (electro magnetic pulse) can damage electronics. People with pacemakers are told to avoid strong magnetic fields because they interfere with the electronics inside. So maybe your chip could be disabled with a strong enough magnet.

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  • $\begingroup$ Considering that the chip is implanted inside their brain, this might result in unpleasant side effects for the person in question, though. $\endgroup$ – nick012000 Aug 13 at 5:48
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    $\begingroup$ Not directly - the body is barely sensitive to electro magnetic fields (that is, barring those that match eye's photoreceptors, aka light). Side effects of the chip getting fried while in the brain on the other hand… probably unpleasant indeed. $\endgroup$ – spectras Aug 13 at 9:57
  • $\begingroup$ Damaging the chip could very well be unpleasant or dangerous for the person. But perhaps a moderate magnetic field could have interesting side effects, $\endgroup$ – k123 Aug 13 at 10:12
  • $\begingroup$ @nick012000 Brains recover quickly from EMPs – to the point that you might not even notice it happened. Thin wires melt. $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 Aug 13 at 14:15
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Stay away from whatever electronics it is that the chip interfaces with.

Some people already have chips in them. This link is from 2017, and even yhen it was old news.

Technologies for microchipping such as RFID have it so that chips have no internal power source. When they are scanned or otherwise activated by a radio signal, the electromagnetic field from the signal powers the chip temporarily. The chips are so small that the radio signal probodes enough energy for it to operate.

A Faraday cage may help your chipped people disconnect for a while, as long as the energy source for the chip is outside the cage and the cage has small enough holes (or no holes at all) that the signal frequencies are effectively blocked.

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To Prevent Sending Signals

I am going to assume, based off of your comment,

it also allows the company to see through the eyes of the person. I'm hoping they can find a way to stop this effect,

that all you want to do is prevent the signal from "calling home."

One potential solution: Wireless Jamming

Wireless technologies that emit their signals on a certain frequency can be jammed by a device that emits a tone on the same frequency that is much stronger. In comparison to humans, if you shout really loudly next to two people trying to carry on a conversation, they won't hear each other, just you screaming. That's kinda what's happening with the devices.

Now, there are countermeasures to this. Some devices, while they can't prevent the jamming from happening, they can detect it, record the event, and send an alert once the jamming has stopped.

To stop the chip from working entirely

A chip will have ratings for the current that can safely pass through it. If you exceed these ratings then you will likely fry the chip. Amperage is a deadly thing to humans, but to an extent, voltage can be very nonlethal, so if you can find a way to hook yourself up to a low-amp electrical current, you could keep testing higher and higher voltages until you fry the chip.

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  • $\begingroup$ Preventing the jamming is actually quite easy to do. Military systems do it as a base feature those days. The general idea is to change frequency permanently, using strong cryptography to generate frequency sequences (to prevent the would-be jammer from following). $\endgroup$ – spectras Aug 13 at 9:53
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You probably don't want to remove it, since any society that insists on "chipping" its citizens is probably uncool with that. That said, spoofing location data, visual data and auditory data may well be possible without modifying the device itself.

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You can permanently fry any electronic device using an EMP.

A nuclear EMP would probably be too conspicuous in the scenario, but there are non-nuclear EMP generators; their operating principle even has a Technobabble but is real: Explosively pumped flux compression generator.
I don't understand all operating details, but it seems they all work by manipulating a magnetic field into smaller and smaller areas, forcing it to become strong enough to generate an EMP in the final phase. It seems that this cannot be done purely mechanically or by switching electronically, you need explosives to make the process fast enough, plus some pretty sophisticated setup to make the individual components of the circuitry break down in the exact right order.
More details can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Explosively_pumped_flux_compression_generator

The nice thing about this approach is that such devices aren't easy to construct (if they were, people would be frying brain chips routinely, defeating many purposes of such chips).

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It depends

If the chip is just like an ID card, your bus ticket and security pass for work, making it inactive would probably not be the smartest idea, but you'd eventually want it back on again. so to stop it temporarily, a faraday cage would work, but you wouldn't be able to get into work, hop on the train, etc, unless your civilization has physical security badges or paper currency.

If the chip is there to look through you're eyes, then you'd best go blind. maybe put on a sleep mask to block the view, and have a seeing eye dog(unless they put the chips in dogs as well), or a friend help, but they probably also have a chip. if you don't really care about the travel times or accommodations, mail yourself to your destination while blindfolded.

If the chip is a fail safe for if you try to kill someone, then you best not give them a reason to hit the kill switch. faraday cages might work to stop the detonation sequence, but if they are continually broadcast until they get a success message back, then you need to keep the faraday cage on or forge the success response.

If the chip is for basically anything, hacking is probably one of your best options. this would probably let you decide what the chip is doing, and avoid anything you don't want interacting with your chip. Basically,

Your solution depends on the problem

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You need to want it enough

See the thing about brains and neurons is that they're adaptable. Our brains are squishy, and not just to make zombies' lives easier. Our memories, consciousness, experiences, they're fluid things. Who you are 20 years ago is not who you are 20 years in the future. Neurons adapt, grow, die, change.

One of the most human things about us is our abnormally large prefrontal cortex. It allows us to disregard instinct. We can fast for religious reasons, commit suicide or other atrocities that nature would deep counterproductive. This is possible because we have such control over ourselves, because we can adapt.

The power of the brain over the body is immense, see the placebo effect. There is also an inverse, the nocebo effect, that can make you sick if you simply believe it hard enough. People have had whole halves of their brains removed, and managed to regain what would be unthinkably normal lives. This is all evidence for our brain's ability to change itself, and for our ability to adapt.

If you want this chip to do nothing, if you want it hard enough and for long enough, the neurons connected to the chip will eventually up and stop firing altogether. If you see the chip as a foreign substance your body will attack the chip with its natural defenses like any other invader.

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