In that distant future. Technology has greatly advanced to a degree where now people could augment their senses using cybernetic implants connected via the brain. [ Essentially making the use of a computer screen obsolete.]

The government is considering on the use of having a national I.D chip implanted into the body. The chip has multiple uses.

  • Be used as a bank account, Displays currency, finances, items bought, Things owned etc.

  • Display occupational role in society and economics, If no role. Can also display student in education.

  • Biological and DNA information

  • Can be used as a tracking device

  • Prevent kidnapping or so the individual doesn't plan a criminal act. The Science and practicality behind this concept on powering this device in rural societies can be found here. Though that's not really the focus of the question, so I'm hand waving it for now.

Only problem is: would the use of this chip as a necessity have any benefit for the government and economy in a high tech democratic republican society? At least not abused to a dictatorship 1984 level.

Or is it simply just a trope as way of displaying a dystopia?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Whenever you consider giving a tool to your government, you should consider wether you'd like to give this tool to the worst government you can imagine. Because once a tool is there, it will be used. And you are considering giving up pretty much all privacy. $\endgroup$
    – Burki
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 7:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Burki, haven't pretty much we done that already? $\endgroup$
    – Rissiepit
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ Follow up question: if the chip is implanted, would it be better to implant it in the hand, or the head? $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:33
  • $\begingroup$ why not both. (I was thinking the chip could be physically connected to other parts of the body using a hair thin wire. If someone were to physically cut one side, both could disable itself) I think their is also a question that goes over WHERE you want to put it. So I recommend you check that one out. worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/54211/… $\endgroup$
    – Red_Wasp
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:58

10 Answers 10


The tech is not the issue, card vs chip = no difference

enter image description here

There is no security in obfuscation

(Image Source, licence CC-BY-NC 2.5)

Since cards of all sorts are moving towards contact-less RFID technology anyway, there is little difference between using a chip or a card to authenticate your identity, other than that it is much harder to steal the chip, which is an enormous benefit for everyone, citizens, companies and authorities (except identity thieves. Boo. Hoo. Cue the tiny violin quintet).

So if you have a premise of a standardized national identity already, then whether you use RFID chips in a loose card or an embedded chip, does not really matter. The technology is not the issue.

If anything would be an issue it would be the existence of a national identity system, not how it is implemented. But as reality shows us...

A standardized national identity does not equal dystopia

As for people talking about how having a national standardized identity system means instant dystopia and The End of Privacy... I cannot disagree more. In my country Sweden, we have a national identity. The instant you are born, or when you have any kind of permanent residency here, you get a personal identity number.

But the fact that you can use that as a key in a database does not mean that all databases can cross-collate their data. In fact, this was one of the first thing that were banned when Sweden as a pioneering country instituted personal data protection legislation. And then there is the simple fact that company A has no reason to let company B or the authorities rummage around in their business data.

Also thanks to the early vigilance, there is now a well ingrained opposition among the public and the authorities to any and all kind of registration of political sympathies, affiliations, religion, sexual orientation or any other kind of "sensitive personal data".

So curiously enough, after over half a century of having a standardized national personal identity system, Sweden has not fallen into dystopia or a nightmare of personal data harvesting, not any more than anywhere else.

But what if... ?

Yeah, what if? What if your government, or a mega-corp, or a criminal syndicates, or a jilted lover suddenly goes off the deep end and decides to start using your national identity to put two and two together and making your life miserable with that? Then we would be much better off if we never had an identity system, right?


Not really, no. First there is the issue of actually getting databases to play nice together. Once that is up and running, it is not as if you did not have an identity anyway, it is just slightly more fuzzy around the edges. You are not anonymous and you are not safe just because your identity is a little bit obfuscated compared to having a standardized national identity. Because as xkcd teaches us above: there is no security in obfuscation. They will find you anyway.

And if you think that you can do the "I am Spartacus" trick and hide in a sea of John Does... sorry, that only works in movies. If there is any kind of uncertainty about which out of a possible few John Does might be the one they want to make their life miserable for, they will not shrug and go "Oh well... guess we better not do anything then"... they will just do it for all of them instead.

A few technical notes

"A RFID chip can be read by everyone remotely"

No it can not if you make chip standard such that only an valid authentic trigger signal will lead to a response.

"If data is on the chip, all data can be stolen by everyone".

See the point above. The chip can be made such that only the data that the reader is permitted to read is released.

"Yeah but there may be bugs..."

Yes. And? There are as many bugs here as the author wants it to be. This means this thing can be more full of bugs than an ant-hill, or have none at all. The author decides.

"All technology can be hacked"

No, Magical Hollywood Hacking only works as well as the author wants it to work. And the fact that sometimes, some things get hacked in real life does not mean Magical Hollywood Hacking is a reality.

"With a chip you can never be rid of your identity"

See the main post: you cannot get rid of it anyway. And even if you somehow could have shed your identity that makes you a highly suspect character. This is because in a dystopia the mere fact that you have gone off-grid is reason enough to cast suspicion on you according to the — very unethical and twisted — principle of "Only those that have reason to hide will hide".

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 31, 2017 at 3:04

Almost by definition, such an implant can be read (and written?) from a distance. Also, read/write would be much more common.

I live in a country where all citizens have national ID cards. What does that mean?

  • The government has a second picture of me on file, in addition to the driver's license. (Of course I could have opted out of having a driver's license by not learning to drive, but that isn't practical in much of the country.)
  • If I want to identify myself, e.g. to open a bank account or to vote, I use that card instead of reciting my social security or tax number.
  • As a side benefit, I can use it instead of a passport to visit many countries.
  • I use the ID card every couple of weeks.

I work in a company where all employees carry RFID chips. That chip is on my keychain, not implanted, of course. What does that mean?

  • It is tracked when my chip opens certain doors. I could ask a co-worker to open the door for me. They'd probably do it.
  • It is tracked when my chip stands in line in the company canteen. I could also pay cash.
  • It is tracked when my chip arrives for work in the morning and leaves in the afternoon. I could file a time correction with my boss if that tracking is missing.
  • I use the chip up to a dozen times each working day.

Note how I wrote the second group of bullet points. My chip opens certain doors. There is a presumption that it was used by me, but all the records prove is that my chip (or a good fake) was there.

But the key thing, for good or bad, is not the implantation of the chip. It is what you record there, in addition to the ID card data (picture, name, birthdate, residence, citizenship).

  • Using cash, I could buy donuts every morning instead of milk and cereals, and nobody would know (except for the guy in the donut shop who recognizes the face of a regular customer). If I pay with an implanted chip, it would be clear if I'm living healthy or not. What would that mean for my medical coverage?
  • Again using cash, I could buy a train ticket and visit another town, without any data traces. I could probably do the same with a car, but somebody (or some system) might track the license plate. If I pay with an implanted ID, that train ticket might be recorded there and it would be clear that I was on the train.

As steverino pointed out in his answer, much of that data is already in the hands of Google and the like. So would it be worse if the government had it, too? On the one hand, a government has much more power than any corporation. You don't have to go to Facebook if you don't want to, but you have to file data with the tax office. On the other hand, a good government has much more democratic oversight than any corporation.

  • $\begingroup$ We are swiftly moving towards a society where using cash is becoming the exception, which a short step away from moving over to complete electronic currency. I'm inclined to think that if you're not doing something dastardly or merely paranoid, there is no reason to care whether people know where you go or what you buy. Our privacy is already invaded. $\endgroup$
    – Rissiepit
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 12:08
  • $\begingroup$ The "from a distance" may be true, but keep in mind that this distance can be pretty much controlled and limited to just a few centimeters, thus making this problem moot. $\endgroup$
    – Mermaker
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 19:24

I would suggest that it is entirely possible that given your starting condition, the id chip is completely unnecessary.

Technology has greatly advanced to a degree where now people could augment their senses using cybernetic implants in their neural own network.

In today's world, data science and data mining have already progressed to the point that Google, Amazon, and Facebook are able to link purchases from point of sale devices to web based profiles. If neural networks are that much more extensively used then individual profiles and data signatures to link them, will be considerably better developed. Eyetracking has been studied as a means of gathering more information on user profiles. Cybernetic implants that obviate a monitor mean that the data requested by the user is directly linked to interest rather than determined from indirect means like eye tracking.

  • $\begingroup$ My apologies, when I meant network. I meant the brain. What you brought up with eye tracking is interesting, but why would the I.D chip be pointless. Would people still use the physical I.D card instead? $\endgroup$
    – Red_Wasp
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 0:11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Red_Wasp The general idea is that data mining is already a science that (with a short history) is able to positively identify individuals with a small number of distinct inputs. When you propose direct brain connect to networks, you are increasing increasing both the number of inputs that can be used to make an individual unique, and the likelihood that the data streams has a "fingerprint". The eye tracking idea was merely to give an example. you may wish to look at mathworks for some extra info:mathworks.com/campaigns/products/offer/… $\endgroup$
    – steverino
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 0:22

It is much more... difficult... to steal an implanted chip than a card

Hello, may I see you ID please?
Sure *Pulls severed arm from purse*

As you can see, an implanted chip would be more secure, as it would be very difficult for a thief to take it off your hands (:D) and implant it into themselves.

You would also be able to track your severed arm, in case it was stolen. And people who are trying to verify you won't be worried that you stole someone else's ID.

The chip could also disable itself if the arm got cut or if the person died.

You could also use the chip for payments.

To monitor vitals

In Russia, the Fitbit wears you. The chip can be hooked up to you and have sensors that monitor heart rate, blood sugar, and death. You could monitor your sleep, graph your heart rate, alert you when your blood sugar is too high, or let you know when you die.

Be an interface/ smart watch

Kind of like those watches that would project your phone on your skin, except more permanent, and right below the surface of your skin. You could call someone with your hand! (Microphone in pinkie, Speaker in thumb)


With significant technological advancements, just take (almost) any tech and shove it underneath the surface of your skin, and BOOM your arm/whatever has now been upgraded with more useful functionality than what you could have gotten by putting it in a card.

  • $\begingroup$ People would likely develop a false sense of confidence, no one would question if the person had the right id, so it would be harder to steal, but you'd be less likely to be caught. $\endgroup$
    – Kebtiz
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 4:20
  • $\begingroup$ Right now we have cards for banking, cards for accessing work places, cards for library and gym membership, driver's licence cards, etc. Also, phones, fitbits, and other useful small-ish gadgets. So your first step would be to introduce a card/gadget which would combine all of these things into one (something similar to your StackExchange or Microsoft ID). The problem would then arise that this would make identity theft so much easier (or if you lose your card your life is ruined), which would then lead the clever people to suggest making it one with the owner to foil theft or loss. $\endgroup$
    – Rissiepit
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:54
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ In Russia, the Fitbit wears you, man, you got me. Also, I love the suggestion about warning myself when I die, that's useful. $\endgroup$
    – Shirkam
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 12:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Rissiepit Since the chip is a computer, and you can use rolling code encryption, or if the chip has access to a network, the chip scans the seller's chip and authorize the payment with the payment server itself. There are other ways around problems, depending on the chips technology level. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 14:50
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GrantDavis - too true. Criminal elements will always figure out ways around the system, no matter how many fail-safes and protections you build in. My thought was merely that this would be the chief selling point to embedding the chip under your skin. Of course, I recall the speculation (during my childhood, ie. maaaaany moons ago), perhaps based on a story or religious tract, that bar-coding on the skin or a chip under it would be the number of the beast, hailing the biblical apocalypse... $\endgroup$
    – Rissiepit
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 17:49

Rather than explore the dystopian aspects, how about plain old fashioned accidents ?

Like many people I've been in situations where some of my credit cards, transit cards, id badges etc have been exposed to a strong enough magnetic field to wipe or corrupt the data. Getting replacement cards is a hassle but at least it's non-invasive. Replacing a wiped chip would require a minor surgical procedure, then there's the problem with what to do with the old one ?

Lets say that for practical purposes the best place to implant the chip is in the back of the right hand, for example. A corrupted chip might still be capable of transmitting, albeit garbage, but that transmission is enough to interfere with the replacement chip, so now the old one has to be removed first...

I'd be a lot happier if I could replace my credit cards without accumulating scar tissue.

Then there's the matter of upgrades. If a security hole was found in the Gen 1.0 chips and a physical upgrade was necessary to close that hole and get to Gen 2.0, how do you that for a population in the hundreds of millions ? It's just not practical.

  • $\begingroup$ +1 For the minor upgrade problem, Even if using a pill filled with microbots delivered by emergency quad drones to every person was a quick way of attempting to install the hardware on the device. It would still take about a couple of weeks or months for the whole population to get a hold of. Heck, for hackers, It just might be a game of a Cat and mouse chase. $\endgroup$
    – Red_Wasp
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 19:59

Popularly, identity verification has three dimensions -

  • what you possess (a card, smartphone, or chip),
  • what you are (fingerprints, retinal scans, facial biometrics, DNA, voice print, behavior), and
  • what you know (a password, proper entry procedure, etc.)

Currently, smartphones and cards are being frequently used for a "what you possess" security components because they are inexpensive, nearly everyone has one, and they are portable. Chips would enhance the portability component by making it harder to lose and more difficult to steal. Technologies like digital tattoos (https://www.theverge.com/2016/5/5/11597878/skintrack-carnegie-mellon-skin-tracking-smartwatch-userface) are allowing that same hard-to-lose/difficult-to-steal to extend to networked systems like your smartphone/personal digital assistant.

Other technologies like identity secured by blockchain (think bitcoin) make it possible to go chip/smartphone free.

As for utility think of all the things to which you (or the government) want controlled access and imagine the chip/smartphone/whatever as that access point. Property records and bank accounts are obvious, but so might be health records, criminal records, proof of citizenship, proof of taxes paid or who returns are due to, proof of paternity/maternity, proof of service (military, police, current employer), proof of eligibility for some benefit (food stamps, social security, health insurance), proof of authorship/ownership


It's a dystopian trope

We can use biometrics today to perform the same legitimate task (secure identification) without the invasive implantation (body horror trope).

  • Carrying your money data on your person-chip means you cannot trust the banks (dystopian trope)
  • Occupational role stored as data is itself a dystopian trope about class ("Now strip naked and get on the probulator")
  • Student IDs (and Driving Licenses and Library Cards and Auto Club memberships) implanted is a classic Big Brother trope.

An implant cannot be used as a tracking device unless it can receive and send signals at quite long distances. Implanted tracking devices is another classic dystopian trope.

Go all the way - instead of implants, use Explosive Collars (another dystopian trope, a bit less subtle)

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I am sorry but this does not really answer the question. Saying "That is a trope" and other such flimsy statements does not give any kind of usable answer to the question. -1 voted. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelK
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 10:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelK please see the last sentence of the original question for the reference frame. I think it's answering the real question since the author suspected (correctly) that the technology comparison itself was rather off-in-the-weeds. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 11:52

The ID chip would likely (in my mind) be a short term transition technology. At the point that a society has traded that level of liberty/individuality/etc for the convenience/safety of chip technology, it would only be a short time before it would be replaced by completely biometric means, finger print, iris, dna, and so on.

Tracking is the one benefit of the powered chip over bio, the technology for remotely verifying dna is much further off.


Any identity-altering related crime we have today would need to creep into medicine. In other words it would probably create a (black?) market for identity-altering surgery replacing the official ID with a hacked/forged one. As any invasive surgery can be dangerous it would create potential health hazards for rebels and criminals. Wow that would make for a creepy sci fi novel.


Hackers, Uh, Finds a Way

Jurassic Park reference ^

You asked if there would be any problems using an ID chip implant rather than a card. You also mentioned augmenting senses using cybernetic implants.


I'm on the side of "That's probably a bad idea". Even now in an age where cyber security is improving, nothing is ever safe. Just recently scientists figured out how to use sound waves to control devices. The other day someone hacked their own insulin pump. The other day it was said that hackers almost got into the power grid.

Using cybernetic implants the way you mention would only escalate the issue and below I will list all the problems with it...

  • Hackers can now track people much more efficiently

  • Identity theft would be much worse with Hackers using someone's DNA data for nefarious purposed

  • Cybernetic implants that augment senses could be over/under augmented. Imagine a set of high tech hearing aids that let you hear through walls or something in your eyes that improves your vision. What if someone hacked it and maxed it out? Or what if they turned it off? Imagine the problems


It will be harder to lose your ID if it is inside you instead of it being a card. That's about the only good thing. Also maybe even it can monitor if you are having a heart attack or stroke and call the ambulance or stabilize you.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .