Some years ago, OK, OK, many years ago I quit an organisation because the big bosses insisted on fitting closed circuit TV cameras in the workplace to keep tabs on their staff. “It will increase productivity,” said one of the suits grandly, while another, equally suited up said, “it will improve security.”
I took a stand. “Either the cameras go or I go,” I threatened, feeling perfectly secure as the organisation (OK, OK, newspaper) had paid me a lot of money to become its editor. The ultimatum was followed by a long silence while the suits looked fondly at the cameras and said nothing. I had no choice but to quit, ruminating on the efficacy of ultimatums.
Improving security is the theme of another, newer call for employment-tracking, this one better and more efficient since technology has improved since those days. One of Britain’s biggest companies is planning to implant microchips in their staff “to improve security.” I imagined that this meant if anybody pulled a gun on the manager and said, “hand over all your paper clips,” the employee could point a forefinger at him and shoot. This, because the microchip would be implanted in the soft flesh between the thumb and the forefinger. It is always dramatic when someone points a finger and says “stop, or I’ll shoot.”
But no. The chips enable people to open their front door, access their office or start their car with a wave of their hand, and also stores medical data. Quite useless, in fact, if a paper clip heist is in progress. “I will throw my medical data at you,” doesn’t quite have the same impact. Not even if you wave your hand and start your car parked outside.
And have you ever considered that? You wave a guest goodbye after a successful business meeting, and your front door opens. Very confusing. And what if you shake hands with a flourish? Your car, the front door and your medical data might get mixed up with his car, his front door and his medical data.
The inserted microchip might be useful if someone suddenly burst into song in the middle of a busy day or tried to run off with the office building. You could “zap” the former shut, and easily track the movements of the building when other employees turned up for work and found it missing. But it can be a disaster if you were contemplating a secret love affair, for example. Perhaps that is why there is resistance to the idea in Britain. “I love you with all my microchip,” isn’t a promising start.
On second thoughts, I would let the paper clips go. It isn’t worth the trouble.