Cybernetically enhanced humans are still pioneering new ways of augmenting themselves through the use of technology and with the integration of computerized chips into their own bodies. And now one of these cybernetic frontiersmen is volunteering a section in the back of his own head to be implanted with a camera system to automatically survey his environment. The purpose of the implant? Self expression. He wishes to catch everything going on behind his back and have it transmitted to an art exhibit in Qatar.
The chip has already caused a stir amongst privacy advocates who suggest the endeavor will make public everything that goes on literally behind Wafa Bilal’s back. The tiny camera, estimated to be the approximate size of a contact lens will snap pictures periodically once every two minutes. Assuming Mr. Bilal’s project gets the green light with health officials, the move could be mimicked in due time by others. While the technology exists to create more advanced camera implants, even including tiny video cameras as seen with homemade real life superhero “Eyeborg,” the cost and size of the system were likely both factors in selecting what Mr. Bilal ultimately decided on.
The art exhibit in itself will likely be very interesting. As one would expect, it is perceivable that filming the opposite side of everything going on in a college professor’s life could yield some surprising results. But even with this in mind, perhaps the most compelling aspect of this story is the way it paves for the future. Futurists have suggested for years that the only thing keeping us from a world where technological questions of ethics are commonplace is waiting period before they become contemporary. In other words, as cameras get smaller it’s only a matter of time before they become a part of more peoples’ bodies. And once that happens, it’s easy enough to surmise that our planet will have a very real question about when and where camera surveillance is and is not occurring – particularly if the implants cannot be reliably turned off and on. Think about everywhere you go being observed, and everything you see being transmitted to a remote area elsewhere. Would this have an effect on what you do?
While privacy is obviously a concern for Mr. Bilal’s students, what of other parties involved? How would you act around a man the world was constantly tuning in to? And if Mr. Bilal was able to transmit audio as well as pictures of his life, what conclusions would people draw about him? In 1998 the film The Truman Show received mixed reviews for its take of a clandestine television corporation taking on every aspect of one man’s life and transmitting it as a television show. Are we soon to face a reverse scenario where Truman is running the show? And if this is the case, what will we learn both about him and ourselves? And what will the face of our planet look like when there is not one, but thousands of others like Bilal?