Insertable Technology: Friend or Foe?

21 Aug 2017

If ever the conversation of insertable technology rises, it’s safe to say a glass of wine is usually involved and of course, endless references to sci-fi and horror films. The latest Black Mirror season, for example, depicts an episode where insertable technology is used to enhance gaming experiences.

As gripping and realistic as that episode was, it is in no way exemplary of insertables, and here’s why. Firstly, an insertable is wearable technology that is voluntarily and temporarily placed inside the body. This is almost always used for comfort and efficiency purposes rather than medical. Think London’s Oyster card inserted inside your wrist to prevent you from ever having to rummage through your backpack during an exhausted rush hour journey. Or imagine the wearable you’re using – whether it be for tracking your heart rate, running distance, light intake or sleep quality – inserted into your wrist; never having to take it off nor protecting it from harming elements.

There’s plenty of reasons to become excited about insertables, and equally a myriad of reasons to fear its very concept. If considered through measures of ethics and humanism, insertables certainly don’t align easily with concepts of independence, autonomy, and individuality. But yet again, neither does social media, GPS tracking and the vast quantity of data collected from our very online movement.

The real challenge with technology is for ethics and law to keep up with its speedy development. Often we find the most basic questions lagging behind tech’s forward-vision, and questions around insertables unarguably reside under that umbrella as we ask: what is the fundamental difference between our continuous interaction with our smartphones and insertable chips to help bridge the gap between the virtual and the physical world? And, most importantly, can ethical concerns stop this development?