Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Prophecy to science fiction to reality? The history of electronic chip implants

I found quite interesting an article on io9 on Aug. 11 titled "Breakthrough: Electronic circuits that are integrated with your skin" (
Picture is from io9 and other sites; origin of photo is unknown.
But the idea isn't new. Technology for flexible chips has been around since at least 2006, chips have been implanted in the skin since at least 1998, science fiction have used the idea of implanted technology since at least 1972, and there's prophecy—about a time when mankind cannot buy or sell without a mark on the right hand or forehead—that dates back to the first century.

Here are some information and quotes from various sources related to the idea of ID implants or marks (starting from present technology and going backward in history):

1. "'Down the line, it could be used [as] credit cards and such,' says Chris Hables Gray, a professor of cultural studies of science and technology at the University of Great Falls in Montana. 'A lot of people won't have to carry wallets anymore,' he says. 'What the implications are [for this technology], in the long run, is profound.'" ("Implant Chip, Track People," Feb. 25, 2011,

2. "Somark Innovations, a small company working out of Saint Louis, has successfully tested an RFID tattoo, on cows, mice and rats: enabling an identifying number embedded under the skin to be read from over a meter away. ... The system developed by Somark uses an array of needles to quickly inject a pattern of dots into each animal, with the pattern changing for each injection. This pattern can then be read from over a meter away using a proprietary reader operating at high frequency. ... Somark are in the process of raising money to exploit the technology, and point out that what works for animals can, of course, also work for people; identifying Military Personnel as one of their secondary markets, after cattle and other livestock." ("Cattle branding comes to the 21st Century: High-tech tattoo more than a pretty picture" by Bill Ray, Jan. 16, 2007,

3. University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers invented thin-film semiconductor techniques in which the "thin layer (only a couple of hundred nanometers thick) can be transferred to glass, plastic or other flexible materials, opening a wide range of possibilities for flexible electronics." ("Research dishes out flexible computer chips," July 18, 2006,

4. On business using VeriChip ID tags: "The two workers were implanted with RFID chips—inexpensive radio transmitters that give off a unique identifying signal—that until now have been implanted in pets or attached to goods so they can be tracked in transit. The chips are planted in the upper right arm of the recipient, and read by a device similar to a cardreader." ("RFID implants heighten security, raise questions," Feb. 21, 2006,

5. "The exuberant designers of the golden age of plastic explored all the wacky, nonfunctional, decorative shapes that household objects could take. Now that same plasticity is coming to microcontrollers, the computer chips that act as brains for the chirping, dancing, listening and seeing devices that line our knickknack shelves and dashboards and fill our pockets." ("Flights of Fancy on Flexible Chips," by Cory Doctorow, Dec. 7, 2005,

6. "Back in 1998, Kevin Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University outside of London, implanted a chip into his arm as an experiment to see if Warwick's computer could wirelessly track his whereabouts with the university's building." ("Implant Chip, Track People," Feb. 25, 2011,

7. "Bud had seen this all before. The Peacock Bank was running the same racket as all the others: If they accepted you, they’d shoot the credit card right into you, then and there, on the spot. These guys implanted it in the iliac crest of the pelvis, some opted for the mastoid bone in the skull—anywhere a big bone was close to the surface. A bone mount was needed because the card had to talk on the radio, which meant it needed an antenna long enough to hear radio waves. Then you could go around and buy stuff just by asking for it; Peacock Bank and the merchant you were buying from and the card in your pelvis handled all the details." (The Diamond Age, a science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, Bantam Books, 1995)

8. "He stepped out of the way to let a dark-suited saraiman by, spotting the Mitsubishi-Genentech logo tattooed across the back of the man's right hand. Was it authentic? If that's for real, he thought, he's in for trouble. If it wasn't, served him right. M-G employees above a certain level were implanted with advanced microprocessors that monitored mutagen levels in the bloodstream. Gear like that would get you rolled in Night City, straight into a black clinic." (Neuromancer, a science fiction novel by William Gibson, Ace, 1984)

9. "The surgical scars on his [Orne's] neck where the micro-communications equipment had been inserted into his flesh itched maddeningly. He scratched. ... Stetson stared at him for several heartbeats, then: "Yeah, Let's check that equipment the surgeons put in your neck." ... Stetson put a hand to his own throat. His mouth remained closed, but a surf-hissing voice became audible to Orne, radiating from the implanted transceiver: "You read me, Orne?" (The Godmakers, a science fiction novel by Frank Herbert, Berkley Medallion, 1972)

10. And last, the earliest mentioning that I am aware concerning a mark used to buy or sell is in the book of Revelation written by John of Patmos in the first century. Of course, there are many people from various religions as well as agnostics and atheists who don't believe in that religious text, but there are so many people who believe that implanted chips are connected to the prophecy that it's noteworthy to mention. I'm not saying you have to believe the quotes are true or interpret them to be talking about chips, but the quotes are included for educational purposes. Many interpret them to be allegorical in nature.

Here are the quotes that mention the "mark of the beast" as it is often called:

"And he [another beast] causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six." (Revelation 13:16-18, by John of Patmos, first century, King James Version—Note: some translations say "on" instead of "in" the right hand or forehead)

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11 by John of Patmos, first century, King James Version)

"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." (Revelation 20:4, by John of Patmos, first century, King James Version)

Do you know of any earlier prophecies, science fiction stories and/or technologies that relate to chip implants?


  1. Love that you quoted Diamond Age and the Bible. About every six months my wife reads the urban legend about the government requiring chips, forgets that she has read it before, and makes me send her to snopes. I guess at some point she will be right.

  2. Never considered that implanted chips were connected to the Mark of the Beast. Thanks for that.

  3. Budd, "The Diamond Age" reminds me of Greg Bear's writings. I love Bear's "Blood Music" but I can't get into "Eon" (I never finished reading it). Also, it's hard to believe anyone will be required to have chips anytime soon, especially the whole world.

    John, there's also a thing called the Bible code, in which Jews use the Torah, especially the book of Genesis, to unlock secret messages that tell of past events and may predict future ones. Journalist Michael Drosnin, an atheist, wrote about it in his Bible Code books. He believes in the code's accuracy and thinks that intelligent, extraterrestrial life forms wrote it.

  4. Yeah, they've been talking about this for years. Will we see them in common use? Probably not. Nice research in the quotes man.

  5. Maurice, yeah, but wouldn't it be great if we had hoverbikes?


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