Vital Signs

The Slippery Slope of Safety

Keeping up with technology is tricky.  Sometimes, you find information in a press release; other times, you ascertain the full measure of what is going on through obscure legal and scientific papers, last-minute legislative “riders,” and seemingly inconsequential blurbs in the foreign press.  Even as my piece on implantable identification tags was going to press (“Implanted IDs: Click Here!” Vital Signs, October 2002), rumors were emerging from Great Britain.

Applied Digital Solution’s primary human guinea pig and proselytizer, cybernetics researcher Kevin Warwick of the United Kingdom’s Reading University, fell into hot water.  Electronics expert Bernard Albrecht called the General Med-ical Council, various social-service agencies, two district councils, and eventually the police to file assault charges against Warwick for conducting unethical medical and surgical procedures on volunteers.  His favorite targets were the children of parents seeking peace of mind, for reasons of health or security.

When the authorities failed to bring charges, Albrecht appealed to the university’s guidelines on research, alleging misrepresentation of a technological device.  In the ensuing uproar, the press dubbed Professor Warwick “Captain Cyborg.”  None of the charges against Warwick have yet been pursued.

A plethora of details emerged...

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