Given the way technology is going, are we headed toward a day when every living person gets tagged with barcodes at birth? If so, says SciFi author Elizabeth Moon, that would be a grand thing. In BBC’s “60-second idea” programme, she says, “If I were empress of the Universe, I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached — a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals.”

Well, why not? Citizens in modern nations already have government-issued IDs (photo IDs, driver’s licenses, etc). At least with a unified, formalized system, the one barcode ID could allow you to fly on a plane and buy alcohol, as well as identify you in an accident or emergency. And it would help law enforcement parse the populace.

But there are even more practical reasons than that, according to Moon. Her writings have covered several scenarios:

In war soldiers could easily differentiate legitimate targets in a population from non combatants.

This could prevent mistakes in identity, mistakes that result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. Weapons systems would record the code of the use, identifying how fired which shot and leading to more accountability in the field.

Anonymity would be impossible as would mistaken identity making it easier to place responsibility accurately, not only in war but also in non-combat situations far from the war.

The whole point of the “60-second idea” is to ponder or propose an idea in a minute or less. That amount of time isn’t really enough time to flesh out a fully formed solution, only a concept. Perhaps the better question is: Are we actually headed there? And if so, would a system like this be more beneficial for people, or more dangerous, considering the likelihood of abuse by governments or elected officials? What say you?

[via DVICE, source BBC]