Philosophy, Ethics and Morals


        As more and more aspects of our world are controlled by digital devices and information available in digital format, our options for interfacing with this rich area are still limited to our eyes, ears and hands.  The function central to William Gibsonís fictional future was the ability to directly connect the human mind and the digital device.  In order to do this, even theoretically, would require another yet invented technology,  nanotechnolgy.  Nanotechnolgy would be a difficult thing to define in the current body of legislation.  What would need to be regulated with both of these very possible future technologies?  Another technical concern would be again related to the physical nature of the mind, and it could be possible, that this technology would not be possible without implantation at a very young age.  What are the ethical concerns of implanting devices in people without their permission?  If you think this question is currently moot, consider the digital angel product in development, an implant for tracking the host.  It is being pitched as a convent way of keeping track of children, absent minded elderly and criminals.
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What are the rights of children in a cyberculture.

Cohlear, vision, Digital angel, other nerual implants.
Children have no rights, parents make decisions for them
Thatís ok, parents decide much of childrenís development anyway, itís just not as blatent.  Choosing languages creates different brain structures, living in climates changes hypocampus response, allowing, enforcing various lifestyle decisions such as diet or excersize alters so much phisology.

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        If robotic legs, for example, are restricted to people who have already lost their leg, and yet, the robotic leg allows much greater strength and endurance and are especially usefull for certain occupations; such as construction work, we have a case of reverse discrimination on our hands.
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There is nothing limiting a knowledgable amature from implanting a self contained device into themselves or others.

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 What new possible regulations are to come?  There is the possibility of devices that cross so many legislation boundaries it becomes a corporate legal divisionís nightmare.  Imagine a device implanted into the palm or upper arm(FDA) that either interfaces with the nervous system for initialization or not, to transmit and receive(FCC) to a gun, enabling or disabling the firing mechanism(??ATF)  Will the area become so large, that a new governmental body will have to be created, split off from the FDA?

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Many contraceptive implant technologies are paving the way for more complex devices being implanted by trained technicians, who would be more ready to bend rules, make mistakes, and break federal regulations.  A clinical technician has not worked as hard to be where they are, and are not risking the years of training and credentials. Steve Haworth was a medical insturment manufacturer before he became a peircer and then a subdermal implant specialist.

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The Y2K that never was showed to us the extent that we have integrated digital technology into our lives.  A massive percentage of our daily activities currently involve a computer chip someplace, supporting or enhancing many activities.  People carry devices such as digital watches, cell phones, pagers, laptops and most recently, personal digital assistants with them constantly.  The point of technology is to extend what we can do with our bodies, our senses and, most of all, our minds.  These devices have added extra functionality to our lives.  Would anyone have imagined this functionality possible forty, fifty years ago?  Would anyone have imagined this kind of functionality desirable twenty, thirty years ago?  What kind of functionality could be commonplace in another twenty to fifty years if digital devices crossed the threshold of the body?
 The technology that most revolutionizes the society in cybernetic science fiction writerís worlds is the ability to connect a brain, or thoughts, to control mechanical devices, or even enter the computer world.  What kind of technology would this take?  The input for such an experience is the easy part; if the visual, auditory, tactile implants that are available evolve as they inevitably will.  The problem is feeding thoughts directly to a computer.  What would that take?  Not just feeding neural stimulation, because we can tell a computer what to do with the neural pulses that travel to our fingertips and onto the keys, but actually having our intentions transmitted. One possibility would be some kind of high resolution imaging scanner of our neural activity and an amazing leap forward in our understanding of the brain.  A more realistic, if it could be called that, approach would be an invasive connections to many points within the brain, and a trial and error training of thoughts and emotions, possibly for each individual.
One of the guidelines of the current law defines devices as achieving their purpose without chemical reaction or digestion. How will that definition change with possible nanotechnology, a molecularly small combination of chemical reaction and device intention?  We might need such a technology to be able to make those connections throughout the brain without addling someoneís gray matter.  A brain develops, and its connections are created as knowledge and emotional experience happens to it.  What if the best time to create such a connection to the outside world directly from the brain is when a person is far to young to make the decision weather itís desirable or not.  Are we going to make that judgement call on functionality Vs side effects for them, or are we already?
There is a heated and complex debate between the Deaf community and the cochlear implant industry. The March 7, 1999 Toronto Sun, Samatha Yaffe reports on two opposing sides in a difficult debate.  Why would anyone object to a procedure that could increase hearing and make it easier for deaf people to get along in a hearing world?   "The hearing is not the point," "implant survivor" Kristin Snoddon signs. "It's about being deaf, having a culture, having a language and accepting us for who we are."   Snoddon, 24, is a doctoral student at the U of T and chairman of the child cochlear implant committee for the CAD.
Born with hearing in Beaverton, Ont., she became profoundly deaf at age five from spinal meningitis. Her hearing loss was so severe, she could not make use of hearing aids.  Doctors advised she be sent to the Sir James Whitney School for the Deaf in Belleville, but her parents decided to keep her in the mainstream system.  She had no special assistance in the classroom until grade 7, when she was given an educational assistant to write down what the teacher was saying.   As far as Snoddon is concerned, her parent's rejection of her deafness culminated in 1990, when they arranged to have her implanted at the Hospital for Sick Children.
"I was 15. I hadn't been exposed to deaf culture ... I didn't know what I wanted, so I did it for my parents," she signs.  "Life's not easier with the implant. It requires intense therapy and it's not the same as hearing. It's like an electric buzzing."  The cochlear implant does not, however, take away a person's deafness.   When the processor is on, the implant stimulates hearing. When it's turned off, the hearing is gone.   Four years after Snoddon was implanted, she turned it off for good.   Two years later, Snoddon developed an infectious mass inside her skull which she attributes to the cochlear implant, despite a variety of medical opinions.   In 1996, she underwent surgery at Toronto General Hospital to remove the implant.
She has since immersed herself in "deaf culture" by learning to sign, developing relationships with other deaf people, joining interest groups and becoming actively involved in speaking out against cochlear implants.  Ninety percent of deaf children are born to hearing parents, many of whom have never known a deaf person.  Because hearing parents "can't find a place of acceptance" for their deaf children, they opt for the cochlear implant without exploring the possibilities of immersing them in the "deaf culture," signs Gary Malkowski, former MPP and vice-president of the CAD. "They try to fix them," he signs.
Once a child has been diagnosed, parents have three options: Signing, speaking or total communication -- any combination of hearing aids, lip reading, signing and therapy.  Kitsa Theofilaktidis chose speaking for her profoundly deaf son Dimitri, 4, who was implanted more than a year ago.   When Dimitri was first diagnosed at 11 months, "my natural reaction was to sign with him," says Theofilaktidis, who is fluent in sign language because her brother was born profoundly deaf and raised as a signer.   "But then doctors said that, with hearing aids, he would be able to develop hearing to a level that would allow him to gain language."
It is also imperative to implant children before they've passed the language development stage. Two years old is an ideal age, says Blake Papsin, director and surgeon for the Cochlear Implant Program at Sick Kids' hospital, which recently celebrated its 100th cochlear implant.   Papsin also says it's futile to implant an adult who never developed oral communication.   When Dimitri didn't progress with the hearing aids, his parents decided to apply for an implant. "I thought maybe this would make life easier for him and for us. He was becoming very frustrated and so were we ... I didn't want him to experience the isolation my brother did," Theofilaktidis says.   For the first time, Dimitri is picking up language and participating in conversation.
But while most children are familiar with sound from birth, children with hearing aids or cochlear implants must learn to hear, speak and understand the meaning of sounds through rigorous auditory-verbal training.   There are no guarantees as to the level of hearing or speaking the recipient will achieve through the implant, but many parents believe it is the most open-ended option.   If an individual chooses to reject it later in life in favor of sign language, that option is always there.   But if a signer decides later in life that he/she would prefer to be oral, the opportunity is gone.
"People think of signing as a very romantic way of communicating but, in reality, it's very isolating and if you're in the deaf community, you're kind of stuck there," says Shirley Keller, whose profoundly deaf daughter Dara, 12, was implanted in 1990.  "Besides the cochlear implant being able to open up the regular world to the hearing impaired, we as parents don't want them to be depending on society to always take care of them."  Today, Dara says she still considers herself deaf, but her biggest challenge is she has to sometimes ask people to repeat themselves.  She no longer requires assistance in the classroom, and she uses the telephone without having to plug it into her processor.
"If a kid can't walk, you give him a walker, you do what you can to help them get along in society," says Chris Hall, whose son Tristan Treasure, 12, was implanted seven months ago.   "The only time parents make the wrong choices is when they don't have all the information ... a lot of parents are given information based on the professional's bias," she says.   Last fall, the National Association of the Deaf in Maryland retracted its long-held position against childhood cochlear implants.   The implant programs at Sunnybrook and Hospital for Sick Children both inform candidates of the "deaf culture's" opposition.
But whether parents are informed or not, "the cochlear implant is very barbaric," Snoddon signs.  "It's like when girls from Sri Lanka are circumcised." Indeed, the surgery is invasive, but the risks and side effects are minimal, says David Shipp, director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Sunnybrook.   But there's only so much the medical community can know at this point. It's only been 20 years since the first commercial application of the cochlear implant was performed.  But Cochlear implants are not the only technology that is being implanted without permission.
InfoPet, a division of Trace Net Technologies Inc., first began marketing German-made microchips and readers to the pet market in 1988. American Veterinary Identification Devices Inc., AVID for short, joined the animal ID market in 1991 with its own chips and readers. Pharmaceutical giant Schering-Plough distributes a similar product called Home Again, manufactured by Destron-Fearing Inc. of St. Paul, Minn. Harting says there are roughly 110 million cats and dogs in the U.S.--about a quarter of them in California--and that number replenishes itself every five to seven years. "Throughout the country, probably at least a million pets are microchipped," she says. "It's a very small percentage, but growing."  The state of Hawaii, according to Walker, now requires all cats to be implanted. The city of Novato, in Marin County, passed an ordinance more than a year ago also requiring cats be microchipped as a condition for a mandatory pet license. The city-subsidized license costs only $7, chip included.
In October 1987, Daniel Man, a plastic surgeon practicing in Boca Raton, Fla., patented a homing device implant designed for humans under the name "Man's Implanted." Unlike the animal chip, the human device runs on long-lasting lithium batteries and periodically transmits a signal that would allow authorities to pinpoint a person's exact location using cellular phone towers or helicopters carrying triangulation equipment. The batteries, Man says, could be replenished twice a year--"like an electric toothbrush"--using a charger held against the skin. Approval of U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a costly and time-consuming process. But the estimated $500,000 needed to bring the product to market may be forthcoming. Man has been contacted by interested companies, plus government  agencies--including the U.S. Navy--which say they want to use the device to track marine mammals. The FBI also has expressed an interest in the device, according to Man's assistant, Faye Shelkofsky.
During the case of Vincent (Gigi Portalla) Marino in Worcester, Mass., June of last year, the reputed mobster sued to find out whether the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration had secretly implanted a microchip tracking device in his body.  Prosecutors first argued that the Government was not required to confirm whether it had done such a thing, but later, after a judge ordered them to respond, they said the drug agency had not implanted the microchip.  Mr. Marino's lawyer, Robert Sheketoff, said his client, now in prison, "doesn't trust the Government" and wants an MRI scan to check for a microchip.  Intriguingly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation would not say whether it ever uses such tracking devices.
 Applied Digital Solutions Inc, an Internet, telecom, Local Area Network, and software services company in Palm Beach, FL acquired the right to develop a implantable transceiver that sends and receives data and can be tracked continuously by Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) technology from a Boston-area group of inventors.  When implanted under the skin, the device is powered electromechanically through the movement of muscles, and it can be activated either by the wearer or by a remote monitoring facility. One feature even is expected to allow the wearer to control the device to some degree.  The device also can monitor certain biological functions of the body, such as heart rate, and send a distress signal to a monitoring facility when a medical emergency is detected.  They call it Digital Angel.  It has possible applications not only in healthcare, but also in business security and criminal justice. Among its potential uses are providing a tamper-proof means of locating and identifying people for e-business security, locating children who have been abducted, and determining the location of valuable property.  The device is still in the development stage.  The chip could hold medical and financial information, as well.
"We don't see [mandatory implantation] as an issue because it's a voluntary thing," Sullivan said. "We're in a voluntary world."
Sullivan added that the criminal justice system might use the device to keep track of prisoners released early.  ďThis is a situation that can go in the blink of an eye from being voluntary to being mandatory," said Emily Whitfield, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, in the Cox News report.   "They could get some bar code tattoos while they're at it," said Evan Hendricks, editor of the Privacy Times newsletter. He raises interesting points about the target recipients of the chip and their personal choice in the matter.  "If a parent really wants to put a chip in their kids, they have the right to do that. I would encourage people to think long and hard about using something like this for privacy and for medical reasons."  The people that Sullivan is intending to implant; children, criminals and senile elderly, all would have no choice or control in the matter.  They are under the control and rights of the people who would be deciding for them if this technology is safe and desirable.
The implant would consist of a chip surrounded by Teflon or titanium. Itís possible for people who are unwilling to have the chips in their bodies could carry them.  The transceiver could also be hidden inconspicuously on or within personal belongings and works of art, the company noted.  Applied Digital said it expects to create a working prototype by the end of next year. The company says that the potential global market for the device, in all of its applications, could exceed $100 billion. The devices could be implanted, as the lower-tech pet chips are, painlessly and in seconds.
"If, in fact, you were ever getting kidnapped, you might be delighted to have one of these things in you," said Peter Szolovits, a professor of computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  On the other hand, he said: "I'm not sure that I want to have my children growing up in a society where they have the sense that their every movement can be tracked at any time. This strikes me as psychologically not a good thing."  But Terry Waite, the Anglican Church envoy who spent five years as a hostage in Beirut, told the Sunday Times last year; "It is very dangerous because once kidnappers get to know about these things, they will skin you alive to find them,"
The problems and promise of medical implants that interact with the body and affect itís functions, are highly regulated by the federal government.  There are many devices under their jurisdiction to modify eyes, ears and the functions of the body.  Tattoos and piercing are under state control.  There are recreational devices under development that are similar enough to escape the stringent federal controls.  The FDA banned breast implants for their suspected risk versus their dubious benefit, but allows implanted birth control to exist to spite many difficult side effects as well as allowing the birth control to be inserted by only a technician.  Piercing has evolved to the point of implantation, not requiring a doctor.  So far nothing active has been implanted, by the piercing world.    When it becomes possible to connect to the brain, especially if it requires that we do so at a young age, should we?  That debate is already being had about the cochlear implant and the digital angel.  There are many ethical issues to confront about digital angel.  Are we ready for the future?

"And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake like a dragon. . . .And he 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."
            Revelation 13:11, 13:16, 13:17