The fluorescent lighting above Michelle’s head flickered as she filled out the on-line questionnaire on the tablet in front of her. It’s 2032 and they still haven’t figured out bloody lighting she thought in frustration.
‘Michelle Corvan’ called out the recruiter from a doorway behind her. She quickly gathered her belongings and got up. As she started to walk toward her recruiter she began to examine him, in a less obvious manner than his examination of her through his AI glasses. He was approximately 6 foot tall, broad shouldered with dark brown hair. His uniform was as immaculate as his posture. He pointed toward a small interview room and asked her if she had submitted her questionnaire as he took a seat behind a large empty desk. Before she had even responded she could see her completed personal information form start to run down the screen of his glasses.
‘OK, everything here looks good; you have completed your preliminary medical and psych examinations as well as your fitness test. It says here you want to be a Craftsman? I don’t blame you, RAEME is the best Corps in the Army.’ He smiled then as if he were trying to put her at ease, however she had only a very basic understanding of what the ’Royal Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers’ was. She smiled back all the same. ‘So it looks like we have an opening for you in a week to join up, which means we can have your implant placed in today, and give you some time to heal up and sort any last minute admin you might want to do before you head to recruit training.’
The recruitment officer stood up and moved toward the door. Michelle assumed she was to follow him despite the lack of verbal cues and got up herself. Only a week she thought as she felt her nerves rise from the pit of her stomach.
The recruiter led her down the hallway and pointed her into a new room. Michelle felt slightly embarrassed as she thanked him, realising she didn’t know whether to call him Sir or not.
As she walked through the doorway she realised that she had entered a doctor’s office. There was a bed against a wall opposite the doorway covered in clear plastic and a desk to her right hand side with a computer sitting on it. Strange thought Michelle as she took a seat in the otherwise empty room, you don’t see many desk top computers anymore, this must be an older doctor. She sat patiently in the room, looking at the computer out of the corner of her eye as the minutes passed by. Finally, a young man walked in, he must have been in his mid-thirties. He had cream pants on and a blue checked long sleeve, collared shirt.
Michelle was slightly taken aback, not just because he was younger than she expected, but because he was holding a clipboard with papers on it and a small package rather than AI glasses. The doctor must have read her face as he chuckled and stated ‘I’m a little retro’.
‘So today we will be conducting your chip implant. I will get you to lay on the bed, face up and remain still just like your first scan and we will go from there’. Michelle placed all of her belongings on the floor and got up. She had deliberately not worn anything with metal in it today as she still vividly remembered the embarrassment of her first scan. As she laid down on the bed, the doctor typed something into the computer and the robotic arm detached itself from the wall beside her and stretched out into its starting position over her feet. Within a couple of seconds, the lights within the arm turned on and it started to slowly move up her body, taking imagery and diagnostics of her health and sending them to the computer that the doctor was sitting at. As the images were transferred, she could hear the doctor typing as he went through all of the data and directing the arm to slow down over major organs then continue moving. Michelle closed her eyes as the warm light started to sweep up to her face and finally, over her head. She felt the warmth disappear as the light was turned off and she opened her eyes.
‘Everything looks great from the scan, let’s get this implant in’ said the doctor as he got out of his seat and brought over the little box he had carried into the room with him. He placed it on the bed beside her. ‘Now you can remain lying down or sit up for this part, depending how fond you are of needles’ he said as he stretched latex gloves over his hands and removed the Radio Frequency Identification, Memory and Near Field Communication device which was around the size of a grain of rice. She remained firmly lying down and rolled her right hand over so the palm was facing up toward him. She started to become conscious of the cheap plastic underneath her, sticking to her skin. As she became more nervous she could feel her temperature rise.
‘OK, I will give you a needle with a bit of anaesthetic and then once that has set in, it will just be a matter of a small…’ the doctors voice trailed off and she felt a prick in her hand, ‘…incision, then pop the implant in. No dramas’. Michelle kept her eyes firmly focused on the white patch-worked roof and the mould stain in its corner.
She could hear a clicking noise behind her and she knew he was placing the blank implant in the tiny sync cradle that was undoubtedly connected to the computer. She distracted herself by wondering how the AI glasses worked with syncing her personal data to the chip.
‘That should be all good to go now’ the doctor said with some more clicking noises before moving over to her. ‘Can you feel this?’ She felt some slight pressure against her palm but no pain.
‘Not really’ she said as she closed her eyes in anticipation of the incision. She could feel the weird sensation of the doctor doing something to her hand but without any real awareness of what it was.
‘All done’ he said after about a minute. ‘When you’re ready, slowly sit up and come over to the chair and I will explain the implant and how to care for it for the next week before your basic training’.
Michelle did as she was told and moved toward the chair that she had previously been sitting in. She looked at the back of her palm, the micro-chip was clearly visible underneath the surface of her skin.
‘For the next week try and keep it away from chemicals.’ The doctor started talking to her in a distracted tone as he started typing more information into the computer. He had clearly given this brief many times. ‘The chip itself will disappear into your hand over time until the point when you will only be able to see it by applying great pressure. The chip will last for four years at which time it will need replacing. This is timed to occur with the end of your Return of Service Obligation. Now there are many benefits to having the chip, especially as a Craftsman. You will sign out and sign in tools with the chip in the workshops, you will sign for the receipt of the equipment you are fixing as well as repair parts. Your log book during training will be stored through your chip along with all of your subsequent competencies.
There are many other benefits to the chip as well. You will be able to pay for all of your meals at the mess using it. You will sign out any issued equipment, including your weapons using the chip. Some of your health diagnostics will be tracked through it, much like the old ‘wearables’ which is especially important during your recruit training. Your location will also be traceable through it which is helpful in the event of any kind of emergency or casualty evacuation. The chip is your ID card, so when you enter a base or some restricted buildings, you will scan the chip.
You will continue to discover more and more as you start to utilise the chip, such as the QR code reader to activate data in the AI glasses you will be issued at recruit training that will be synced to your chip. You won’t be able to test any of its capabilities until it has healed and you are back here in a week, at which time you will have it scanned for your first parade as a soldier before getting on the bus to recruit training.’
Michelle heard a familiar ping from her hand bag indicating that a file was being downloaded onto her phone. She instinctively knew that it must be the virtual information pamphlet about the chip. At the sound of the ping the doctor turned toward her and stood up, the universal sign for ‘please leave’.
Despite knowing that she would be receiving the implant, Michelle only had a very basic understanding of why the Defence Force had started micro chipping its soldiers from the debates in the media about it.
This technology had been introduced in large businesses around the world decades prior without incident. The implant was more secure than an ID tag or a signature, and those that advocated for its introduction into the Australian Defence Force saw it as a natural progression of technology. The criticisms came from those that saw this as the first step to creating some form of robot soldier or concerns over creating ‘hackable’ soldiers.
Technological advances would always attract scrutiny, however, with the constant introduction of much more deadly autonomous weapon systems, the introduction of what was merely a more advanced version of the technology we had been placing in our pets for years seemed fairly inconsequential to Michelle.
About the author: Jessica Ward is a RAEME captain currently posted as the Adjutant of 3rd Command Signal Regiment. Jess has experience in command, instructing and operations. In her spare time, Jess runs a blog called ‘The Junior Officer’s Book Shelf’ where she reviews command and leadership books.