First came iPhones, then came iWatches, now comes surgically-implanted, remote-controlled birth control computer chips. It’s a natural progression, really. Thanks to MIT and their start-up company MICROChips, women may soon be able to control their baby-making abilities with the touch of a button. What do we really know about this device?
First of all, it’s not for sale.
At least, not yet. Bill Gates proposed the idea to Robert Langer, a world-famous MIT professor and engineer, in 2012 but the prototypes are not expected to go on sale until 2018, meaning women have to deal with birth control pills and other contraceptives for another few years. Patience, grasshopper. Pregnancy will be digitally preventable by the time Hillary Clinton is president. I’m being a bit optimistic, of course. It likely won’t be available until the end of her term because technology is downright unreliable.
Yes, it’s implanted in you.
Not like a tampon but more like a metal chip that an alien would implant under your skin. The 20 x 20 x 7 millimeter device can be installed in one of three places: in your abs, your arms, or your butt. (It could also come in the form of a “smart pill” capsule that’s swallowed instead of implanted, according to The Verge. )
It uses hormone manipulation to prevent pregnancy.
More specifically, the chip is programmed to release 30 micrograms of a hormone called levonorgestrel every day. It is one of the main ingredients in emergency contraceptive pills and hormone replacement therapies.
Contraception would be as easy as pressing a button.
Using electric currents, the chip would consistently release levonorgestrel into a woman’s system until she turns it off. And how does she do that? By pressing a button on a remote control that syncs to the device. Unlike existing birth control implants that can last for up to 5 years, the new gadget would offer consistent pregnancy coverage for up to 16 years. That means you can live baby-free without the hassle of painful surgeries every few years.
There are valid concerns.
Preclinical trials testing the safety of the chip won’t start for another year, but already there are some logistical and philosophical issues to hash out. The device invites technology critics and advocates alike to question our nation’s growing reliance on computers. One concern is keeping the wireless data stored on the microchip (stored in your body) safe and secure. Talk about privacy issues. And what’s next? After all, if we can control our baby-making abilities by shoving a chip under our skin, why not make a chip that can control our emotions too? Or ones that can curb food cravings or Netflix addictions? What’s stopping us from becoming walking computer chips?
Is the device hackable?
Last year, the FDA issued a warning that medical devices were vulnerable to hacking, and already critics are raising concerns over this new concept of contraception. But, as MICROChips President Robert Farra notes, the connection between the remote and the chip must occur “at skin contact level distance,” meaning a hacker could not hijack your body unless they were physically touching you with some sort of scrambling device. Still, who knows what advances in hacking technology we’ll be dealing with in 2018?
So, will computer chip birth control revolutionize the contraception industry? Perhaps. We have a few years to ponder the issue, so until then, sit back, relax, and take your birth control before you fall asleep and have a panic attack tomorrow morning.
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