There’s a place on the internet somewhere between a Reddit thread debating the merits of various cyborg movies and a playlist of intensely graphic YouTube videos of phalangeal surgery. That place is the discussion forum on the Dangerous Things company website, and it’s populated by a niche group of tech enthusiasts who have installed miniature microchips inside their bodies.
Once installed in, say, the fatty tissue between your thumb and your index finger, RFID (radio frequency identification) and NFC (near-field communication) chips have a range of capabilities. They can act as a key fob or a form of payment, or they can be programmed to store data, like, for instance, your resume. (All you have to do is hold a smartphone over the chip to program it.) They’re not dissimilar from the identification chips you’d install in your cat or dog.
Brandon Dalaly, a 39-year-old associate product owner at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, had his first microchip installed in June.
Dalaly, who says he’s been “a techie my whole life,” has been following microchip developments for a while, but he finally decided to join the semi-cyborg community himself for two reasons: First was the release of a brand new chip — the xSIID chip — that combines an NFC chip with an LED light, allowing it to glow when activated. (He says the green glow of his xSIID adds an “extra cool factor.”) The second reason: He was “super bored during quarantine.”
Dalaly bought his xSIID chip from Dangerous Things, the industry leader in human microchip production, and then had it implanted by a local tattoo parlor. The process is similar to a piercing. “We poke and we get under the skin. … I start using the plunger part to push the microchip out of the needle. Then, from there, it’s a small hole that we just put a Band-Aid on,” says the tattoo artist who did Dalaly’s implant. He asked to remain anonymous because microchip installation by those who aren’t licensed surgeons falls under a murky area of federal law.
Dangerous Things was founded in 2013, three years before the breakout Netflix hit Stranger Things, and 48 years after Julie Andrews sang about her “favorite things” (which, if updated for 2020, probably still wouldn’t include green-glowing microchips along with cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels).
Dangerous Things CEO Amal Graafstra says he founded the company because he was constantly losing his keys and realized, “I just need the door to know that it’s me.”
Most people who lose their keys a lot would probably just buy a key ring or a bougie welcome mat with a cutesy cursive phrase like “keys, phone, wallet?” but Graafstra’s strategy was definitely better. His Seattle-based company now sells microchips to people all over the world.
Graafstra also wants to point out that Dangerous Things products are not actually dangerous things. They’re produced, he says, to very high standards of quality and safety.
Nor is there reason for privacy or data protection concerns, he says. A phone has to be within millimeters of the chip to read it: “It doesn’t broadcast anything. It can’t be used for tracking.” He likens such worries to “having privacy concerns about a journal you keep under your bed.”
The microchipping community has, however, faced a certain amount of blowback from religious fundamentalists, some of whom have denounced implanted microchips as “the mark of the beast,” a biblical term referring to a mark on your right hand that signifies your allegiance to the devil.
Such criticism hasn’t deterred people like Dalaly, who says he doubts the Bible actually has much of anything to say about the link between Satan worshippers and NFC microchips.
A 21-year-old animation student at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit says she too has had her fair share of odd reactions to her microchip, so much so that she asked to remain anonymous to avoid harassment, presumably from those calling her a cyborg or devil worshipper.
“The day after I installed it,” she says, “[I] mentioned it to one of my professors, who said, ‘So the kids are just injecting computer chips into themselves these days, huh?’”
And it only takes a quick internet search for “RFID implantees” to determine that yes, yes, they are. And, of course, to confirm that there are no lengths to which some people won’t go to never lose their keys again.