What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish start-up hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and start-up members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.
“The biggest benefit, I think, is convenience,” said Patrick Mesterton, co-founder and chief executive of Epicenter. As a demonstration, he unlocks a door merely by waving near it.
The familiar trade-off: convenience in exchange for our data.
This kind of exchange can be mutually beneficial when the scope is constrained and the use is transparent. Disney’s wildly popular Magic Bands, for example, have a specific scope and context, the grounds of the resort. And the company is extremely clear about how the bands work and how the information will be used.
When that information gets murkier, things can quickly go sideways—it’s not clear to what end or to whose benefit this data will be used. What am I actually paying in exchange for the magic trick of opening workplace doors with a wave of my hand? Who’s watching and why?
While mouseketeers may be happy to wear Disney’s Magic Bands, would they be as happy if asked to wear them by their government? Or their boss? I guess this Epicenter experiment will let us know just how much of ourselves we’ll give up for simple conveniences.
“People ask me, ‘Are you chipped?’ and I say, ‘Yes, why not?’” said Fredric Kaijser, the 47-year-old chief experience officer at Epicenter. “And they all get excited about privacy issues and what that means and so forth.”
Um, yeah, I sure hope so.