As part of the BBC's "60-second idea" series, science fiction author Elizabeth Moon is making a case for slapping a barcode on every person at birth. In a digital world where a good majority of our interactions are anonymous, it's a stifling thought. So, why's she for it?
"If I were empress of the Universe," begins Moon, as all musings about the future should begin, "I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached — a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals."
In general, citizens of modern nations already have barcodes on them. We have government-issued identification cards in the form of a photo ID or driver's license. The difference? You get to pick where you use it, for the most part. It'll let you do things if you want, such as fly on a plane or buy alcohol. It will also help identify you during an accident or emergency, and helps law enforcement sort the populace.
What Moon writes about is more than that:
Having such a unique barcode would have many advantages. In war soldiers could easily differentiate legitimate targets in a population from non combatants.
This could prevent mistakes in identity, mistakes that result in the deaths of innocent bystanders. Weapons systems would record the code of the use, identifying how fired which shot and leading to more accountability in the field.
Anonymity would be impossible as would mistaken identity making it easier to place responsibility accurately, not only in war but also in non-combat situations far from the war."
Of course, a 60-second thought isn't supposed to provide the answer, just the idea. So here's the question now: is this a system just waiting to be abused by a government to control a populace, or would transparency and accountability lead to better interactions both online and off?