[Paleopsych] silicon.com: Could future computer viruses infect humans?

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Fri Jan 21 15:06:05 UTC 2005

Could future computer viruses infect humans?
by [5]Jo Best
November 12, 2004

    Kevin Warwick, professor of cybernetics at Reading University and a
    man who has wired up his nervous system to a computer and put an RFID
    chip in his arm, is looking forward to becoming a cyborg once again -
    but warned the day will come when computer viruses can infect humans
    as well as PCs.

    Speaking this week at Consult Hyperion's fifth Digital Identity Forum,
    Warwick said the time would come when those who weren't cyborgs would
    be considered the odd ones out.

    "For those of you that want to stay human... you'll be a subspecies in
    the future," he said.

    Warwick believes that there are advantages for a human being to be
    networked to a computer.

    Networking a human brain would mean an almost "infinite knowledge
    base", he said, adding it would be akin to "upgrading humans... giving
    us abilities we dont already have".

    Warwick says the security problems that dog modern computing won't be
    much different from those that could plague the cyborgs of the future.

    "We're looking at software viruses and biological viruses becoming one
    and the same," he said. "The security problems [will] be much, much
    greater... they will have to become critical in future."

    If humans were networked, the implications of being hacked would be
    far more serious and attitudes towards hackers would be radically
    changed, he added.

    "Now, hackers' illegal input into a network is tolerated," said
    Warwick, but if humans were connected to the internet and hacks
    carried out, "this would be pushing the realms of tolerance".

    With his own networking experiments, in which he used his body's
    connectivity to operate a mechanical arm in the US, Warwick didn't
    publicise the IP address of his arm in case someone hijacked it.

    While the idea of networked humans may be a significant way off,
    Warwick's experiments are intended to have a practical purpose. He has
    been working with Stoke Mandeville hospital on the possible
    implications of the networked nervous system for those with spinal
    injuries; for example, to enable people to control a wheelchair
    through their nervous system.

    Nevertheless, Warwick said the idea of marrying humanity and
    technology isn't currently a popular one. Talking of his RFID
    experiments, he said: "I got a lot of criticism, I don't know why."

    Putting RFID chips in arms is now more than a novelty. Party goers at
    one club in Barcelona can choose to have RFID chips implanted in their
    arms as a means of paying for their drinks and some Mexican law
    enforcement officials had the chips implanted as a means of fending
    off attempted kidnappings.

    The US Food and Drug Administration has also recently [6]approved the
    use of RFID in humans. One potential application would be allowing
    medical staff to draw information on a patient's health from the chip.


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