(QUARTZ) – Over the past few decades, microchip implant technology has moved from science fiction to reality; today hundreds of thousands of people around the world have chips or electronic transmitters inside them. Most are for medical reasons, like cochlear implants to help the deaf hear. More recently, body-modification enthusiasts and technophiles have been installing microchips in their bodies that do everything from starting a car to send a text message to make a payment in bitcoin. The market for nonmedical implant technology is virtually unregulated, despite the fact that thousands of people around the world got chipped in the past 12 months. That may be about to change: Over the past few

years calls to heavily regulate or even ban voluntary implants have grown increasingly loud. There’s a place for regulating implants, like any technology — but also a need to separate the fear from reality. I was excited to get my implant in 2015 at a biohacker gathering called Grindfest in Tehachapi, California — specifically, in a garage in a dentist’s chair, surrounded by vintage medical posters. These implants — often called radio-frequency ID or near-field-communication tags, depending on the technology involved — are about the size of a grain of rice and are installed in people in seconds via an oversize syringe. They each have a unique identification number and cost as little as $50. Most people get them injected in the tissue between their thumb and index finger. READ MORE

Quartz is a business news organization. It launched from New York City in 2012 and operates editions in Africa and India. The Quartz website and newsletters are free digital news publications with no paywalls nor registration requirements, although in 2018 it launched a paid membership product.