Barcoded babies: Grand idea or simply ridiculous?

Barcode Tattoo

In an ongoing “60-second idea” series at BBC, thinkers from around the world share their ideas on how to change society with a quick concept. Previous ideas include limiting gadgets to one photo a day or masks for job candidates during interviews. While these concepts are nothing short of wild, or controversial to say the least, this week’s idea seems to be the craziest of them all: Why not barcode everyone at birth?

Science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon pitched the concept to as a way to identify people in a quick and easy manner, especially with the help of our ever-evolving digital age. The unique barcodes would be imprinted upon birth and reduce, perhaps even eliminate, the need for people to carry around physical identification cards with matching photos. 

“Having such a unique barcode would have many advantages. In war soldiers could easily differentiate legitimate targets in a population from non combatants,” Moon writes. “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.”

From Moon’s war standpoint, soldiers would have to react a lot quicker to performing well during battles while scanning the code to ensure the correct aim. In a more general consumer aspect, identity thefts could be prevented and we would become more eco-friendly by saving plastic from all those miscellaneous ID cards. This also means no more passing your old Learner’s Permit to your underaged cousin or sibling for a night out at the bar.

Of course, since this is a 60-second idea, not all the logistics are clear. Could someone tamper with their branded code? What if you get a tattoo or receive some sort of skin burn that destroys the area where your barcode would be?  Will people feel offended with the idea of branding our skin with barcodes the way farmers brand livestock? Is getting lasers pointed at us on a daily basis even healthy in the long run?

Moon’s idea is certainly radical, but raises a lot of curiosity. Would embedding a barcode at birth actually help our society or is this the kind of technology that should only remain in the sci-fi realm? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credit: Flickr / iamthechad

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