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Where to implant my employee microchip? I have the ideal location
Swipe – open toilet door – and swipe again
Something for the Weekend, Sir? "Work out loud," my prospective new employer tells me, adding that "we are a team, not a family". Sister Sledge need not apply.
I try to keep my best poker face but I can sense my left eyebrow raising by itself. When I first entered the work market in the 1980s, the prevailing language of corporate bullshit rolled its tongue around paradigm-shifting and envelope-breaking. Today, we talk about "high-bandwidth collaboration" and "it's OK to fail".
Come to think about it, my prospective employer just said something about "failing quickly and cheaply". Earlier, they pontificated that "failure breeds success". Clearly, failure is the key skill they're looking for in an employee. I'm their man.
I come well-prepared for this onslaught of hipster interview gibberish: I grew some stubble, put on a lumberjack shirt, boned up on my IT certifications (just in case) and, most important of all, learnt the language of corporate culture decks. You too can master modern marketspeak for the digital era by reading Culture Decks Decoded by Brett Putter.
Unfortunately, the interviewer is now talking about "pseudo-harmony" and has just invited me to be "a no-ego doer". My left eyebrow feels like it is travelling towards the back of my head.
It's when he says "date the model, marry the mission" that I realise I couldn't possibly keep up the pretence in such a workplace for more than five minutes. I can control it no longer. Visibly shaken by my sudden and uncontrollably explosive yell of laughter, my interviewer wishes me a good day. No worries, there are plenty of other organisations out there who'll pay me handsomely to fail for them – quickly, cheaply and even frequently if that's what's required.
I am a recent convert to the Church of Failure. Previously, I regarded failure as undesirable and unnecessary if there was an option of not failing. My LinkedIn profile would list items under the "Experience" heading thus:
Provided consultancy to major newspaper group on how to maximise digital publishing productivity at minimal cost; was ignored; watched helplessly as six-figure sum poured needlessly into incompetent alternative system that inevitably failed; left company to work elsewhere; those who instigated embarrassing disaster received promotion.
Now I get the picture: bosses can forgive and even admire a brave failure, no matter how avoidable... but absolutely nobody likes a smart arse.
So I understand the practical need to fuck up, visibly and expensively if necessary, to further one's career. My problem is that I don't yet feel ready to embrace failure on a personal level.
For example, I'm not keen on the implantation of microchips into employees to avoid the need for security access cards and the like. I don't have any particular social or moral objection, I just know for a fact that these microchips will inevitably go tits up. Sooner or later, probably sooner and without any doubt whatsoever, they will either stop working altogether or self-enable a hidden routine that switches the implanted microchip into Total Buggeration Mode.
Embracing failure is literal when the failed item is 4mm beneath the surface of your skin.
Do you use an RFID card to unlock security doors or release gates at your workplace? Do they work every time? Of course they bloody don't. Half the time, you're standing in front of the door flourishing your card impotently across the sensor from different directions again and again, watching the red light flash repeatedly with an accompanying ugly audio bleat, as you duly recite the workplace mantra: "Fucking open the fuck up you fucking fucked fucker".
Waving my empty microchip-implanted hand over this sensor does not seem to offer any obvious advantage.
And unlike those stupid swipe cards that they give you in four-star hotels – the ones that fail after just two uses, assuming they work at all – you can't just nip down to reception to get them to remagnetise the strip with your room number. Nor can you simply rock up to the security manager's office and ask for a replacement ID card.
Instead, you'd have to join a lengthy queue for an appointment at the blood-splattered door of the workplace surgeon, who will gouge out the failed chip from between your thumb and forefinger with a pair of pliers, insert a new one using a bent coat hanger and sew your hand back up with dental floss. You'll have to do this roughly every two weeks, in my experience of security access ID cards.
If I want proof of how glitchy such a system is, I just observe my cat going for a crap.
He is microchipped at the back of his neck, you see. The microchip triggers the electronic release mechanism on the backdoor cat flap, so that my cat is the only furry animal that can use it to enter and exit the house. But it doesn't always work. Sometimes it takes him several headbutts before the bolt clicks back and lets him out.
This causes him to meow noisily, probably the feline equivalent of "fucking open the fuck up you fucking fucked fucker", and jump onto the window ledge in the hope that I'll let him out manually. One day he'll give up and take a dump on my pillow instead.
I have a lot of sympathy for my cat because I have been in almost exactly the same situation myself, when the security card with which I'd been issued on a contracting job failed to let me though to the office toilets. I had been busy and perhaps let things, er, "mount up" before deciding that a visit to the Gents was too urgent to put off any longer. I ended up sprinting across the open-plan floor only to end up performing the squirm-dance with flailing arms at the exit as the RFID sensor determinedly refused to acknowledge my card.
Perhaps I should have acted like my cat: either pee out the nearest window or take a shit on the security manager's chair.
Embedding such a failure-ridden technology semi-permanently into my body tissue is too insane to contemplate. Not only is the convenience value vastly overrated (since it only works some of the time), any perceived security benefits are purely imaginary. Sure, I'm less likely to leave my hand behind on a train seat or allow someone to steal my arm than I would lose an ID card, but I can't just tuck my hands away when I'm not opening a door. Usually they are waggling in front of me quite a lot, doing other stuff.
As Martin Jartelius, CSO of Outpost24, put it: "The very location of a microchip in your hand may actually lead to increased exposure, as the hands form the basis of our physical interaction with our surroundings."
In other words, there's nothing secure about waving your unshielded security ID device around all day in public view – at work, at home, and while commuting between the two.
Not to worry. I'm sure someone will conjure an alternative, better hidden body location for my security implant. And if it's to unlock the office toilet quickly with a simple gesture, I think I know just the place...