Government // Enterprise Architecture
Commentary
8/2/2010
06:08 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
Commentary
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Global CIO: IBM, WalMart, & Tom Cruise To Star In Thriller, 'RFID Madness!'

Wal-Mart said, "It's just for clothes" and IBM said, "It's just for billboards" but now I've got RFID chips glued to my earlobes. Why oh why didn't I heed the warnings??

It was a day just like any other day. Except it wasn't. Because on that particular day, Wal-Mart began expanding its use of RFID chips from pallet-level containers to individual garments. While the end-is-near crowd wrapped their heads in tin-foil, I wrote a column lavishing Wal-Mart with praise for making life better for its customers and its suppliers and its employees and its shareholders.

What a fool I was!

All the evidence was right there in front of me—not just in the form of the bumperstickers saying "When only Wal-Mart has RFID, only RFID will know who you are!", but also in the comments section to my column which told me everything I needed to know, such as:

"Nuclear fission is a legitimate technology, with legitimate applications, but I don't want Wal-Mart using [it] in their back yard for what ever purpose they see fit, and I certainly don't want my neighbor down the street using it either," the unusually insightful commenter said.

How blind I was! I pooh-poohed the whole connection between RFID, nuclear fission, and Wal-Mart, even though it was pointed out to me in plain English!

And how foolish I was! I blithely dismissed the sage advice of a commenter named "what?", who couldn't have been more clear in his/her warning of what was to come:

"This is only the start of RFID soon it will be in your body and they will tell you it's good for you it will give you better choices in life . RFID must be banned but it won't that's the fact that we will shall live with," warned "what?".

Silly me—I waved off that advice as if it were just too much foam on a glass of draft root beer. (Speaking of overly foamy root beer, sometimes the foam is caused by excess soap left in the glass, and sometimes it's just that the root beer is overly fizzy. But now I have to wonder: can RFID be the cause of overly frothy root beer?)

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Oh, if only I had known what was to come just a few short days later. When I awoke, it was a day just like any other day. Except it wasn't. Because IBM was planning to use RFID to turn billboards—peaceful, inert, passive, lovely, informative, static, and unthreatening billboards—into all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-controlling X-ray devices that can peer into your mind, your soul, your wallet, your refrigerator, your garage, and even your socks drawer.

I smirked, snidely, when I read how IBM researchers were about to turn the entire world—all three and a half billion of us—into unwitting extras in a movie (and unpaid extras, at that!) starring the guy who did a really cool job of keeping his balance while being suspended by a wire attached to the back of his pants in Mission: Impossible. See, he was breaking into the very secure mainframe at the CIA and the only way to get in was through the ceiling tiles after they faked a fire and gave the mainframe systems administrator some juice that made him throw up and—well, anyway, I'm getting off the subject but now that I'm sorrier but wiser I wonder if they put RFID into his coffee to make him heave like that? Anyway, here's how London's Telegraph described IBM's role in taking over the world via RFID-activated personal billboards:

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