Now, at last, our garbage can have readable low frequencies. As RFID tags become more and more part of our daily consumer environment, we will have fruit tags that are pesky in new ways: not only sticky but also emitty. Looks like we will soon have readable fruit, and veg, and meat – all with tags on the packaging or on the produce itself. Inventory tracking and management systems are becoming an extraordinary science-fiction-like reality, where all products are emitting frequencies that can be read by readers, and cellphones with reader software.
I started looking at it when the NYTimes had a feature on the new codes that will soon replace barcodes. They showed a billboard in Korea that had only an abstract digital binary pattern, a square with black and white patterns in it. It looked like meaningful information of some sort, coded. This can be read by our cellphones.
Then this morning I saw one: like a bug, it was beside the barcode on my deodorant.
I’ve just passively accepted barcodes, as we all have. “Oh that’s just how they keep track of things.” Efficient, computer-based inventory control, right?
So I went to the web to see what I could find on RFID, the closest thing to these little bugs, and have been avidly reading up on it most of the morning. What does it mean? I can’t really say, but socially it is a tighter integration of human needs (and the fulfillment of those needs) with consumer culture and computer tracking on a highly sophisticated level. And it looks like it is now mainstream.
Now I don’t believe my deodorant is tracking me, it seems to be just an inert print tag, and may not be emitting anything at this stage. But we know that sophisticated printers can print all kinds of nanochips. Still, a black and white binary image can be scanned like a barcode, rather than having an expensive (say $.40 minimum cost) RFID that emits.
This system will reach consumers soon, and the critical mass will mean $.05 per tag, and that will mean greater ubiquity. Stuck on the outside plastic, these tags will be torn off and tossed in the trash. I can imagine garbage emitting low level radio frequencies – sounding like a true mashup, compared with the ordered emissions of the produce department, with all the apples singing one tone, and all the bananas singing another. The wrapped meats provide the lower tones, while all the packaged cereals are singing harmonies. Meanwhile the carts in the supermarket are providing percussion – they can’t be removed from the store. And the electronic doors open and close. It is a nightmare Jacques Tati film, as the hapless M.Hulot shakes the lemon and holds it to his ear, before dropping it as it rolls beneath the wheels of a programmed cart. To scream?
Stopping these emissions is called killing the tag. Until the tag is killed it is alive, sending out its signals. Mystics have always said that every object emits vibrations that are visible and audible to the one who can sense these subtleties. Now we are creating a world in which our objects emulate this process. But what does the artificial vibration do to the subtle vibration that is already there?
The technology has been in use for over 5 years now, and is now becoming ubiquitous. Hospitals use it to keep track of who’s who and which charts and tests go together. Fast reading of intensely compressed and coded information, tracked and coordinated. Life as a smooth machine, society as an integrated circuit.
Are we happy yet?
(I thought I was buying and using deodorant, but it now seems like it has been buying and using me.)
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