BBC Future

60 Second Idea

‘Barcode everyone at birth’

Each week a global thinker from the worlds of philosophy, science, psychology or the arts is given a minute to put forward a radical, inspiring or controversial idea – no matter how improbable – that they believe would change the world.

This week science fiction writer Elizabeth Moon argues that everyone should be given a barcode at birth.

“If I were empress of the Universe I would insist on every individual having a unique ID permanently attached - a barcode if you will; an implanted chip to provide an easy, fast inexpensive way to identify individuals.

It would be imprinted on everyone at birth. Point the scanner at someone and there it is.

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

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.

Anonymity would be impossible as would mistaken identity making it easier to place responsibility accurately, not only in war but also in non-combat situations far from the war.”

You can listen to Elizabeth discuss her idea with aerial warfare expert Elizabeth Quintana  and war ethics authority David Rodin in more detail on the BBC World Service programme The Forum, where you can also download more 60-second ideas.

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