Editorial on Ellison, McNealy, and national ID card

Clay Shirky clay@shirky.com
Wed, 24 Oct 2001 21:35:09 -0400 (EDT)


> This guy sounds like me:
> 
> http://www.msnbc.com/news/646793.asp

Russell.

Russell, Russell, Russell. When you go on about lost causes like this
I know I'm not you.

You lost this debate in 1998, when a guy named Craig Ventner announced
he was going to take on the *entire* global government and academic
establishment and sequence the human genome privately, using newly
efficient Perkin-Elmer sequencers. 

Right now, a mile from my house, there are forensic teams IDing body
parts of WTC victims using sequencers that are both cheaper and faster
than the ones Ventner bet his company on. This project is the DARPANet
of DNA sequencing, the first time the technology has moved out of the
labs and into something like the real world. Expect, by the time they
are done IDing 5000 or so people, that both the time and cost involved
in reading the embedded unforgeable unalterable globally unique ID
that is your genotype to have at least halved, if not quartered.

Two years from now, if you're involved in a high-security project,
someone could positively ID you with a cheek swab and 10 free minutes.

5 years from now it will be a hand-scan, and done in real time.

10 years from now a trio of scanners hung in the ceiling will be able
to ID the genotypes of a room full of people by taking DNA from
airborne saliva, and triangulating aerosol density to pinpoint
location.

We _have_ National ID Cards. We just don't have the readers perfected
yet.

The question is only how we handle these IDs. As we learned with both
Social Security and credit card numbers, not using them for other
purposes is a non-option. Now what?

-clay