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HELSINGBORG, Sweden — Jowan Österlund lays down a sterile cloth, puts on gloves, and uses a needle to slide a microchip under Micco Grönholm’s skin. The whole process takes only a couple minutes. “I’m a cyborg,” Grönholm tells VICE News.
The radio frequency identification technology that the chip uses has been around for decades, but the idea of implanting it under the skin seems pretty dystopian. It can be used to enter doors — like your office, home, or gym — to log into computers, and even to make contactless payments.
Österlund, a self-proclaimed science fiction nerd and the founder and CEO of Biohax International, says he has chipped around 6,000 Swedes in the past six years. He chalks up its success to Sweden’s culture of openness.
“The geopolitical situation historically gives us the kind of initial higher trust in the government. I think a lot of people would be way more apprehensive in a lot of countries,” Österlund said.
Walk through Sweden’s bustling capital Stockholm and you’ll see what he means. Abandoned cash machines, card-only parking meters, market vendors who only accept mobile payments -- all reflect how nearly all aspects of life in Sweden are digitized.
“Ninety-seven percent of the transactions are done without bills,” Anders Ygeman, Sweden’s minister for energy and digital development, told VICE News.
Known globally for its welfare system, the Scandinavian country of 10 million has a storied history of embracing new technologies — from tax subsidies for home computers in the '90s, to mobile technology infrastructure. The country is nearing complete digitization of both public and private sectors, and has now its sights set on artificial intelligence, all with the goal of making life more convenient, efficient, and equitable for its citizens.