Last Friday, I went to a local Panera Bread restaurant to grade some papers and work online while having a late lunch. I ordered my Asiago toasted bagel and a diet Pepsi. Talk about comfort food. There isn't anything like munching on a bagel while carrying out my educational endeavors. I setup my laptop and tapped into Panera's wireless Internet connection, laid out the term papers, and placed my meal for easy access. I was ready to do some serious work.

I checked my emails from a couple of students and then started grading term papers. These papers were a part of group presentations for a course at DeVry University entitled, HUMN-432 Technology, Society, and Culture. This senior level course deals with ethical questions relating to technology. DeVry wants its graduates to be sensitive to the ethical implications of technology for which they are trained. The class is designed to avoid what my class calls the "Oops Factor" (inventing something before the ethical implications were thoroughly explored). Each group does an oral presentation, defends it in class, and writes an extensive report. Their very professional looking reports included a title page inside the plastic sleeve of the notebook. These senior project notebooks were in a stack next to my bagel waiting for my critical review.

Midway through my working-lunch, a woman in her forties interrupted my peaceful ponderings. She apologized for disturbing me but said, "I couldn't help but notice the title of this notebook." She was pointing to the next paper that I was to read entitled, "The Embedded Microchip for Humans." She then inquired, "What's that all about?"

I was surprised at her interest in the topic. No one else even noticed what I was doing. I graciously explained that I taught at DeVry University at Tinley Park-just a couple miles south of this Panera Bread and that these reports were for a class on ethics at DeVry. I continued by explaining that this group of my students had explored the ethical implications of embedding microchip into humans.

I spent some time carefully explaining the course and reasons why this was an important project. She really seemed attentive to my explanation. I thought that perhaps my time might result in one of her children attending DeVry. On and on I went with the embedding of microchips into humans. I outlined some of the positive and negative aspects of this type of tracking technology. It would allow for the recovery of kidnapped children as well as enabling Big Brother to watch us.

Looking back upon my mini-lecture, perhaps, I should have limited my explanation. When I mentioned the possibility of the privacy issues of being watched, she interrupted me, "I have a microchip in me." I was shocked. What were the chances of finding someone with an embedded chip? Wait until my students hear about this! Maybe, she would even come to class and talk about it. What a college level show and tell presentation that would be. I asked her for more information.

Without thinking, I inquired where her chip was embedded. She pointed to a gold cap on her bottom molar. I then asked about why she had this implanting done. She said that she didn't know why or who did it. She just knew that it was there. I was confused, and asked, "How do you know that you have an embedded chip?"

"I hear them talking to each other about me. It's like a cell phone inside my head. And I know that they can hear me. They know that I'm talking to you. You'd better watch out also. I'm scared; they are always talking and making their plans. What do you think that I should do about this chip?"

The question dancing around in my head wasn't about what to do with her alleged embedded chip but how to get her to leave me to grading and my half-eaten bagel. I suggested that she should first go to her dentist and have it checked-out. She informed me that it was her dentist that embedded the chip in the first place. I quickly replied that she might want to consider another dentist. She seemed surprised at the suggestion. On and on she went about the voices and her fears. I told her that I understood her problem, but I assured her that if she went to another dentist that he could use his x-ray machine to neutralize the microchip. She seemed relieved and thanked me for my time and suggestions.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 11/8/04.