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Security terror

Intrusive airport checks fly in the face of logic

Written by The Indian Express | Published: June 14, 2012 3:11:58 am

Intrusive airport checks fly in the face of logic

Domestic air travel will be as aggravating as flying to international destinations once Indian airports are fitted with doorframe metal detectors. At security check,you’ll have to take off shoes,belts and knick-knacks,carry documentation about implants and surrender to a full body massage. It’s your duty. Don’t you know about the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber? Or the “bosom bombers” and “bum bombers” implanted with PETN explosive by al-Qaeda surgeons? They all failed,no sensible terrorist would attempt those methods again,and anyway,there are easier ways to smuggle explosives on to flights,like infiltrating low-level airport staff. But we can’t let common sense interfere with vigilance.

However,technological progress will force change in airport security protocols. In 2002,Steve Mann of the University of Toronto,an innovator in wearable computing,was apprehended at a Newfoundland airport. Mann is a living experiment in cognitive and communications engineering who wears $500,000 worth of hardware on his person and implanted in his body. To security personnel,he probably looked like Terminator hopped up on lithium ion joy juice. They ripped his hardware out,injuring him. Since the computer he had worn was part of his sensorium,he became disoriented,fell and boarded his flight in a wheelchair.

That was 2002. By 2020,wearable computers will be as common as cell phones. They will monitor vital signs,enhance memory and correct cognitive errors. They will be so tightly integrated with the wearer’s person that it will be impossible to take them off,reboot them or remove batteries for the satisfaction of security staff. We’ll soon have to abandon the security check opera that 9/11 popularised and address real airport safety issues.

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