(This is part 1 of a 3 part Prophecy Update give at Calvary Chapel of Appleton Oct-Nov 2007. To order the audio CDs, call us at 920-735-1242.)
We live in a world of constant, phenomenal change.
Question: How many centuries did people live without electricity, mass transportation, mass communication? Answer: all of them. Until that last one, the one with all the wars and blood and stuff. Let’s see, doesn’t the Bible say that in the last days ‘knowledge shall increase’? Yes it does, it is one of the major signs of the end times, and possibly 1) the most overlooked one, and 2) the most understated one, and easiest to ‘prove’, as if the Bible needs any proving by the likes of me and you.
But here we are, on this end of so many inventions, gadgets, bells and whistles, noise and insanity, one has to wonder if this increase in knowledge is the one that will drive us all mad in the end.
And here we are, and all the gadgets do make life easier to SOME degree. I really enjoy my computer for things like communicating about Bible prophecy, and sometimes I wonder if there could be anything more revolutionary for the planet than the age of the personal computer – and I believe there is – and it is nearly upon us.
Why should this be of interest to us? Because the Bible tells us that in the last days there will be a a vast worldwide economic infrastructure in place that will make it possible to number and track every person and their buying and selling habits. Even people who never cracked a Bible have heard of 666 and the mark of the beast. But we really are the first generation that can honestly say we can conceive of such a thing; compared to the many centuries of low-tech living that have gone before, our wireless and interconnected lifestyle would be unrecognizable to the generations before us. A world system that revolves around buying and selling is very conceivable, and when combined with cutting edge technology, I think it really gets a bit creepy.
How did we get here?
Way back in 1875, a gentleman named Herman Hollerith studied engineering at Columbia University, the very same Columbia that hosted Ahmadinejad last month, and entertained Nazi sympathizers in the ‘30s, but that’s a different story. Upon his graduation, Mr. Hollerith took a job with the US Census Bureau in 1880. At that time, America was growing rapidly and the government felt that for this particular census, there was a great need for someone to come up with a solution to analyzing the large amounts of data that the US wanted to collect on it’s growing population. They realized that with all the new immigrants, it could easily take longer to count everyone by hand than the actual 10 years between each Census. So, they held a contest to see what the bright minds of the day could come up with. While he was a professor at MIT in 1882, he began experimenting with what we call a ‘punch card’ type of system for analyzing data.
The cards were known as “Hollerith Cards”. When fed into a card-reading machine, they could tabulate and record such data as name, number of children, address, country of origin, etc. They were used in the 1890 Census which took only 1 year to complete, an amazing feat for the time; They were also used at Ellis Island to record information on each immigrant as well – greatly speeding up the process of blending 8 million new citizens into the American landscape. His Hollerith Cards and calculating machines became the foundation for The Computer Tabulating and Recording Company in 1911, renamed “International Business Machines” or IBM, in 1924. Hollerith is regarded as the father of modern automatic computation, and several decades later, we have computer chips in wristwatches that are more powerful than the ones that sent men to the moon. I must admit that baffles me a bit. We are so accustomed to thinking we need computers for every little thing, and sending men into orbit is probably one of the more difficult things to accomplish on any given day!
But now with a company like IBM part of corporate America, we can move confidently forward that our ‘increase of knowledge’ will continue unabated for decades to come. And with the addition of radio wave technology and the miniaturizing of computer chips, we arrive at a point in time, and be the first generation to say so, in which the Bible’s prediction of a world where we can number and track every single human being.
Kevin Ashton was working for Proctor & Gamble in Europe in 1997 marketing things like Oil of Olay and their new line of lipstick. He found the marketing part pretty easy, as people were already aware of the brand name – but he soon found that the problem of keeping a certain very popular shade of lipstick on the shelf brought a completely different challenge.
His research for a method of supply-line tracking took him into the world of RFID, or ‘radio frequency identification’. RFID technology was already being used for things like cashless highway toll collection and remote starters for cars, but was not being applied in the vast world of buying and selling. The marriage of the computer with radio waves was about to become reality, and affect our world in ways we are only beginning to understand.
RFID tags are made up of a tiny microchip with a flat coiled antenna. A special reader is then used to send radio waves to the tag, and the chip beams back the information that was programmed into it. By now everyone is familiar with the current ID system, the bar code. I remember when those things started showing up on everything in sight, and wondered why I had never heard of them or what their use was. But it appears that radio-frequency tags are poised to take over and also take buying and selling to a whole new level, which I will get into later.
But here is the application part of the technology: placing these RFID chips into or onto every single item bought and sold in the world. Just think for a second about all the goods manufactured and sold in this world, and the task of identifying them with a chip – that alone is mind-boggling – but take it even further – the chips be incorporated into nails, beads, wires, fibers, or even painted pictures or words – eventually even the period at the end of a sentence. This gives a whole new and frightening meaning to surveillance and brings up serious privacy issues. Could our Bibles one day be chipped unbeknownst to ourselves? RFID chips could be put into your shoes, your jeans, your tires, your passport, your meds, your work uniform, any of your groceries – and be completely undetectable until a reader activates it. And this is exactly what influential people in retail envision for our future. And this part you already know: these very same chips can also be implanted into humans.
Now this is where it gets kind of creepy for me: now inanimate objects have the ability to communicate with manufacturers, retailers, or each other. Hollywood often presents the idea that the next big techno-leap would be a form of artificial intelligence where computers would come to the point of understanding the physical world around them, and thinking independently. How many futuristic movies center around the android that can reason and move and talk to humans? Well, with RFID, that is not necessary – instead of having a computer look around and decipher our world, what if the objects in our world were simply able to identify themselves to the computer? A Bible with a chip in it would just tell the computer that the Bible was in the room, and with whom, or that a can of Coke was in the room, or any one of thousands of other items. Major corporations are convinced this will revolutionize retail, and are spending unholy amounts of money to make this a reality in the near future. In fact, Walmart, which was just named the top Fortune 500 company of the year, is leading the way in RFID application. They are requiring their top 100 suppliers to manage their cargo with RFID chips, thereby forcing suppliers to invest in the technology, and pushing the implementation of RFID forward rather quickly.
With RFID, each tagged item could have a unique identifying number not even shared with items similar to itself. The P&G’s Auto-ID center not only came up with the chip technology, but also a unique numbering system that is so vast it could number every item produced on earth for the next 1000 years – with no repeats. After much research, they came up with a 96-bit code for numbering. Technically, that is 2 to the 96th power, and suffice it to say, it is enough to number 80 thousand trillion trillion objects. It would only take a 33 bit system to number 6 billion humans, so this system is more than adequate to take global finance, and trafficking in humans, to a whole new level.
The new identifying tags are called EPC codes, or ‘electronic product codes’.
Now, to implement this vision,
RFID tags would have to be on everything,
Tag readers would have to be everywhere;
Then you would need a mode of communication where the information on the tags is available to be read in real time, anywhere on earth. Now, what do we already have in place that is used daily by millions of people wirelessly all over the world, and functions in real time? Why, the internet of course. But the one they envision using is not the current Internet network, but a new, massive upgrade, which will encompass something called the Internet of Things.
MIT tells us that on this new internet, each individual tagged item would have it’s own webpage with the history of the item’s existence. Verisign, the company that handles Webpage addresses, or domain names, for the entire internet has already agreed to oversee addressing for the Internet of Things. Instead of domain names, it will be the name of an object, like a can of Coke. There will be no limit to the amount of info that could be stored this way – which is mind-boggling in itself. Consider that the 2004 information database for Walmart contains twice as much data as the entire Internet, this gives you a small idea of what we are looking at.
This is a huge conference coming up in Zurich, Switzerland next Spring, in anticipation of a new Internet ‘architecture’ as they call it, expected to be rolled out next year. Instead of a possible 4 billion web addresses, (which is not enough for the current planetary population and it’s cell phones and PDAs) there will be a possible duodecillion….that’s a number with 39 digits…and if you want to translate that to a physical measurement, it will allow for a heptillion sites per meter of the earth’s surface. That’s a 24-digit number folks, so that whatever man conceives of tracking can be a reality.
Here is a stunning quote from the European Union’s latest report on the “Internet of Things” :
“The Internet of Things represents a ‘fusion of the physical and digital worlds.’ It creates a map of the real world within the virtual world. The computer’s view of the physical world need not reflect a human view of the real world, but can free itself of constraints imposed by the limitations of human understanding.” – In other words, the Internet of Things will be able to reach autonomously into the real world. They claim it will be able to interact with the physical world and influence it, without any humans pressing any buttons. It will be an interactive part of the humans’ environment. It is mind-boggling, and it is almost a reality.
Here is a quote from the Auto-ID Center’s vision statement: “We have a clear vision – to create a world where every object – from jumbo jets to sewing needles – is linked to the Internet. Compelling as this vision is, it is only achievable if this system is adopted by everyone everywhere – Success will be nothing less than global adoption” (Helen Duce, Auto-ID Center associate director)
What started out as a quiet research project at MIT in 1999 has exploded into a huge corporate endeavor with the likes of Wal-Mart, International Paper, Home Depot, Intel, Pepsi, Coke, Target, Best Buy, Gillette, Kodak, UPS, Phillip Morris, the US Postal Service the Department of Defense, and the FDA signing on as sponsors. So now that they have a new global standard for item identification, they have passed control of the chips over to the Uniform Code Council, the company that manages the entire bar code system.
There is so much more I could relate to you about this, but stay tuned for part 2.