The digital Frankenstein

David Moss
March 2008
updated June 2010


So you think you know what Dr Frankenstein looks like ...


"One of Britain's leading Catholics [Cardinal Keith O'Brien] has criticised Gordon Brown over his Government's 'monstrous' plans for embryo research and compared them to the creation of Frankenstein's monster", said the Daily Telegraph.

A perfectly predictable criticism from the Cardinal. Followed by a perfectly predictable response from the scientists. How dare a priest criticise us? He's not an expert. There'll be safeguards. It's all in a good cause.

Some scientists go a little further. Lord Winston, according to the Sunday Times, accused the Cardinal of being a liar. And according to the Guardian last October, Richard Dawkins said that "all the interference with scientific research that goes on should stop". No thank you, lots of interference, please. And let's hope that it's more effective than the bank regulation which released the virus of sub-prime mortgages into the body economic and created the Northern Rocky Horror Picture Show monster.

But in the main, these laboratory-based alleged Frankensteins are quite modest. As Adam Rutherford, a Roman Catholic stem cell researcher, says in the Guardian: "I have no doubt that the question of what constitutes a human is extremely hard, and scientific understanding can only go so far in addressing it".

Not so some of the other prospective Frankensteins. Round at the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), they know just what a human is. A human is a bundle of entitlements. The entitlement to work in the UK, for example. The entitlement to non-emergency state healthcare and to state education. The entitlement to operate a bank account and to travel overseas.

And IPS intend to prove it. If they get their way, no-one without an ID card will have any state entitlements. They won't exist.

When these IPS Frankensteins insert the record of your electronic identity into the National Identity Register, there may be no electric thunderstorm over a Bavarian castle. But they'll have created a person. And when they delete that electronic record, they'll have destroyed a person.

The modern Frankenstein will have a neat haircut and he or she probably won't be a baron. She may even enjoy a kebab in Peckam. There'll be safeguards, of course, and it's all in a good cause but, unlike the fictional hero of the same name, she'll have considerable power over your existence.

14 November 2009: City lawyer fired after police kept record of her 'innocent' arrest

9 June 2010: Kent lawyer wins battle to get her database DNA deleted

David Moss has spent five years campaigning against the Home Office's ID card scheme.

2008 Business Consultancy Services Ltd
on behalf of Dematerialised ID Ltd