35 chips under the skin: meeting the most connected man in Europe

He can lift beer bottle caps, coins or nails with his fingers. He can even unlock his car, his computer, his smartphone, his office, enter his house or launch a YouTube video by scanning his own arm.

Patrick Paumen, alias Vicarious, is a Dutchman who came across Heerlen, a former mining town in the south of the Netherlands, landlocked between Belgium and Germany. In this city of approximately 90,000 souls, far from the hustle and bustle of greater Amsterdam, man defines himself as a “cyborg”. To refer to people like him, sometimes we say “biohacker”, a term that combines many things, even transhumanist, which is not more accurate. In civilian life, he worked as a security officer or sometimes as a system administrator.

Patrick Paumen has 35 body implants: magnets, LEDs, RFID chips, unlocking and even a contactless payment.

© The Digital

We should note that he is not so much a follower of piercings or tattoos, but Patrick is also an “extremist” in body modification. Under his skin there are more than 30 magnets and implants with an electronic chip or led. His adventure began in 2010 when he attended a conference in Germany. “I ordered an implant, a magnet, and asked a piercer to implant it, but he didn’t have it.he laughed. So, I did it myself.” Using his knife, he made an incision on the top of his hand and placed a magnet there, which now became a very visible bump.

Pioneer of biohacking

Patrick Paumen seems unaffected by this approach. He explained that it is not particularly painful and that there is no health risk, because the fleas are covered with a substance bioproof (glass, titanium). He doesn’t even flinch when he injects his 35th implant into his arm in our presence, dipping his skin into a very large syringe to insert a 1 mm diameter chip.

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“You need people who experiment”explained Patrick, who liked the idea of ​​being one of the pioneers of biohacking, to appear a little unusual. Today, approximately 10,000 people are equipped with body implants worldwide. This practice is particularly widespread in Northern Europe, especially in Sweden, where this technology is used to open car doors, buy coffee or validate entry to the gym.



  • Injection of an RFID chip under the skin | © The Digital

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The first subcutaneous chip of this type began in 1998. Kevin Wawrick, a British scientist, then had an RFID transmitter implanted in his left arm. Another “primo-cyborg”, one Amal Graafstra, seemed to inspire Patrick even more. In 2013, he created the company Dangerous Things, where the latter became one of the ambassadors. It was on this site that he got most of his chips, in the tens or hundreds of dollars. Each package contains equipment for injection and disinfection, and of course others giveaways.

The center of the Dutchman, however, has nothing to do with Dangerous Things. Patrick considers himself the first to put a contactless payment method under the skin. After checking with his bank, he ordered a chip the size of a SIM card, protected by a substance bioproof and put it in his hand at the cost of a beautiful scar. Problem: after three years and like any bank card, the said chip expired and Patrick had to be slaughtered again to replace and pay his consumption while leaving his credit card at home.

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This is the chip that gets him his best anecdotes. “Sometimes the cashiers ask me how I pay and call their colleagues to show them”he enjoys big moves.

“If you want to stalk me, stalk my smartphone”

Is it possible to hack Patrick Paumen? According to him, the task can be complicated. You need to know first that he has implants, where they are located, their function, the reading frequency, as well as the protocol used. “If you want to stalk me, stalk my smartphone”, he added. The Dutchman can constantly reprogram his implants and change the data without using a scalpel, just using his smartphone or a dedicated reader.

Patrick also explained his philosophy about personal data. He admitted, for example, that he doesn’t use technologies like Face ID or his fingerprints to log into his devices or apps. If he can use his implants, it’s his. Otherwise, a passcode or password manager will do.

On his computer, Patrick has x-rays of his hands showing some implants.

On his computer, Patrick has x-rays of his hands showing some implants.

© The Digital

Another question we submit to him: can he pass airport checks without worry? With his metal detector, he confirmed to us alive that no one rang during the search and claims that there is no problem with the more advanced scanners that are in the borders.

ACKspace, a place for socialization and experiences

In Heerlen, Patrick founded a hackerspace (ACKspace) at the end of 2010. “We have a total of 17 participants and this is a place where we meet to share our passions and our knowledge”, he said. This area is mainly dedicated to tech sports a small part Stranger Things from the 1980s and full of tools, cyber culture references, as well as materials for DIY. There are 3D printers, a welding station, a funny minibar or even a room with a couch and game consoles. On this topic, Patrick admits to being a fan ofAssassin’s Creed and evokes terminator, Matrix hope robocop when it comes to drawing on his inspirations to understand his method.

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Check out the Heerlen hackerspace.

Check out the Heerlen hackerspace.

© The Digital

His taste in technology did not stop at the body. In his car (a Citroën), Patrick tweaked the dashboard and installed a set of lights. When the hackerspace is open – and someone is – a green light illuminates the car. If not, it’s a red light. In a parking lot, Patrick asked us if we wanted to see something funny: thanks to a small electronic device, he remotely opened the charging hood of a Tesla that he didn’t …

Patrick is not a superhero

If we talk about a lot of work like Neuralink, the company founded by Elon Musk and which aims to develop brain implants that should improve human performance, Patrick judges the initiative. “interesting”. Regarding the implant that he wished to have, he thought for a moment before he answered: “An implant to get health data about my own body, like glucose control.” A new healthcare chip market, estimated to reach $6 million by 2027.

Patrick also does not believe in the democratization of implants. According to him, like piercing or tattooing, there are many obstacles to their universality, starting from culture or religion, but more simply the relationship with the body. Moreover, he has no vocation to convince his fellow man and nothing “not door to door like religious”. As for the law, it allows citizens to do what they want with their bodies. Patrick sums it up like this: “My body, my choice, my implants.”

Patrick opened his car with his hand.

Patrick opened his car with his hand.

© The Digital

Far from the clichés about his art, Patrick sees himself as more than one soft cyborg than an Iron Man in the making. “What I want is to share real information about this practice, not fake news”he explains, all the same that awakens the nascent conspiratorial aspect about implants and microchips, which has become worse during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking of technological references and superheroes, we wonder about the origin of his alias, Vicarious. Is this a characteristic of cyber culture? Patrick taps on Spotify and turns up the volume on his car’s car radio: “No, it’s a song by Tool, a progressive metal band. I was looking for a pseudonym for my online activities and came up with this.

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