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Now, the issue about tattoos is that, without a word, tattoos really do shout. [Beautiful] [Intriguing] So you don't have to say a lot. [Allegiance] [Very intimate] [Serious mistakes] (Laughter) And tattoos tell you a lot of stories. If I can ask an indiscreet question, how many of you have tattoos? A few, but not most. What happens if Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn, cell phones, GPS, Foursquare, Yelp, Travel Advisor, all these things you deal with every day turn out to be electronic tattoos? And what if they provide as much information about who and what you are as any tattoo ever would?
What's ended up happening over the past few decades is the kind of coverage that you had as a head of state or as a great celebrity is now being applied to you every day by all these people who are Tweeting, blogging, following you, watching your credit scores and what you do to yourself. And electronic tattoos also shout. And as you're thinking of the consequences of that, it's getting really hard to hide from this stuff, among other things, because it's not just the electronic tattoos, it's facial recognition that's getting really good. So you can take a picture with an iPhone and get all the names, although, again, sometimes it does make mistakes. (Laughter) But that means you can take a typical bar scene like this, take a picture, say, of this guy right here, get the name, and download all the records before you utter a word or speak to somebody, because everybody turns out to be absolutely plastered by electronic tattoos.
And so there's companies like face.com that now have about 18 billion faces online. Here's what happened to this company. [Company sold to Facebook, June 18, 2012...] There are other companies that will place a camera like this — this has nothing to do with Facebook — they take your picture, they tie it to the social media, they figure out you really like to wear black dresses, so maybe the person in the store comes up and says, "Hey, we've got five black dresses that would just look great on you."
So what if Andy was wrong? Here's Andy's theory. [In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.] What if we flip this? What if you're only going to be anonymous for 15 minutes? (Laughter) Well, then, because of electronic tattoos, maybe all of you and all of us are very close to immortality, because these tattoos will live far longer than our bodies will. And if that's true, then what we want to do is we want to go through four lessons from the Greeks and one lesson from a Latin American.
So lesson number one: Sisyphus. Remember? He did a horrible thing, condemned for all time to roll this rock up, it would roll back down, roll back up, roll back down. It's a little like your reputation. Once you get that electronic tattoo, you're going to be rolling up and down for a long time, so as you go through this stuff, just be careful what you post.
Myth number two: Orpheus, wonderful guy, charming to be around, great partier, great singer, loses his beloved, charms his way into the underworld, only person to charm his way into the underworld, charms the gods of the underworld, they release his beauty on the condition he never look at her until they're out. So he's walking out and walking out and walking out and he just can't resist. He looks at her, loses her forever. With all this data out here, it might be a good idea not to look too far into the past of those you love.
Lesson number three: Atalanta. Greatest runner. She would challenge anybody. If you won, she would marry you. If you lost, you died. How did Hippomenes beat her? Well, he had all these wonderful little golden apples, and she'd run ahead, and he'd roll a little golden apple. She'd run ahead, and he'd roll a little golden apple. She kept getting distracted. He eventually won the race. Just remember the purpose as all these little golden apples come and reach you and you want to post about them or tweet about them or send a late-night message.
And then, of course, there's Narcissus. Nobody here would ever be accused or be familiar with Narcissus. (Laughter) But as you're thinking about Narcissus, just don't fall in love with your own reflection.
Last lesson, from a Latin American: This is the great poet Jorge Luis Borges. When he was threatened by the thugs of the Argentine military junta, he came back and said, "Oh, come on, how else can you threaten, other than with death?" The interesting thing, the original thing, would be to threaten somebody with immortality. And that, of course, is what we are all now threatened with today because of electronic tattoos.
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What if Andy Warhol had it wrong, and instead of being famous for 15 minutes, we’re only anonymous for that long? In this short talk, Juan Enriquez looks at the surprisingly permanent effects of digital sharing on our personal privacy. He shares insight from the ancient Greeks to help us deal with our new “digital tattoos.”
Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about profound changes that genomics will bring in business, technology, and society. Full bio »