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TED2013

Juan Enriquez: Your online life, permanent as a tattoo

February 26, 2013

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 - Futurist
Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about the profound changes that genomics and other life sciences will bring in business, technology, politics and society. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
All right, so let's take
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four subjects that obviously go together:
00:14
big data, tattoos, immortality and the Greeks.
00:16
Right?
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Now, the issue about tattoos is that,
00:22
without a word, tattoos really do shout.
00:25
[Beautiful]
00:30
[Intriguing]
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So you don't have to say a lot.
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[Allegiance]
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[Very intimate]
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[Serious mistakes]
00:47
(Laughter)
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And tattoos tell you a lot of stories.
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If I can ask an indiscreet question,
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how many of you have tattoos?
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A few, but not most.
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What happens if Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn,
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cell phones, GPS, Foursquare, Yelp, Travel Advisor,
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all these things you deal with every day
01:10
turn out to be electronic tattoos?
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And what if they provide as much information
01:15
about who and what you are as any tattoo ever would?
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What's ended up happening over the past few decades
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is the kind of coverage that you had as a head of state
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or as a great celebrity
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is now being applied to you every day by all these people
01:30
who are Tweeting, blogging, following you,
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watching your credit scores and what you do to yourself.
01:35
And electronic tattoos also shout.
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And as you're thinking of the consequences of that,
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it's getting really hard to hide from this stuff, among other things,
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because it's not just the electronic tattoos,
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it's facial recognition that's getting really good.
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So you can take a picture with an iPhone and get all the names,
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although, again, sometimes it does make mistakes. (Laughter)
02:00
But that means you can take a typical bar scene like this,
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take a picture, say, of this guy right here,
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get the name, and download all the records
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before you utter a word or speak to somebody,
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because everybody turns out to be
02:18
absolutely plastered by electronic tattoos.
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And so there's companies like face.com that now have
02:23
about 18 billion faces online.
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Here's what happened to this company.
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[Company sold to Facebook, June 18, 2012...]
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There are other companies that will place a camera
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like this — this has nothing to do with Facebook —
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they take your picture, they tie it to the social media,
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they figure out you really like to wear black dresses,
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so maybe the person in the store comes up and says,
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"Hey, we've got five black dresses
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that would just look great on you."
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So what if Andy was wrong?
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Here's Andy's theory.
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[In the future, everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.]
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What if we flip this?
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What if you're only going to be anonymous for 15 minutes? (Laughter)
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Well, then, because of electronic tattoos,
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maybe all of you and all of us are very close to immortality,
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because these tattoos will live
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far longer than our bodies will.
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And if that's true, then what we want to do
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is we want to go through four lessons from the Greeks
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and one lesson from a Latin American.
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Why the Greeks?
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Well, the Greeks thought about what happens
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when gods and humans and immortality mix for a long time.
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So lesson number one: Sisyphus.
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Remember? He did a horrible thing, condemned for all time
03:34
to roll this rock up, it would roll back down,
03:37
roll back up, roll back down.
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It's a little like your reputation.
03:42
Once you get that electronic tattoo,
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you're going to be rolling up and down for a long time,
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so as you go through this stuff,
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just be careful what you post.
03:51
Myth number two: Orpheus, wonderful guy,
03:54
charming to be around, great partier, great singer,
03:57
loses his beloved, charms his way into the underworld,
04:01
only person to charm his way into the underworld,
04:04
charms the gods of the underworld,
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they release his beauty on the condition
04:09
he never look at her until they're out.
04:12
So he's walking out and walking out and walking out
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and he just can't resist. He looks at her, loses her forever.
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With all this data out here, it might be a good idea
04:21
not to look too far into the past of those you love.
04:24
Lesson number three: Atalanta.
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Greatest runner. She would challenge anybody.
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If you won, she would marry you.
04:37
If you lost, you died.
04:40
How did Hippomenes beat her?
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Well, he had all these wonderful little golden apples,
04:45
and she'd run ahead, and he'd roll a little golden apple.
04:47
She'd run ahead, and he'd roll a little golden apple.
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She kept getting distracted. He eventually won the race.
04:51
Just remember the purpose as all these little golden apples
04:56
come and reach you and you want to post about them
04:59
or tweet about them or send a late-night message.
05:01
And then, of course, there's Narcissus.
05:05
Nobody here would ever be accused or be familiar with Narcissus.
05:08
(Laughter)
05:12
But as you're thinking about Narcissus,
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just don't fall in love with your own reflection.
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Last lesson, from a Latin American:
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This is the great poet Jorge Luis Borges.
05:23
When he was threatened by the thugs
05:26
of the Argentine military junta,
05:27
he came back and said, "Oh, come on,
05:29
how else can you threaten, other than with death?"
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The interesting thing, the original thing,
05:35
would be to threaten somebody with immortality.
05:38
And that, of course, is what we are all
05:41
now threatened with today because of electronic tattoos.
05:43
Thank you.
05:47
(Applause)
05:48
Translator:Joseph Geni
Reviewer:Morton Bast

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Juan Enriquez - Futurist
Juan Enriquez thinks and writes about the profound changes that genomics and other life sciences will bring in business, technology, politics and society.

Why you should listen

A broad thinker who studies the intersections of these fields, Enriquez has a talent for bridging disciplines to build a coherent look ahead. He is the managing director of Excel Venture Management, a life sciences VC firm. He recently published (with Steve Gullans) Evolving Ourselves: How Unnatural Selection and Nonrandom Mutation Are Shaping Life on Earth. The book describes a world where humans increasingly shape their environment, themselves and other species.

Enriquez is a member of the board of Synthetic Genomics, which recently introduced the smallest synthetic living cell. Called “JCVI-syn 3.0,” it has 473 genes (about half the previous smallest cell). The organism would die if one of the genes is removed. In other words, this is the minimum genetic instruction set for a living organism.

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