Right now we’re in the clumsy, hacky, start of things. Eventually it will be very integrated and very custom. Our whole society has been shifting towards an acceptance of these things and I’ll talk about a few different things. One of them is frankly the existing, old school, analog tattoos. We’ve seen over the last 15-20 years those move from the realm of lower class/tough drunk guy on a bad night realm of society into many soccer moms running around with tattoos. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. There’s been a huge social shift to mainstream acceptance of tattooing as something that is done by many parts of society, not just certain and generally more marginalized ones. The trend to tattooing is also a trend to a comfort level with body modification which is greasing the skids for the future for sure.
The other trend to talk about is plastic surgery. That one is not as mainstream as tattooing yet but there’s a lot of people who are really comfortable getting their boobs sliced open and having bags of jelly shoved in there, or who are really comfortable having their face chopped up in different ways to look younger or if it doesn’t work out well sometimes it doesn’t look younger. There’s definitely a segment of society that’s super comfortable with everything that goes with plastic surgery. Now we’ve got the digital stuff and the science catching up. The comfort level on that isn’t here yet but it’s going to come and there’s a few examples I’ll use.
One is it was in 2000 that I got lasik surgery. That’s a surgery where you are laid down on an operating table and your eyes are literally carved open and altered. If you had told me in 1990, ten years before, “Oh hey Dirk. There’s going to be this thing you’ll be able to do and they’ll carve your eyes open and you’ll be able to see better.” I would have said, “That’s gross. No way. I would never do that. That’s crazy talk.” In those ensuing ten years, as the technology changed, as the social acceptance changed my view on it changed and it reached a point where scientifically … I use scientifically as if it’s in a lab but this is in a more applied with what eye doctors are doing, they’re saying, “No. This is safe, it’s okay. You can come in and do it. It might be painful, there might be this side effect, that side effect, these bad things. But you’re going to be able to see well and it’s going to cost an affordable amount of money and not take very much time.” I’m like, “Sign me up. Let’s go for it.”
That’s an example of the impact that science has on our perceptions. Just in the last week I read two stories that made me very uncomfortable. One was about a face transplant. I’ve read about face transplants in the past. This one, and again it’s a little too gross so I didn’t’ click into the story, but it was about a firefighter or soldier or someone, and it showed in the little photo caption of the story this photo of this disfigured face, this photo of this face that looked like it was wearing an odd mask, to this third photo of this third face that looked slightly off. That was the face transplant for me. I didn’t want to go deeper into the story, wimpy little me but face transplants are a thing now. That story today is going to make me feel a little weird. At some point in the future I’ll meet someone with a face transplant. It’ll feel a lot less weird once it’s real and it’s a person and not just this thing that seems bizarre.
The other one I read this week was about hand transplants. A child had their hands transplanted, it was talking about how miraculous it is. How life has totally changed and how wonderful a hand transplant is. I’m reading this story and I’m looking down at my hand and I’m like, “I can’t imagine somebody else’s freaking hands on my body. Oh my goodness gracious, lock the front door,” but this is the evolution. Just like in 1990 I would have thought it was nuts to be strapped down and have my eyes cut and try and fix them. Ten years later I was like yeah let’s do it. Sign me up. Right now these things are seeming odd but I’m sure if I was burnt horribly and disfigured and was hideous to look at I might be interested in a face transplant even today. If it’s a necessity forcing it in. I’m trying to throw a lasso around all of these different trends from tattooing to plastic surgery to the beginnings of massive transplanting of the self with faces and hands to where embeddables are going.
It’s just inevitable. In the 2020s that will be the decade of a lot of things. It will be the decade of driverless cars and it will be the decade of embedded digital technology. Again, I’ve probably mentioned this on the show before but when I give talks now around anything in this direction I say to the audience, by 2030 I’m confident I’m going to be a cyborg and probably a lot of you are going to be too. You see their faces like, “No fucking way.” In 2025 it’s going to look a lot different.
The problem right now with embeddables and I think why embeddables seem scary to most is that the stories you read are clumsy. There was one last year about German teenagers who embedded lights into their hands. The lights that they embedded were these big chunky red lights and they had these big scars on their hands. I’m like, “Oh my god, it’s so intrusive and for what? So you can have this novelty thing.” After you’ve done it like the second time to a person you go, “Enough with the lights dude. I get it. It’s not cool anymore.” It’s all about the use cases. The use cases synthesizing with the social readiness, synthesizing with the right technology so it’s not overly intrusive relative to people’s tolerances to alter themselves.