During last week’s episode of Metaverse, I spoke with Theo Priestly, leading tech futurist, speaker and bestselling author. He is also the founder of Metapunk, a consultancy that focuses on business, technology and culture impacting organisations and helping them navigate their futures. As a keynote speaker, Theo talks on a wide variety of topics from artificial intelligence to virtual reality. Theo has written many articles for publications such as Forbes and WIRED, and he recently co-authored a book, The Future Starts Now, which provides insight into how both business and society will transform over the coming years.
We kicked off by discussing Theo’s consulting work with Metapunk, which has been trending towards the metaverse – or the digital extension of our physical world – over the past ten years. Theo helps investors who have a “fear of missing out” but a lack of understanding of the metaverse find their way into the space. Consulting for the metaverse requires Theo to encourage businesses to think differently about taking their brands into the space and how consumers will engage there. This includes everything from thinking about 3D rendering to incorporating blockchain and cryptocurrency for transactions to considering cultural questions about what the bigger impact on society the metaverse will bring. Theo believes we’re about to see the next generation of digital natives carve out new realities within the metaverse, much in the same way that YouTubers and Twitch streamers have figured out how to make a career online today.
We then touched on how the pandemic sped up the adoption of the digital world into our daily life, especially where working remotely is involved – and how working purely from the office has to be a thing from the past. Theo predicts we’ll see fully virtual office spaces, and with them a new set of etiquette, rules and HR policies about engagement within the metaverse – which companies need to truly think through before they engage. This will also bring about a blossoming of different realities (virtual, augmented) as well as advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning – unlike real world offices, in the metaverse, there will be a capturing of interaction and how we move around in our environments that machine learning will be able to harness.
Theo shared a wealth of thrilling ideas about where the metaverse might take us in the entertainment world as well. For one, he predicts music and movie production will occur entirely within this 3D space, and will be immersively consumed within it. He brought up how shows like The Mandelorian are already building rich virtual environments, and how there’s nothing stopping us from entering that scene entirely and viewing it from any angle in the metaverse.
Theo describes us as living presently in a “creator economy,” with the explosion of NFTs and the crypto space making it possible for people to actually monetise creative expression. We’re living in a truly democratised era, where the way the metaverse is evolving is entirely determined by the community itself: what do they want to see, buy, and how do they want to engage – immersively. Theo sees the “utility angle” as the key next step in NFTs, where it’s not just that something is collectible, it’s “what can I do with it?” So instead of just artwork that’s visually pleasing, Theo predicts we’re going to see more 3D objects that have actual uses in our virtual spaces, and that we’ll see a proliferation of such wares on virtual marketplaces.
Rounding off our conversation, we touched on the rosy outlook Theo put forward in his TEDx talk about following a robot leader. As opposed to the dystopian futures we often are fed, Theo envisions AI as empowering a new Renaissance, where humans allow automation to do the daily drudge work so that society can move forward and flourish culturally. In spite of his optimism, Theo does see the value in anti-futurist pushback, as he believes we need their pragmatism and realism to ensure we move forward in the right way. He was once more cynical, seeing all the VC funding in Silicon Valley that was given to pointless tech just for financial value. So he appreciates those who call things out that are coming in the wrong direction to ensure that we move forward in the right ways.
It was wonderful to get to chat to another child of the 80s who shares my same enthusiasm for the metaverse, which promises to bring to life all the ideas from the movies we grew up with. To hear more about Theo’s fascinating work and insights, you can listen to our full conversation here.