New World, Same Humans

with David Mattin

New World, Same Humans

with David Mattin

TF guests David Mattin GTA BW glow style 500x500

In this episode, David Mattin, creator of New World Same Humans, talks to the Futurists about his simple but phenomenally powerful technique for forecasting: he uses fundamental human needs as the lens that brings emerging technology and behavior trends into crisp focus. Our discussion topics include: generative AI, the value of human creativity, virtual humans, digital companions, large language models, Meta’s struggle to control Galactica, storytelling and trend forecasting, the four big story templates that describe the future, and the eternal quest for status as a driver for human behavior.  Learn more at New World Same Humans

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this week on the futurists David Matton I think that these will be hugely powerful tools that amplify the creativity of of humans I don’t think they’re set to replace human creativity

well welcome back to the futurists I’m Rob turizik your host and this week my co-host is not available oh he’s traveling in the Middle East on his way to Asia so Globe traveler Brett King won’t be able to join us but we do have an excellent guest Dave Matton I’m going to introduce him shortly but first the news from the future

the news from the future continues to percolate couple stories that we’ve covered previously just keep staying in the news that includes Elon Musk who’s showing us definitely how not to do an acquisition as he continues to flail away lately posting provocative stuff that’s a link bait that’s designed to attract people on the right wing of the spectrum but it could very well alienate advertisers and users across the Spectrum in other news uh We’ve covered the story of FTX and the Meltdown there recently and the U.S Department of Justice is now in the process of preparing a fraud case against Sam bakeman freed and other people who were involved in that spectacular crypto flame out in particular they’re investigating the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to bank accounts in the Bahamas just before the collapse of that exchange recently uh the the former CEO of the related firm Alameda research her name is Carolyn Ellison and she was spotted in a coffee shop in lower Manhattan near the offices of the federal prosecutors who are conducting that investigation which led the speculation that Jamie be cooperating in that investigation we’ll keep covering that story because it pretends so much for the burgeoning crypto cryptocurrency field and related web three field another big story from the U.S government is that the FTC has now filed antitrust action to break up my Microsoft’s looming acquisition of Activision Blizzard If This Were to pass this would be the world’s largest or the history’s largest acquisition in the gaming industry almost 70 billion dollars of value at stake but the FTC is weighing in under its vigorous new leadership from Lena Khan uh there’s a lot of stickier for the FTC because they’ve made a lot of sounds about breaking up big Tech and this is uh the opportunity for the FTC to prove their medal on the other end it’s not so clear that this case is going to Prevail because Microsoft makes a very good play they’re not the largest player in the gaming Space by far 10 cent and Sony are much bigger and of course Sony is cheering from the sidelines because they’d love to see Microsoft stopped this isn’t so much about game consoles um Microsoft’s Xbox is not the dominant console this is more about the future of gaming cloud gaming has been a topic that’s been I’m bumping around for quite some time and in this space Microsoft is a clear leader because their Xbox game pass has far more subscribers far more gamer subscribe to that than other games so there is a there’s a real matter at stake here in the future which is about subscription gaming and the concern of the FTC is that Microsoft will withhold content from other platforms of course they swear they won’t do that and so we’ll have to wait and see what happens with that case as it merges its way through the legal system final news piece here is about chat GPT which has really captured a lot of people’s imagination it’s one of the fastest growing applications in history gaining 1 million users in less than one week now of course it’s also racked up staggering compute costs the speculation this week is that somehow chat GPT or chatbots could replace search which sounds intriguing you know instead of getting a page full of links that you can then go do the hard work of investigating whether or not they’re valid search results you could just have a conversation with a robot that’s the idea however chat Bots are notorious for generating false misleading and sometimes hateful responses so it’s entirely unclear at this stage whether that will ever work and along that line let me introduce our gusts well David welcome David is the the founder of New World same humans which is a newsletter I’ve been enjoying so very much and he was introduced to us by a previous guest Zoe Ralph David welcome to the show Robert hello thank you so much for having me on I’m happy to have you here so you’ve written quite a lot in your newsletter the the newsletter New World same humans which I highly recommend you’ve written about these chat bots in the past and uh and this movement towards you know chat navigation or chat search or something along that line but in your perspective judging from the newsletter this is not going to be a smooth path no I don’t I really don’t think it is going to be a smooth path and I don’t really think anyone can fully understand the path that lies ahead I mean I’ve been writing about um of course we’ve all been writing and thinking about artificial intelligence machine intelligence you know neural networks for years and I’ve been thinking about the implications of those for years um speaking for years about a trend that I call virtual companions which is about the emergence of AI fueled agents that we can relate to on sort of a deeper emotional level and you know when I was talking about that in sort of 2012 2013 you know it was we were in a world of sort of Siri and Alexa and that kind of conversational agent they just weren’t very good now we’re seeing with gpt3 and large language models the emergence of AIS that can output language that really is it’s impossible to tell that it’s not a human being or often impossible to tell it’s not a human being there’s implications there for billions of sort of end users of consumers in terms of their relationship with these entities and then there’s vast implications across Industries across Logistics and Supply chains and information flows I I think we’re at the beginning of a decade-long wave of of innovation around generative Ai and Transformer models and it’s going to be thrilling to watch exciting to watch and it will take us down some you know some unexpected paths and of course they’re going to be difficulties I mean there’s no getting around that and we’re at the very last time to navigate them yeah and we’re at a very very early stage still uh you know although AI research and AI has been been conducted for 50 years and there have been tremendous uh results and some great progress in the past ten particularly since 2015. um we’re still at an early stage and these systems are still immature I mean the example of of chat GPT is yes it generates very very good grammatical English and very well constructed thoughts but the content within it sometimes is greatly made up it’s fake it’s it’s misleading it can be confusing you know recently um recently the the um stack Overflow which is a site for where software developers share tips and code and so they ban chat GPT because it has it posed so many misleading comments that they’ve asked people not to share stuff that was generated by right yeah I mean and that that’s one example of uh of of of of of one of the the challenges here is exactly that I mean this is a machine that produces this incredible simulation of meaning but it it it it doesn’t have any uh so to speak a sort of external context to check against is just immersed in this huge data set and trained on this vast data set of text and it’s just sort of drawing on that and using incredibly complex statistics to kind of mash it up and spit it back out and so it sounds extremely convincing and it sounds extremely confident and human-like but is often talking nonsense yeah and we can very plausible sounding nonsense yeah very very persuasive and convincing but right which is the problem it sounds very persuasive but no I mean no one at the moment can can rely on chat GPT to give it give us sort of um answers to important factual questions because often I mean I think it pretty often gets simple maths wrong yeah you know so because it doesn’t have an understanding of what this is what’s so confusing to people who you are using let’s say you know any of these generative systems whether it’s chat GPT or let’s say you know stable diffusion or mid-journey to generate images we think the machine knows what it’s doing because it’s rendering such a beautiful image or it’s rendering such you know eloquent text but in fact the machine has no understanding whatsoever what is generating it it’s up to us to use human discernment to determine whether the results are valid or not I think many people are falling prey to that you certainly see that with uh with the imagery um you know people are being persuaded that this is the future of image generation and that there’s jobs at stake and so forth uh I tend to see these more as a tool and I certainly see a role for humans at least in the foreseeable future in guiding this and I think Google doesn’t need to worry about their advertising revenue streams still certain advertising around searches still about 80 of Google’s business model so that’s very important for them but I don’t think it’s under any imminent threat right now from open AI sure yeah I mean I I think that I think that these will be hugely powerful tools that amplify the creativity of of humans I don’t think they’re set to replace human creativity in fact it requires a a high degree of creative skill to use these tools effectively if you want to generate compelling sort of narrative from gpt3 or you want to generate truly compelling unexpected you know unusual images from for example stable diffusion that requires human creativity in in the prompts you feed in the in the iteration you go through so in fact you know everyone will have these technologies that will be commoditized it will make truly creative people even more valuable because what truly creative people will be able to do with these tools will be astounding so creative people needn’t worry that human creativity or anything like that is about to become Irrelevant in fact it’s about to become even more valuable than it was before it will bring change to you know I mean I think illustrators that job market and that industry is go is going to change but it will change in interesting ways it’s not just going to erase the role of humans in illustration certainly not it’s definitely true those who know how to do prompt craft people who’ve you know practiced and studied different approaches to writing their prompts they’re able to generate much better images and a much broader range of genres uh so it’s been quite impressive to watch the results the other thing that’s blown my mind though is in the last six months you can visibly see the progress you can visibly see these systems improving um back in May I don’t think that stable diffusion was that um actually I don’t know that was available then but Dolly 2 was not that impressive last spring the results were mixed and it because it hadn’t been trained as much now with millions of users uh you know typing in millions of commands these systems have gotten way better and you can start to see the progress on a visible basis every week and that that is really quite extraordinary of course that’s just a visual marker for Progress that’s happening across across the board so there’s a lot of invisible Ai and software automation that we cannot see and that’s improving in a similar clip I would imagine yeah the roller coaster we’ve been on in 2022 and this is why I’ve written about it so obsessively in the newsletter the roller coaster has been incredible and if you look across the year and the release of stable diffusion just this week or last week I should say sorry the the release of stable diffusion 2.0 which is a step change in the quality of the images and then you had the the new gpt3 model and then you had chat GPT in the same week I mean we we’ve seen an incredible and then you’ve seen text to image but also this year text to video uh yes that’s true yeah just incredible advances that you have to be sort of Made of Stone to not be excited by yeah in a single year and it’s going to be a thrilling ride across the next few years as these Technologies continue to advance and we we attempt to figure out the implications and and the use cases and it’s apparent that Google is quietly working on these Technologies as well they’re maybe not quite as visible as open AI um there’s a lot of reasons why open AI needs the publicity they need the awareness and the users and the ability to train their system but appears that Google is working on similar Technologies and they’ll probably integrate them into search at some point they have made some pretty significant changes to Google search results this year to appeal to The Tick Tock generation you know they’re starting to make those those results much more visual that you wrote recently about um another AI system that that sort of went sideways it was not ready for prime time this is one from meta uh called Galactica uh that was actually a good that was a very good piece in your newsletter I enjoyed the heck out of it um so tell me a little bit about Galactica and what went wrong thanks yeah and Galactica is a is a perfect example of of you know one of our Avenues into this conversation which is don’t rely on these large language models for factual information and and and objective kind of correlation with what is true out there in the world Galactica is uh was I should say a tool released by meta founded on a large language model so on the kind of AI that fuels gpt3 fine-tuned on a huge amount of um published science so so publicly available scientific research and meta released it with great Fanfare as you know this is a hugely powerful tool this is the future of scientific research step to Galactica ask Galactica a question about science and it will it will you know inform you of the truth founded in this fine tuning we’ve done on all this published science and this can help revolutionize the future of Science and democratize access to scientific knowledge and all of that now look it’s a it’s a really interesting experiment and I can’t understand why meta didn’t position it as such because within 24 to 48 hours of release extremely predictably people had stepped to Galactica asked it questions and got completely nonsense answers and sometimes fairly toxic answers you know that contained really awful racism and sexism and so on and meta promptly pulled the tool and that was the history of Galactica you know it lasted about 48 hours yeah so a really puzzling set of decisions from meta around making this publicly available so soon and and also releasing it in the way they did with such Fanfare and such confidence rather than positioning it as an extremely interesting experiment with all the usual caveats around you know it’s unstable right now it’s not always going to be accurate it’s gonna it’s gonna display biases and so on so I think we’ve all took you know learnings from that I’m sure I don’t think that meta will make the same mistake again or at least you’d hope they they don’t um

the track record this year from meta has not been great you know they need a win and I suppose there was a lot of pressure to to put out a big press release and make a big announcement for pointed that backfire the funny thing is that that’s almost word for word you could have used the same description to talk about Trey which was Microsoft’s attempt to do a smart chat but almost decade ago and the same exact result huge Fanfare lots of boasting bragging and so forth and then all of a sudden we turn the thing that turns out to be spewing hate speech and toxic insults and so forth uh and quickly you know pulled off the market for the same same exact reason doesn’t mean these systems won’t work it’s just probably a good idea not to Hype them so much at the release right right right I mean I said in the newsletter you know oh there’s a there’s a few things to say here I mean people people get understandably very head up about the biases these AIS these Transformer models these large language models display they display them simply because they’re trained on vast amounts of human culture his and sadly historically biases racism sexism and so on is instantiated in that culture so it finds its way into these large language models and then they output it so they’re really only acting as a mirror of us and ourselves and our history and we need to contend with that if we’re to realize the full you know amazing power of these tools and I hope we can all come together as a culture and do that in a in a civilized way and it’s going to mean that we have to be exposed to some toxic speech in order to better understand these tools and how we and and how we ameliorate that effect that they produce but we do that by positioning these things in an experiment releasing them in a controlled way to users who agree to be exposed to that kind of speech and flag it up and then we think about how we deal with it and so on not by just putting it on 100 full-scale public release as the next big revolutionary scientific tool it wasn’t ready for that and and the idea that you know big science is almost a religion you know you walk into the church of big science and everything will be solved everything will be taken care of and it’ll be a bright brilliant future that’s simply unrealistic that Vision has never been true it’s a utopian Vision that has never been paid off the reality is it’s a bumpy ride and it’s an iterative process and we continue to learn and things break and we’ll fix them and we’ll gradually make progress but but it’ll take some time um and I think you mentioned that in your newsletter uh you you mentioned the comments from Yan lacun the scientist who built Galactica uh and he underscored that point he’s like look it’s a mirror it’s it’s a reflection of us so the the hateful speech the hateful attitudes the toxic uh you know aspect of this chatbot well that’s just a reflection of human society this idea this idea this idea of finding the humanism in the technology is what’s at the heart of your inquiry in your newsletter tell us a little bit about how you came to start the newsletter the newsletter New World same humans yes so my background is I was head of research and Analysis essentially head of the research side of the business at one of the leading independent consumer Trend firms so this was a firm tracking Trends in consumer behavior and informing clients pretty much every Big Brand every big Corporation Under the Sun as to what those Trends were I’m now completely independent and the Heart of what I do is this newsletter New World same humans and it’s really founded in the underpinning thought just as the name suggests is it is this collision between a changing world and fundamental human needs really underpinning everything I do is this idea that when a changing World often that means emerging Technologies unlock new ways to serve fundamental human needs things like value Security State that’s when you see new human behaviors or mindsets or expectations emerging at scale so I write the newsletter I take a very wide ranging view of a changing world and the forces reshaping our shared future and what that means for businesses but what also that means for culture and for our lives uh in the decades ahead that keeps me pretty busy and I’m also now in the process of founding uh Boutique Trends and foresight agency and we’re doing some great work for clients you know helping helping bring that big picture thinking about a changing world in the 2020s two clients but also thinking about you know doing more to think about what does it mean for them what are the implications for them and how should they respond one of the things I like about the newsletter which someone forwarded to me people send me things all the time now because they they know that I’m interested in these subjects and so I’m getting great suggestions from the audience here for the podcast and um so someone forwarded to me what I liked about what stood out to me about about New World same humans is that you cover the news you cover the topics just as we did in the beginning of the show but you have you add your take your opinion and this is really quite interesting because it’s not just a news service there’s plenty of those in fact in a way we’re kind of inundated with uh news that’s ripped out of context it’s a series of headlines that creates a certain kind of confusion what people are really looking for is context and you provide that and you provide that through a humanistic lens which I find really refreshing because here in California we’re a wash in technology and you know the the this sort of this uh the Rapture of Technology here you know the Church of the singularity and so forth and so I think it’s kind of refreshing um to ground the tech news in a perspective that’s about people and as you say in the name you know same humans like we have a we we adapt slowly technology changes fast but humans don’t change quite as quickly right yeah and that that that really is the underpinning philosophy behind the work I do to understand our shared future and what it means for all of us and it underpins the newsletter too I mean yeah how do you do that well how do you keep track of all those sources like like where are you finding this information how do you compile it each week yeah so the methodology really is is very simple it’s about looking out to the world in this structured way bringing that lens of the collision between a changing World often new technologies and fundamental human needs and looking for those collisions and really the best way to do that or the way I do it is to look out to the world of innovation in a structured way to bring that framework to the world of innovation so I’m looking really for new products new Services New campaigns new apps new digital products new chat Bots like whatever it is and I’m looking for particularly those innovations that are leveraging some emerging technology something new to serve and age-old fundamental need in a new way because when when an emerging technology Taps into one of these age-old Eternal shared needs in a new way that’s when you see the emergence of new human behaviors and mindsets and expectations the emergence of new trends as I would Define that that word is often ambiguous I’m talking about Trends in human behavior essentially that’s when you see new human behaviors and mindsets at scale in practice that just means I am like insanely immersed in just like hundreds or thousands of sources using tools to filter you know intelligently and just constantly constantly constantly reading looking out to the world of innovation for those signals and then bringing that framework to them and like you say you know with the newsletter I give my own take I give my own View and it’s really the same trick so to speak every time it’s it’s it’s okay here’s this big story in the world we all we all have seen or sometimes it’s quite an obscure story here’s this new research paper or this new technology or this new this new scientific breakthrough let’s look at that through the lens of fundamental human needs fundamental human needs our Eternal shared nature becomes the anchor that helps us to make sense of what is apparently chaos out there out there is very fast changing very fluid very chaotic if you see that out there through the lens of fundamental human needs that don’t change that can become an anchor that helps you look to the outside world in a structured way and start to make sense of it see patterns see directions of travel in all that apparent chaos that is what I’m doing it’s totally qualitative and I am experimenting now with ways to bring quantification to bring this incredible world of data and AI ai’s ability to Crunch and see patterns in that data that we can’t to marry that with the kind of qualitative Trend thinking I do that is an extremely exciting next step if you want to kind of talk futurist inside like shop talk that is an extremely interesting next step for the kind of work I do day today is totally qualitative okay letting under that because we do have to go to a break here but before we do that let me ask you a couple quick questions to I hope our audience get familiar with you um David tell me about a science fiction story or film or TV show that inspired you the first science fiction that you were exposed to that inspired you yeah that’s a great question I think the first true science fiction that I was exposed to and loved as a as a child was The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which might be an unexpected answer because it’s not that kind of hard tech hard-boiled science fiction um that you know you might associate with futurists or futurism and I have a degree of discomfort with that word and we can talk about that but it brings a very human perspective so perhaps informs the perspective I take because it brings a very dare I say it’s of English um kind of anti-climactic almost prosaic human cozy approach to to space and space travel and high technology and relentlessly reminds you in a in a funny way in a humorous way that you know yes you can have all this technology you can be whizzing through space you can be doing all these incredible things but these are still people they’re still flawed fragile sort of funny ridiculous people so I suppose that perhaps has helped informed the perspective I take on everything we’re seeing now you know if if science fiction doesn’t have that human element it cannot be funny there’s no space for humor in sci-fi and that becomes very literal and kind of tedious honestly um but the human armor allows it to be funny and playful okay next question um tell me about a futurist or a forecast or Trend forecaster who influenced you early in your life someone who made a prediction that influenced you so that’s a good one and I think I think you know my deeper background is so founded in the in the humanities and in literature that I think the first kind of set of you know if you can call it a set of forecasts that would have influenced me would have been something like you know Aldous Huxley is a Brave New World so he’s not a futurist this isn’t a forecast but here is a detailed portrait founded in his time of an of a of an apparent future that feels very credible and very dangerous and very frightening um and I remember reading that as a teenager and being really enthralled by it and and sort of shocked that someone could way back then and it seemed even longer ago you know when I was 14 than it does now because I was so young could could could could tap into directions of travel that felt still so so real and so prescient in whatever it was you know 1994 and still feel deeply prescient today so I’ll go with that I think I think that the futurism that’s that’s impacted me most has been literary yes great uh you’re listening to David Matton here on the futurists we’re gonna take 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welcome back to the futurist it’s part two the second half with David Matton of New World same humans David it’s been such a pleasure hearing you talk about your methodology and your way of thinking about the future one of the things we’re so interested in this show is helping people understand how they can think better think more athletically about the future and to do that there are different techniques most futurists employ one or two of these techniques um they’re either doing Trend forecasting which is similar to what you were describing and that’s where you take a discernible Trend today you know where we can start to see evidence that there’s there’s something coalescing there’s some movement there’s some there seems to be uh momentum in a certain direction and then we can project out into the future how that might start to affect other parts of the society or the economy or business or something else and um now we all know that you can’t do the straight linear projection because that’s never the way the future unfolds there’s many Trends happening at once and they intersect and Collide in interesting ways sometimes unexpected ways and so to help us with that problem there’s a second technique the second technique is scenario planning and scenario planning is almost like the inverse of trend forecasting so we’re Trend forecasting we’re trying to project out a current Trend to some point in the future with scenario planning what we do is we envision a scenario in the future and we work our way back we say okay what will the key indicators be what are the necessary preconditions for that scenario to come to pass and it was interesting to me that you mentioned Brave New World right before the break because storytellers and science fiction authors in general are the people who are the best at helping us conjure up those scenarios now this is sort of a surprise or contentious point I suppose some to some folks because there’s a lot of science that informs scenario planning and the people who do it as professional futurists or professional forecasters they’re very rigorous and they try to you know add mathematics and other models to make that more rigorous more accurate but the reality is scenario planning is storytelling at some point you’re talking about an imaginative process uh where we’re you know we’re we’re trying to Envision how the world might be in the future and we try to think through all the different aspects of that and then work our way back and that is the kind of Storytelling now your background your inspiration is all literary in other words you’re inspired by storytellers though in a way you are doing Trend forecasting so you’re kind of a blend of the two things at what point does Trend forecasting become scenario planning at what point do those two different methodologies converge for you yeah I think it’s a really interesting question and a very rich theme of thinking and I was actually in a randomly enough having having a very similar conversation this morning with with a client I think the kind of trend thinking I do is essentially a form of Storytelling too I and I and I think you know that there can be a sense that that sort of diminishes or some people might hear that as diminishing you know the kind of trends that I deal in but quite the contrary I mean humans thinking stories stories are essentially how we make sense of the world and what we’re trying to do what I’m trying to do when I’m looking out to the world in this structured way is identify stories that are true that help us make sense of as I say this apparent chaos going on out there and the way you know one powerful way to do that is to see this change see this fast changing world through the lens of Eternal human themes Eternal human values and impulses and needs and then we’re trying to draw a story out of that a story that makes sense to we humans that gives us indications of of a line of travel of where something is heading so these Trends are a form of Storytelling sure and I agree with you I think scenario planning is a form of Storytelling a form of narrative too um and and my my broader overarching thought about that is in the end stories are inescapable for us all our thinking about the future in the end has to be storytelling that is how we make sense of the world around us um and you know you can go and I’ve written in the newsletter about for example you know James day tour’s four Futures framework where he says all our thinking about the future in the end is a version of one of four stories you know collapse discipline transformation or continuity when we think about the future and what it’s going to be like we inevitably end up thinking one of those four big stories some version of one of those four big stories and I think there’s a there’s a great deal of Truth in that um so yeah you know it’s like here in Hollywood relay intimately related here in Hollywood they say there’s a only eight different plots and we just dress them up with different characters and costumes and worlds and so forth you know the in the design World um they talk about sense making and sense making is the process that humans go through to take all the sensory inputs and to put some logical order around it my own take on that is that um life doesn’t make sense you know we everyone starts the day with a plan everybody walks out the door of their home and the front door with a notion of what they’re going to try to accomplish that day and then life hits them in the face and we’re in reaction mode the rest of the day and um and it doesn’t make any sense when you’re in reaction mode you’re just reacting to incoming things you can’t predict what’s happening and it really isn’t until you return home that night and you’re sitting down for dinner and you say let me tell you what happened today that you can start to re-construct the day’s events you recapitulate those events in a sequence of thoughts where we leave out the things that we’re not relevant or the confusing stuff and we start to order our day’s events in in a frankly a linear narrative a story and that’s how we construct sense that’s how we make sense out of this crazy chaotic world where we’re always in reaction mode uh to me that’s how it seems for us when we’re faced with a technology industry that is so out of control so chaotic so competitive it’s constantly generating new stuff and one of the big problems is Discerning a signal from noise you know there’s a lot of new announcements every week um and we have to you and I both have to sort through them to try to understand what’s important how do you do that how do you determine which of the many different narrative threads you’re going to follow for your newsletter how do you choose what’s important yeah I mean it’s a it’s a combination of in practice it’s a combination of things you know I mean the newsletter tends to gravitate towards a series of big established themes that we all probably agree already are important you know you can talk about the generative AI way if you can talk about global Heating and its implications you can talk about demographic change but yeah again in terms of looking out there and trying to see exactly the signal from the noise you know you’re looking for cluster or are you certainly am looking for clusters of Innovations or changes or emerging Technologies that show signs of tapping into some deep human need in a new way and what you’re in this goes to the storytelling point you know what you’re really doing is saying exactly as you just said you know there’s all these Technologies emerging it’s chaotic it’s um it’s completely unpredictable it’s out of control no one has you know Silicon Valley does not have control of these Technologies and their implications it’s out of our control we’ve built this system of systems that’s totally out of our control um let’s bring the big human story about for example status and the Eternal Quest for status which is just this ongoing part of our nature that you can see all through our history let’s bring for example that story to some of these emerging Technologies and just test it out you know what okay you know what could what could generative AI mean for for status and Status expression what could the metaverse and Virtual Worlds and this is a very fruitful question actually this year status and Status expression and you’re looking for that kind of chime you know you don’t see it so much with generative AI when it comes to status you do start to see powerful signals of new forms of status expression new forms of this age-old behavior in the metaverse in Virtual Worlds and then you’re like aha okay we should investigate that more we should think we should think about where that’s leading we should look for more examples of that because this is a fruitful Direction and really what you’re doing is you’re saying there’s this technology out there it’s totally unknown it’s amorphous it’s chaotic what people will do at scale millions billions of people is they’ll bring their age-old human stories to it and one of the stories they will bring is status and if there’s some kind of rhyme there they’ll pursue that rhyme so this is a fruitful Avenue of inquiry it’s a fascinating concept so as you’re speaking I’m thinking of a number of things you know for instance the great 15-year boom in social media that we’ve all been living through it’s it’s really hard to describe like what’s the motivation what’s the economic purpose of social media people say well it’s communication and connection and shared knowledge and shared learning that may be true but there’s no doubt in my mind David that what you just said about the Quest for status is is it primary driver like that is why people spend so much time on social media and they’re looking for the likes and the upvotes and the shares and the links and the call outs and the callbacks and so forth so that is a huge driver but then when you look at say um you know mid-journey uh or the other generative AI image applications when those were about generating you know um artwork okay they were used by millions of people but they weren’t used by tens of millions of people and then lenza came along and made it extremely easy for people to upload their selfies and generate sort of optimized uh personal profile pictures boom overnight your social media flood feed was flooded with images from people who had never experimented with these systems and would never consider themselves an artist but they all know how to take a selfie and they all want to look good and so suddenly people were very proud to share their AI generated selfies on social media that just happened in the last month or so uh and you know look at Elon musk’s quixotic quest to take over Twitter and control it and Wrangle it this is yes he’s a troll but he’s obviously also driven by status so so this notion of status as a driver um a human value or human need that drives behavior and drives how we use these Technologies how we apply these tools that’s a really profound Insight like there’s we could talk all afternoon about that idea oh for sure I mean you you know we could write we could write tomes we could write books about the way status drives so much behavior in affluent societies you know when you get as when you get a collective of people and then their their most basic human needs are on the whole met you know they’re lucky people like us and they live in affluent societies it’s a status and the status Quest that rises to the surface and that fuels so much certainly so much consumer Behavior you know even crypto and nfts to me there’s a huge amount of status there as well you know sure like you know what yeah what are those the board Apes you know on your Twitter profile and the you know the um the nft pair of um artifact sneakers and all of this is this is status display and it’s it’s the same human impulse that you know built the pyramids uh that’s why people want a Ralph Lauren polo right you know logo on their shirt or actually Nike’s metaverse now is called dot swoosh they’re actually getting into the metaverse yeah so now let’s talk a little bit about the metaverse we’ve had a number of people on the show including some of the people who were the original developers of Technologies for the metaverse um but we haven’t gotten into this notion of of status in Virtual Worlds and I think that’s quite interesting we can actually expand that and talk about other human needs as well but let’s carry on with the status inside the metaphors maybe that’s more maybe that hasn’t been properly tapped yet you know people are trying to own land they’re speculating in land and you know virtual land in decentraland and sandbox um people are trying to develop games and there’s some measure of speculative investment involved there are some call games a Ponzi scheme the crypto games or the nft games a Ponzi scheme that may be the case um but I don’t think anyone’s talked about status inside of the metaverse so tell me a little bit about that yeah I think it’s it’s huge I I mean I’ve spoken an awful lot about the Met of us this year you know clients are obsessed with it um there’s been a huge amount of height and then there’s the backlash and the skepticism and I understand that um again you know what I tell clients and when I’m speaking what I tell audiences is see this emerging technology through the lens of fundamental human needs these worlds these new Virtual Worlds will become domains where people quest after the same old fundamental human needs that they quest after in in the world out there in real life as we you know Used To Call It Whatever uh and status is one of the primary drivers of of consumer behavior of human behavior and affluent societies and we’re going to see that play out in these Virtual Worlds too when you have what when you have spaces where hundreds or thousands or millions of people gather one of the big things those people want to do is signal to others you know there is something special about me I am enlightened I’m creative I am unique look at my t-shirt have you you know it’s different to the other t-shirts and it displays my sensibility you know I’m I’m a more creative Soul I’m this I’m that and yeah you clearly see I mean artifact for those out there who haven’t who didn’t follow their story you know across the last couple of years little U.S creative agency who make virtual pairs of sneakers you know these sneakers these trainers do not exist they’re just digital objects they sell them as nfts they put them on sale they did like three million dollars worth of virtual sneakers in seven minutes and then at the end of 2021 I think it is they were acquired by Nike why on like acquiring artifacts Nike make real trainers that actually exist why are they buying this creative agency that makes digital sneakers it goes back to something you mentioned before because Nike understand that fundamentally the business they are in is the status business Knight or in the status business you don’t buy a pair of Nikes because you really need a pair of shoes because you can buy a far cheaper pair of shoes you don’t even buy Knights because you need a great pair of shoes and buy a great pair of shoes far cheaper it’s a tiny little story it also goes back to the Storyteller it’s a tiny little story that you’re telling yourself and you’re telling the world about who you are it’s a tiny little bit of self-expression of status display and Nike understand that very clearly their history of their marketing shows they understand that very clearly you know what’s interesting even what you’re telling me about man we’re talking about really the the driver behind fashion is there’s a paradox people want to show that they’re unique and individual and they also want to show that they belong but they belong to a special class right but this idea that we’re kind of torn between the two things we want to belong to a group but we want to be different within that group you could say arguably that’s what you the labs is cashed in on with the board Abe Club where they’re selling what is it a picture of an ape it’s just a generative image of a gorilla cartoon for a hundred thousand dollars a piece uh but it’s more than just a picture it’s not just a profile picture that you can post on Twitter and show your friends that you’re part of that group it’s now emerging as a platform and it’s actually quite kind of an extraordinary story The crypto meltdown isn’t helping the story unfortunately but I find this company yoga labs to be one of the most interesting because they’re turning their nfts into a platform for community so you’re not just buying the artifact you know the buying the the image to show off on social media of course people are doing that foreign but you’re also an investor in a community once you buy in you’re going to do your best to build on that community and they’re using uh Creative Commons uh to enable people to tell stories and to build narratives uh fictional narratives including you know comic books and movie scripts and movie ideas and so forth um on top of the board ape club and people are doing this they’re members who are doing it for free it’s like fan fiction they’re also creating a real world Community where you use the nft to get token gated access to activities to premium events to hospitality and so forth so Gatherings where there’s likely to be members of the board Yacht Club they’ll create a board of yacht club like area or a special Hospitality Zone uh so they’re trying to pay off that notion and give the audience a chance to do more than just be a Mindless consumer but be an active participant in the creation of a community of like-minded people who want to signal to the rest of the world they’re using that signaling technology we’re part of this group and we share these values now for my mind this is this pretends great opportunity for marketers and it’s no surprise that Nike has gotten into us by the way since they acquired artifact Nike’s done 200 million dollars of sales of nfts people don’t realize that they’re by far the leader in terms of big brands in the nft space but they’re not the only one Gucci Prada a number of other major fashion labels have also gotten into the nft game these are companies that sell products for thousands of dollars luxury goods but now they’re selling nfts for more than the price of a Gucci bag you can so you can buy the nft the virtual version of the bag for more than the more than the price the of the real world item and of course now we can people would typically hearing this they’d say well that’s just like the Dutch tulip uh you know bubble and so forth the manias in the past and there may be an element of that in the crypto world but I think what you’re describing is that people have this urge this need and they’re going to scratch that itch one way or the other new technology that affords this ability to do it and then telecast it across the whole world that’s very powerful but that’s not the only human need uh this idea of status there’s other human needs and we should talk a bit about those you mentioned in your newsletter recently that the country of two value wants to recreate itself in the metaverse and to me this is about survival this is about ensuring uh cultural continuity even if the Oceans Rise and global warming and global climate change cause to valid a sink beneath the ocean they’re going to seek to recreate that and ensure that their culture can survive in a virtual world so talk about some other emotional drivers or values core values Beyond status yeah I I mean I think that the two value example is really intriguing and you know it’s also a little sad because this is a country more than a little sad is very sad it’s tragic because this is a country saying we’ve begged and begged and begged for people to pay attention to the climate crisis and what it’s going to do to us it’s go it’s literally going to wipe us off the map you know we’re a tiny Island we’re rising sea levels will obliterate this country and I think that is a sort of desperate play to ride a technology Trend that’s getting a lot of attention or a technology an emerging technology that’s getting a lot of attention uh in the hope people will sit up and take notice I mean you know I don’t think that instantiating tubaloo in the metaverse can in any way uh ameliorate the obliteration of the real tuvalu and I don’t think the people there think that either I think they’re they’re very understandably trying to get some attention for themselves in that way but yeah I mean the the in terms of the broader picture these Virtual Worlds will become domains where we see the complex interweaving sort of tapestry of of of humans questing after their fundamental needs I mean dare I say it you know we we know the fundamental need that drove a lot of the early days of Internet uh uh internet Innovation right sex and we’re going to see that in the metaverse too there’s no two ways about it this will become places where people try to these worlds will come places where people try to hook up with one another and that that’s all going to play out um you know social connection is a people wanting to be together in meaningful ways it is a genuine one of course value and transaction these will become spaces where people are are buying and selling and they’ll become new domains of you know a really interesting one for the metaverse is self-expression I mean we’re in the middle of a cultural moment now with a conversation around the individuals um right and ability to Define who they are and the way the world sees them in in Virtual Worlds that ability to construct yourself and construct the version of you that that that aligns with your inner feelings about who you are and present that to the world that’s transformed in the metaverse so you literally can construct a self you can construct an avatar we’re going to see hugely so again you know that that isn’t another example of where you see an emerging technology and a fundamental human need rhyme as it were in in that in that compelling way you know self-expression the construction of the self and the the need to transmit your own inner identity to the outside world that’s a deep Eternal human impulse it’s always been part of who we are Virtual Worlds will unlock new ways to do that and so we’ll see that story develop and for any innovator or any brand who wants to think about what does the meta verse mean for us what kind of human behavior is what we see in it that would be a really interesting fundamental human need to pursue and think about in that context it’s a really powerful driver of behavior in digital environments however it runs it runs headlong into a collision with broadcast media and they have it in broadcast media is that you’re entirely passive you simply sit there and consume the TV talks at you the radio talks at you and you listen you absorb it and that’s worked very well for brand marketers for 70 years or 100 years if you take radio into account however in these worlds we’re talking about these new digital domains the the metaverse um they’re going to be participatory in a way where people need a meaningful way to participate Beyond consumerism where they need to create something and share something and get validation for what they’ve created and I think this is a misstep that we can see that meta and other companies that were early players in the metaverse they completely blew it they completely missed the opportunity to make these creative environments where people have the ability to generate and share and maybe even sell or transact around their digital creations the irony to me here is that this is perfectly obvious if you look at second life right the the enduring virtue of second life is that the people there are highly creative highly participatory and they transact uh every single day there are a million people who are using secondly so you don’t have to look far for an example of a metaverse that does work it’s quirky it’s strange but that’s how people are um there’s notion this notion that like meta shared with Horizons um that you know there’ll be this sort of canned metaverse or prepared metaverse kind of like Disneyland you know or a shopping mall or a corporate office Park uh where everything’s groomed out and prepared for you and all you can do is modify an avatar with a preset group of parameters that’s not self-expression that’s too controlled I don’t think that’s going to cause people to come back and the proof is in the pudding because most people who check out Horizons world don’t come back uh well that’s a fascinating thought so you’re typing into a deep well of of uh human needs can you prognosticate for us a little bit will you give us a forecast of what you envisioned for the next decade what do you think is going to transpire with all the new technologies that are emerging I think we’re at the beginning of a decade-long wave of innovation when it comes to generative Ai and the Collision there between AI machine intelligence and human creativity is endlessly fascinating to me and I think we’ll see human creativity Amplified in all kinds of incredible ways I think I think counter to what most people think will see human creativity and creative people become even more valuable and powerful than before um because it takes a high degree of creativity to get the best from these tools I think we’ll see the emergence of virtual worlds where millions or hundreds of millions maybe even billions of people gather and transact and hang out and and express themselves um you know and I endlessly say to clients and audiences don’t don’t get hung up on the current manifestations don’t look at you know meta’s version of the metaverse or any particular version of the metaverse and think oh hey that doesn’t work so this whole thing is hype you know I’m deeply skeptical there’s nothing here it’s not the current manifestations that are important or certainly they’re not important when we’re trying to think in in this structured way about the future it’s the fact that there’s an emerging technology here that unlocks new ways to serve fundamental human needs and I also think that you know we’re on the verge of some really interesting developments when it comes to Robotics and when you start to marry these large language models that understand context and and understand meaning so to speak though that gets very philosophical when you can marry those with with robots you you start to Verge on and Google are doing some really interesting work they’re Everyday Robots division is doing some really interesting work on this you start to Verge on robots that can be genuinely useful in ordinary human physical spaces you know you start to Verge on a robot where you can say oh hey Ro you know hey I’ve just spilled my coffee sorted out and the robot will understand that and act appropriately we’re still some way off that because it’s I mean that’s a whole other podcast you know we’ve seen incredible advances in digital and in the world of bits as they say but not not so much in the world of atoms we’re not perhaps where we expected to be in the world of atoms we still don’t have that household helper robot that just loads the dishwasher and makes you a cup of coffee but perhaps we’re closer now in a meaningful way and that to me is extremely interesting as well I think that’s a whole new way that the technologies that have transformed our lives across the last 20 years have been digital on the whole we may be on the verge of a wave of physical Hardware of atom technologies that really change day-to-day life and that will be that will raise a whole new set of really interesting issues and challenges right on well thank you very much David Matton the creator of New World same humans newsletter which I’ve been reading and I’ve enjoyed immensely and I recommend everyone who’s listening thank you David for joining us on this show the podcast um and uh are my co-host uh my Globe traveling co-host Brett King will be back next week uh to join us for another episode of the futurists and in the meantime I want to give a shout out of thanks to Kevin hershon and and Elizabeth uh you are our producers you’ve done a fabulous job and the whole team at provoke media who supports Us in the production and distribution of this show and for those who are listening thank you very kindly for the folks who’ve been sending suggestions and uh thoughts to us they’re very constructive we welcome that feedback and if you’re listening and you find the show useful please do give us a five star review that helps other people discover it you can do that on Apple or on Spotify or wherever you find podcasts in the meantime uh we’ll continue to prepare more shows we’ve got great new hosts great news stars coming and joining us uh in the very near future so it’s been a fun first year for us and we’re really thrilled about what comes in 2023 and we appreciate everybody who’s been joining us on this journey we will see you in the future

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