0:01
Hello, my name is Derrick Thompson.
And this is my podcast plain English.
I am so so so excited to join the ringer podcast network.
If you know me for my 13 years writing for the Atlantic, where I am still a staff writer.
0:17
Welcome.
If you know me from my weekly appearances on NPR or from my book hitmakers welcome.
And if you know me from talking about covid and the vaccines a lot with Bill Simmons on his pod welcome, but please be assured.
Lord, if you are in this third category, that I am not a covid reporter.
0:35
And I very much hope, like everybody else that my days of writing and talking about covid are extremely limited.
This is a podcast about tech, culture and politics.
And there are a lot of those.
So I thought I would give you 30 seconds on my Approach.
I love being a journalist, but I like this job, the most when I feel like a detective, when I can find mysteries in the news cycle and unpack them like Like, why are we still using all this soap to scrub down surfaces, when covid is obviously transmitted in the air or in the economy.
1:08
Why is everybody suddenly quitting their jobs?
All of a sudden, or in Tech?
What the hell are we talking about?
When we talk about the metaverse.
These are fun Mysteries.
The second goal of my work is to get things.
Right?
And that sounds trite, but I really do want to get things right.
1:24
I don’t care where my answers come from.
If the answer comes from the left.
That’s great.
If the answer is embarrassing to the left.
Okay fine.
It’s Still the answer.
And finally, I want my answers to be in plain English.
I want them to be legible.
I want them to be Illuminating for experts and understandable, to non-experts, and just plain interesting to everybody in between.
1:45
So, if I do this show, right, that’s what you’ll get good answers to questions that matter about the news and the world and your life.
So today we have an awesome episode about two ideas that I find just about as below.
2:01
During and frustrating and fascinating, and confusing.
As anything else, the new cycle, two ideas that can sound like, freaky huckster nonsense, but that also could be the core of our weird weird future and they are the metaverse and crypto and specifically here.
2:22
The future of non fungible tokens or nft S.
If you don’t know what those things are or if they scare you this podcast, This is for you.
And if you do know what those things are and they excite you, this podcast is also for you.
I think there is a lot of bullshit in this space.
2:41
But I also think that if you scratch just underneath that BS, you see something profound and real.
People are fed up with the internet as it exists.
Just as many of us are fed up with the world as it exists.
And this group wants to build something new to replace it and their group is filled with scam.
3:01
Artists and greedy investors and major corporations with catastrophically broken World compasses, but when a large group of people, suddenly announces, if they want to build a new internet, that’s not something we can afford to ignore.
3:40
Today’s guest is Kevin ruse.
Kevin is a tech columnist the New York Times.
He sees this whole space with Incredible Clarity, and enthusiasm, and skepticism, and Good Humor.
I’m so delighted to have him as my first ever guest.
Kevin.
Thank you so much for being here.
3:56
Thank you so much for having me.
What a treat.
So I name this podcast.
Plain English.
And the whole idea is to have a podcast that makes sense of our nonsense world and I begin by having you on to talk about the metaverse and crypto.
4:12
Maybe the first question should be like, what is wrong with me?
Why am I sabotaging this project immediately by picking the two?
Most bewilder airing ideas and Technology, but let’s start with the metaverse, which is ever so slightly less bewildering.
So you have the metaverse here, which is this vision of a virtual in Jeanette reality that will maybe absorb all our future time, attention and money before we tease apart.
4:36
Exactly.
What?
All that means.
Why is Facebook trying to build it?
Well, the reason that they gave and that they would give if you ask them, is they think this is a super exciting sort of Step change in the way that people experience technology.
4:56
We’re now, you know, the way that we access the internet is mostly through our phone.
Look glowing rectangles and like there are some things that are great about that.
There’s some things that are not so great about that.
But they believe that the future is moving towards sort of more immersive experiences may be VR headsets, maybe a are augmented reality, glasses that can sort of project things onto the world that are digital.
5:22
Basically, they see us spending more and more time inside sort of immersive digital environments, and less and less times for looking at our phones.
And so That’s where they’re sort of making their big bet.
Now.
That’s what they would say.
There are a couple other reasons.
I think that are underpinning.
This one is they have a lot of platform risk right now.
5:41
So the way that, you know, Facebook makes most of its money right now is by showing ads on people’s news feeds, the predominant way, that people consume Facebook’s products is on mobile phones and they have been sort of at war with apple specifically, but also Google, which makes Android over sort of the terms of that engagement.
6:01
They are very dependent on Apple and Google and remaining in those companies.
Good graces Facebook never built a successful phone or successful mobile operating system.
And so they are in some sense.
They’ve created this Empire on Turf that they don’t own and they would like to create a new Empire.
6:22
Their next Empire on Turf that they do own and they do own a hardware platform in VR Oculus, which they acquired several years ago.
They’re making bets on a our glasses.
They have these new Rabe and things.
So, part of it is platform risk.
I think a bigger part of it.
6:38
Honestly is kind of psychological.
Facebook has an incredibly toxic brand right now, for Regulators, for customers for consumers, for young people.
Their own employees are like, very demoralized, and they’re finding it very hard to hire and retain talented people because they just like, don’t want to say like, I work at Facebook.
6:57
So change the name of the company to Meta, maybe you get away from a little bit of that.
Maybe you sort of re-energize, your demoralized Workforce and solve a bunch of problems all at once.
Yeah, I think it’s really interesting and important to say, on the one hand.
7:13
This is a little bit about the future technology.
But on the other hand, you have this platform wrist and psychological risk that are critical to Facebook’s decision to go all-in on the metaverse.
I do think it’s fascinating that, like, you know, sometimes companies change their name because it’s a really cheap way to do a reputation facelift, like everyone’s screaming and Philip Morris for making cigarettes.
7:32
They’re like, oh no.
Now, we’re all Tria and like they pick a name.
That’s so fucking vague.
No one will ever.
Remember the word, Ultra, even if you work for it, but I do think that it wasn’t until I read your article that I understood how many resources Facebook is already.
Devoting to this project, like 10,000, people are working in Facebook.
7:50
So called reality Labs division.
They say, they want to hire another 10,000 more in Europe. 20,000 people is four times more than work at.
Twitter, like 20,000 people is not just a reputational facelift.
8:05
They are building something.
Do we know what they’re literally building?
Yeah.
It’s a huge amount of people.
They’ve also spent a ton of money on it.
They projected, they would lose like ten billion dollars on this in the next year or so.
Like this is not chump change.
8:21
Even for a company with as much money as Facebook.
We do know some of what they’re building, they are building, you know, hardware and software for VR.
They are building.
Adding stuff for for a are, those Ray Ban glasses.
I mentioned they are also acquiring just a ton of VR startups.
8:41
Like I think this is going to be sort of the next.
Like, big headache that Regulators are dealing with is like, they are just gobbling up every promising, VR startup gaming, and they just bought this company called within that makes this app called Supernatural which is like a VR workouts app.
8:59
So none of these things are like very On their own, but they are kind of assembling this like Voltron of VR talent and IP and they’re hoping that that’s going to be sort of the next big thing for them.
Yeah.
So a few weeks ago, Facebook, how that conference, where they rebranded the company’s meta and they had this video demonstration of the metaverse and Mark Zuckerberg or his legless loading torso, visits.
9:23
This little cartoon land and I don’t mean that as a mean description.
I think that’s literally what was happening.
You have a direct float list leg lifts.
Mark Zuckerberg in a cartoon office.
Did you learn anything from this presentation?
Like what’s, what’s the smart read?
9:40
From?
What a reasonable person should learn about what Facebook is really trying to build from that presentation.
We also a few weeks ago.
I think a lot of it was just a marketing exercise.
They are trying to claim this entire category for themselves and to make themselves from synonymous with it for the reasons that we already articulated.
9:59
I did learn.
Some of what they’re trying to do, which is to kind of, I think they see an opportunity to kind of Market.
This this is being sort of a Kinder gentler kind of platform.
Like like unlike the walled Gardens of the IOS and Android App Stores.
10:17
They say, we want our members to be interoperable which by which they mean like, we want our metaverse to be one of many, many verses and you can take your stuff, your virtual stuff from one to the other without like, you know, No having to convert it or pay a toll or something like that.
10:34
So that was an interesting Concept in one that I hadn’t heard them.
Articulate before.
Do you believe them at all?
I mean, I think one of the ironies of this event, what are you already is here is, you know, this generation of internet companies which are sometimes called Web to.
And we’ll get to web three a little bit later, you know, they are their own walled Gardens.
10:53
And so there’s this deep profound irony and all these Walled Garden, say, oh in the future, we’re going to build this Garden Without Walls.
It’s like, well, if that’s your Philosophy, why are there so walls up on your product?
So why should we believe at all that Facebook intends for this virtual world that they’re building to be interoperable or or shared between, you know, technological, ecosystems at all.
11:18
Yeah.
I don’t think we should believe it personally.
I mean after that event there was a story I believe CNBC reported on the existence of this kind of top secret memo that was sent from a A Facebook sort of VR executive to Marc Andreessen one of their board members a couple years ago.
11:38
And it was basically like the I read it as sort of like the the sort of the more candid version of the the Facebook meta push, which is like basically saying like we want to Edge every other company out of this.
We don’t want to play nice with anyone.
We want to own this entire space.
11:54
We basically want a monopoly in the metaverse.
And so they’ve said, you know, that doesn’t reflect our current.
Thinking and we’ve evolved our stance on that, but that guy is still in charge of large swaths of this project.
Clearly.
There’s there’s a big Market opportunity there.
12:11
If they can fill these virtual spaces with ads and, you know, paid experiences and things like that.
So I don’t think we should expect that.
They’re being totally candid about their desire for an interoperable metaverse, right?
And I also want to push back on this idea that Facebook is the right kind of company.
12:30
To build this in the first place.
This is not your idea.
This is this is Facebook’s there was a Financial Times article that I have just pulled off my phone where Andrew Bosworth, who is in charge of reality Labs.
He’s a Facebook exec.
He’s leading this push into the metaverse.
He tells employees.
I believe this is quoting from a memo that the Virtual Worlds at Facebook builds has to have quote almost Disney levels of safety and quote, but also acknowledged that moderating how users speak and behave at any meaningful scale is quote practically impossible.
12:59
So on the one hand, We have to build this incredibly secure world and on the other hand we can’t do this at all.
And so it strikes me right there.
That it even even in the memos that he’s sharing internally.
He is both expressing the vision and expressing why we shouldn’t believe Facebook for promising.
13:15
It, right?
Well, the key to all this is is scale.
Right?
I mean, the Disney comparison is actually quite an interesting one because part of what makes Disney.
So, family friendly and like a theme park, where you might actually take your children, is that there are lots of employees there and you Need a ticket to get in and it is not accessible to everyone and you have, you know, people walking around.
13:37
And if they see you harassing, you know, Mickey Mouse, they’re gonna kick you out and they’re actively policing.
There’s there.
It’s a low relative to software and social media.
It’s a low margin business because you need all these people to like keep the thing on the rails.
13:53
And and what Facebook is proposing is sort of a Disney like level of safety without a Disney, like investment.
The kind of security that’s resin.
He has to keep things on the rails.
I think that’s exactly right.
So obviously, I have a lot of cynicism to get off my chest when it comes to the metaverse, but I also do want to be fair.
14:12
I am interested in the frontier of technology and I want to believe that we can build something that is better than the status quo.
So before we get into the deeper levels of my cynicism, I want you to give me the best.
Sell that you’ve heard for the metaphors.
14:30
Not Not Facebook’s metaverse or Microsoft’s metaverse, specifically, but something that is kind of like a virtual internet reality in which people can live and interact and buy stuff and move around in some way that is superior to the tech status quo.
14:52
What’s the best metaverse L that you can give me the one that I find the most compelling is the kind of access argument.
So I was a kid, I grew up in a small town in Ohio.
And you know, I didn’t have a whole lot of friends who are interested in Tech stuff, but I had a computer and I had the internet and it was deeply transformative for me to like be able to go out there and join message boards and IRC chat rooms and like start a little web design business and have a little geocities site.
15:22
And like it was it was a kind of access that I wouldn’t have had in my physical world.
The internet kind of unlocked that for me.
And so there are people today, who say, look The Meta versus just an extension of that, you know, you and I we have like pretty good lives outside of the internet, but there are people whose lives outside the internet are not that good.
15:43
And that they, you know, in the metaverse could find something more like a rich rewarding existence that doesn’t actually tether them to a physical place.
And the other argument that I find compelling is that essentially, we are already in the meta verse.
We’ve just spent the past 18 months, talking.
16:00
Interacting working playing like buying stuff existing on our screens, you know, we have carefully curated, Zoom, backgrounds, people, you know, have these identities on the internet that are separate from their the real identities in the physical world.
16:20
And so that, it’s sort of we’ve already kind of past the point of no return where our digital world is going to become much more important to us.
We will start spending as much money.
Money to maintain our virtual images and our curate, our virtual wardrobes, and our virtual houses as we do on our physical houses and that in some sense if you just look around like, it’s kind of already happening.
16:43
Yeah, I think you’re totally right.
I mean, I I was in one long conversation with someone who is trying to build a metaverse somewhere to company that I can’t name and I made exactly this point.
I said, all day, I sit in front of a computer and I zoom with people so they exist within sort of the zoom verse.
17:00
And then I slack with colleagues that exist in a slack first and then I Twitter with people that are in the twitterverse and then when my wife text me I text her also from the same computer that is holding all of these Dash versus.
So in many ways, my life already flows through some kind of interoperable Internet world that I could leave and take a walk outside, but frankly, don’t, for the most part, like, most of my day.
17:27
I am not just experiencing pure, unfiltered nature.
ER, I’m hanging out in my basement, on my computer having conversations with all these people, all these people.
And that is a kind of virtual reality.
It is a computer mediated reality.
And I said, why isn’t that the metaverse already?
17:45
Why am I not already living in some like 0.0 or 1.0 metaverse?
And they really insisted that something about virtual reality or augmented reality.
Hardware technology is going to create some kind of Stepwise difference in my experience of the internet.
18:04
I wonder how much you buy that argument like to what extent is the metaverse as we talked about it just a very clever Rebrand of virtual reality.
I think that’s a big piece of it.
I mean, virtual reality has been hyped for literally decades and has never quite caught on.
18:22
And the headsets, you know, your eyes get all sweaty and big fog up and they’re not they give you a headache.
If you have money for too long.
And I say this is like a person who uses a VR headset fairly frequently.
They’re like not a great technology right now.
18:39
I think this part is a little over hyped.
Like I do think that the metaverse will end up being some combination of 2D and 3D and immersive and not immersive.
But like I don’t see any reason that like Innovations has to have stopped with the smartphone.
Like I do think it’s realistic that we will, you know, find ways to move the screen like closer to our faces.
19:00
And maybe eventually on to our faces and so yeah, I don’t know if you know, Google Glass came out today.
We might be thinking like this is some amazing VR product or a our product.
So, I don’t know.
I mean, I I’m curious what you think the case for sort of computing, remaining mostly a thing that is outside.
19:21
Your field of vision is yeah.
I honestly there’s elements of this vision of the metaverse that I’m kind of excited about because I think that when you change the hardware, you change the physical experience of the software, like, the invention of smartphones.
19:44
Didn’t just mean, that we were taking desktops and putting them in our pockets.
It opened up all sorts of different amazing use cases.
Like, what is the point of uber, if we all have desktops?
Well, No One’s Gonna design boober or lift until You have a Google map system or apple map system on our phone that allows us to navigate the world and hail taxis.
20:07
So the it was the hardware Revolution that allowed a bunch of software revolutions to come down stream of it.
And so, and I can’t even, I can’t imagine what, you know, an AR, you know, glasses reality could give us in terms of really fun new things that we can do with our day or new useful ways to move about the world, but I guess Yes, I am just deeply deeply skeptical.
20:33
If the companies that talk most loudly about that future should have any business leading the Brigade.
I mean Facebook has demonstrated very clearly that their interest in growth over.
Ethics is always going to be a part of their identity.
Like, that’s the double helix of the company is growth of our ethics.
20:52
And so, I don’t want essentially this company that started this wild.
West Deadwood on the internet to essentially say, hey, guess what, you know, How we created this like City in the Western United States called Deadwood where everyone is constantly like killing each other and punching each other.
In the face.
We’re gonna start a new country called Dead wood land.
21:10
How exciting is this going to pay?
But from I promise it’s gonna be a lot better in terms of the the safety regulations, if it’s just, no reason to believe it.
And so, I’m excited about the, I’m excited about some of the software possibilities.
I’m excited that some of the, some of the, The Innovation that’s going to happen here, but I’m very, very dubious.
21:28
But the countries about, excuse me, the companies, That are leading the the play I think it’s totally reasonable.
And and if it, you know, makes you feel any better.
I actually don’t think that the most likely scenario is that Facebook wins on this?
Like, I think that there are, you know, cut the companies that are will probably be the dominant companies in our lives, 10 years from now and when it comes to this stuff are probably non-existent now or it’s three people in a you know in a we work somewhere.
21:56
I think we just, you know, we don’t see tech companies successfully.
Migrating sort of from one platform to another all that often and I think Facebook just has a lot of problems that are going to make it very difficult for it to to extend their dominance into this new into this new category.
22:19
All right, Kevin.
Will speaking about next, Frontiers and Technology.
I want to talk about NF.
T is non fungible tokens and the crypto Revolution that they may or may not Harold.
First a two second definition for those who are uninitiated and if T’s are very complicated, but there is a way and you can just think of them as unique digital Collectibles.
22:41
Technically.
It is proof that you own a digital collectible.
This could be like digital art like a digital painting.
It can be And NBA highlights, you can buy from Top shots.
It can be a digital recording of a song.
It can be anything that you consider collectible.
But this is the technical proof that you own this digital object.
23:01
Would you say?
That’s a fair introductory definition or which you have a revision that you did?
Yes, you did great.
Yeah.
Non fungible tokens are essentially little bits of code that live on a blockchain on a decentralized database and essentially say that this person this wallet owns this thing.
23:23
This token and that token can correspond to a digital.
Good to jpeg can correspond to a song can correspond to, you know, some piece of art can correspond to basically anything but the but the real breakthrough here in the thing that has made them.
23:44
So interesting to people is that it allows you to create one of Thing on the internet where before and ftes like that.
The Internet is just a giant like xerox machine.
And so anything that can be you know, put on the internet once can be put on an internet a million times with no discernible difference and loss in quality.
24:04
And so the nft is a way to say this is the only one of this thing that exists on this block chain.
And and here’s the immutable record of that ownership right, right.
In a landscape of reproducibility.
This is technological proof of scarcity and everything that makes entities interesting sort of flows from that fact.
24:26
I want to slowly walk to the future of NF teased by First beginning with the story of how you put one up for sale earlier this year in the New York Times.
Give me the full story here.
How did this happen?
Yeah, so I got really interested in the fifties.
24:41
I saw, you know, people like Kings of Leon we’re getting into them and Snoop Dogg was Telling them and it was just this like big, you know, celebrity Trend all these YouTubers were like selling their own entities.
So I was like, well, that sounds fun.
24:57
I should I should do that.
Why should they have all the fun?
So, I went to my editor and I said, can I write an article explaining and FTS and then turn the article into an mft and auction it?
With the proceeds going to charity and they said, excuse me.
25:15
Can you explain what literally any of that?
Means.
It’s so I had a whole bunch of meetings.
I’m not going to tell you how many meetings, but you can imagine.
And it’s a number break bigger than you’re imagining.
And and so, I did it.
We had this column that ran and then I turned the column into a graphic and minted and nft, which is what creating an entity is called.
25:39
Put it up for auction and sort of jokingly thought like maybe some New York Times, like super fan is going to come along and you know, pay a couple hundred.
As for this like little, you know, collectible thing and was totally bowled over when there was a huge bidding war between nft Whales big collectors.
26:00
That ended in a sale for 350 III, which Fe re I’m which is here, IAM, which is at the time was about five hundred and sixty thousand dollars.
And today is I actually just looked this up.
26:17
I Leave its 1.7 million dollars.
I don’t know if my math is right.
Is it 1.7?
It’s about 1.6 million dollar.
Oh my God.
So, so yeah, so that was a wild Unforgettable day in my life.
And that really like that experience really is to just got me curious, like, who are these.
26:40
People spending 1.6 million dollars on a JPEG of a column that they can read for free on and white.
Dot-com, why are they doing this?
I started talking to some of the bidders and just like, what is going through your head.
Who are you?
26:55
Where did this money come from?
What is in this for you?
And that sort of led me into the, you know, down the rabbit hole.
And now, you know, I’m I’m sort of an mft obsessive.
That’s great.
So I think what are the classic criticisms of n of T is is that it’s just an overpriced JPEG and that why couldn’t you just take a screenshot of this and have the exact same thing.
27:16
Why couldn’t you just be a subscriber the New York Times and Kevin’s article the exact same way.
You can read it.
I don’t find this argument persuasive at all because Ansel Adams, photographs exist and they’re worth a lot of money.
And if I take a very high quality, photograph of an Ansel Adams, photograph, I can hang that on my wall and it’ll look just like an Ansel Adams photograph, but nobody does.
27:40
This no one goes around taking pictures of Ansel Adams, photographs and like hangs them on their wall and like tells them that they have and it’s laughs.
I mean surely some Had to do.
But this isn’t a part of the culture.
We respect the fact that there exists such a thing as unique, scarcity, in the world, especially when it comes to Art.
27:59
So there’s surely what be people who will listen to this and don’t need to be sold at entities matter.
But obviously there’s a lot of listeners who were people in the world who think this space is complete bullshit.
That it’s Beanie Babies, that it’s tulip, bubbles.
That it’s absolute nonsense.
What do you say to them?
28:16
What’s the first thing?
You say to them?
M to help them realize what you see in N of T.
Is that the critics might not well for starters, I never try to convince anyone that this is is, or isn’t bullshit.
Like, I just don’t think that’s like a very interesting conversation and like, I don’t have a stake in it either way.
28:35
So my argument is basically that even if it is bullshit, you should want to understand it because it’s interesting.
And a lot of very smart, very wealthy.
People have become, you know, obsessed with this.
And it’s probably going to end up in your life.
In some way or another so you should just understand it whether or not you think it’s it’s real or not.
28:54
But the thing that I always come back to is like, people say this is just like a status like bragging rights thing for rich people, which is a fair criticism like the high price, then FTS the board Apes, the crypto punks, they’ve become like status objects, but I always say like, do you know who the third richest man in the world is like, it’s not.
29:13
I mean, there’s Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos for a continuously like battling it out for number one.
Number two, the third richest man in the world ahead of Bill Gates is Bernard arnault.
Who is the CEO and chairman of lvmh which is the Louis Vuitton MOA Hennessy company.
29:29
That is one of the largest companies in the world and it is exclusively dedicated to making status objects for rich people.
That is what they do.
And there is a huge part of the economy that exists to satisfy rich people’s desires to flex.
And like if all that nft is were is that It would still be a very interesting development and potentially very lucrative market.
29:53
Now.
I don’t think that is all enough to use our but like even if it’s just luxury items on the internet for rich people who want to Signal their status and their wealth.
That’s still something that can make, you know, people, the third richest person in the world.
30:08
I think that’s a really, really fantastic point, right?
Even taking the cynics.
Seriously.
It’s still interesting enough to pay attention to.
So you went to this huge event in New York.
York nft, and Whitey one of the largest collections of meetings of n of T, enthusiasts in history and you talk to all these people and you wrote about a scenario times recently, which is why I wanted to get your, get you on the show.
30:35
What did these people tell you was there?
There was the source of their interest in and of teas.
Are they in it?
Are they in it?
For the money?
Is this just luxury?
Are they in it?
Because there are collectors and just want to On the frontier of art collection, like I used to collect Monet’s and kandinsky’s and now I want to collect more tapes, or was there it was there something else that they saw themselves as Trailblazers and some other Frontier.
30:59
Like, how would you, how would you break down the answers that you got from from your reporting there?
Well, it’s it’s I was in the answer to all of us.
Yes, like I found people who said all those things?
What I didn’t find on the record at least four people who would say that they were only in it for the speculation.
31:16
It’s like kind of taboo to say like I’m just here to make money in the NFC community.
So everyone says, like sure sure there’s some speculative value but also, you know, the technology is just really interesting which you can believe or not.
I tend to be a little bit more skeptical.
31:31
I did run into a guy who used to be some of that.
I talked to on my old beat of Wall Street who used to own a hedge fund and that was an mft collector and I was kind of like I I see what’s going on here.
I see where you’re not interested in the technology bud, but I do think there’s there’s a culture that’s Developing around ft’s.
31:49
That is quite interesting.
And so, yeah, the characters are incredible.
Saw some incredible scenes.
It was a real like scene.
There was a, I didn’t go to this party because I was on Deadline and couldn’t make it.
But there was like a board, a party in a warehouse where, like Aziz Ansari and back and Chris Rock, and The Strokes and like, Questlove.
32:11
All showed up and it was just like, oh, we’re doing this.
This is real.
So, it was a very interesting sort of Of blend of like IRL meets the metaverse.
Yeah, I think the blend of people in addition.
It has been so fascinating to me, not just a blend of celebrities with feels like just like the most random to am party.
32:29
You can possibly imagine like here Snoop Dogg and here’s Jake Gyllenhaal.
And you know over there is a Dell but also like philosophically, you know, you have like socialist that are interested in this because they’re like, this is distributed and it’s going to bring money back to creators and then you have Libertarians who like it because it’s unregulated and then you Capitalist?
32:48
Who, like it, because it’s so commercial.
It’s like it.
Totally scrambles any line.
You can draw in culture and politics interest in crypto seems to scramble it.
I, I do think there’s something sneakily, fascinating about that scrambling.
Totally.
33:04
I mean, just to illustrate what that looks like in the physical world.
So on one of these nights, I was, I went to this party in Greenpoint, that was being thrown by this crypto organization called friends with benefits like big warehouse party, Pussy, Riot.
I was playing like, very cini, like cost a lot of money to get in very exclusive and then right outside the party there.
33:26
There’s this van this like, this, this should panel van and inside the van.
People are a group of conceptual artists is smashing toilets with sledgehammers and I go up to them.
And I’m like, who are you?
33:41
And why are you doing this?
And they turns out it’s they’re making art.
They are a part of a group artist.
Collective and they are doing this in omage to duchamp’s the Fountain, the famous urinal sculpture and they are breaking toilets and filming them and turning them into n FTS.
34:01
And then so I watched that for a while and then I go and I talk to this guy who turns out to he’s his first line to me is touch her phone to my hand.
Okay, and so I take out my phone or a touch to his hand and it like opens up a window and like Like starts downloading a 10 ft.
34:19
And this guy has like, implanted a chip in his hand that is connected to.
While he has two chips, ones goes to his Twitter and the other one mints and nft every time you touch it.
And so, it just Illustrated for me like the mix of like seeing people and artists and weird, like body hackers and Venture capitalists and Libertarians, like they’re all just like exploring this space together.
34:48
It’s so weird and interesting.
It’s so it’s is exactly right.
The future is going to be so weird and interesting.
So I’m really interested in the implications for artists specifically.
So today one of the criticisms that a lot of artists have about this era of the internet is that they are forced to be tenants of larger aggregators.
35:08
It’s YouTube, Spotify, Tick-Tock insta that their tenants of those platforms.
They don’t fully owned what they make or distribute their and then FTS.
Yes and crypto and this whole movement.
In fact, there’s a huge part of the interest in web 30 is that there’s another path, that’s possible.
35:28
There’s a way in which you can use this technology to sell your work directly to your fans without any middleman.
Can you explain exactly how that might work for say a musician using nfc’s?
Sure.
I mean, there’s a couple ways.
I’ve talked to a number of musicians who are in 2nf T’s and they’re basically a couple ways.
35:48
You can do a one is you can just create sort of high-priced albums and songs and and sell them as nft is in the person who buys the nft kind of like the Wu-Tang album that was recently purchased.
It was first purchased by Martin shkreli and then was recently purchased out of bankruptcy by a group of crypto investors.
36:09
And so those are sort of one-of-a-kind status albums.
You can do that and there’s also this new sort of genre of startup that’s trying to kind of secure.
Cure ties royalties through nft.
So that you would buy, you know, an mft of, you know, Taylor Swift song and you would get that that nft would entitle you to a certain fraction of the, you know, the streaming royalties from that song.
36:34
And so there are some artists who are starting to experiment, although that’s kind of still very new.
So those are the sort of main ways that artists and especially musicians are using that right now, right?
One thing that I wonder about this is that I can totally see how this would help.
Artists.
Like, if Taylor Swift wants to sell 10,000 shares of the 10-minute version of All Too.
36:55
Well, to her biggest fans.
They’re going to spend their going to pay a lot of money for it.
So she’s essentially IP owing a song in a way and using NFC technology to do it.
There’s gonna be a huge huge Market to buy shares in that song and I guess theoretically, those shares could be traded or they could set it up so that you’re essentially getting a dividend from the royalties made from that song.
37:15
I can see how this is huge for big artist.
I also know that there’s a lot of people that are interested in this space that think it’s going to save smaller, artists and small-time creators.
Do you see how that math adds up?
Like, how exactly.
And if T is could come in and save the day for small-time artist.
37:34
It haven’t already achieved like the pantheon of Pop stardom.
Yeah.
I mean, I think that this is still pretty speculative, but I have met some smaller artists who don’t have record deals who, you know, are not You know, getting millions of dollars a year from touring and Merchants tough for whom this has been a big deal and I think it is sort of like, this argument about kind of how, how passionate people are even a sort of mid-sized, musical act might have, you know, 10 really Ardent fans who want more than just like streaming the song on Spotify like they want backstage passes.
38:15
They want access.
They want, you know, they want To personal Zoom with the artists.
They want to like have their name dropped in the next song.
Like they want more than the market is currently set up to offer them and I think that the other point is that like, you know, maybe an FTS won’t save small artists but like Spotify and the sort of streaming status quo isn’t doing them.
38:36
Any favors either.
I’m not sure what the latest rates are like, how many musicians or how many millions of streams, you need to to get on Spotify to make a living from it?
But like it’s a pretty High bar.
And so even if this makes it fractionally easier for smaller artists to earn a living by sort of selling high value, you know, merch to their essentially, digital merch to their biggest fans.
39:00
That could be an improvement for them.
Right.
So I can imagine someone who’s maybe a skeptic listen to this and saying, okay.
I see the idea that n of T is create these tokens for scarce digital art.
Okay.
Maybe this is the future of one sliver of the Art Market got it.
Okay.
They say that maybe I can see how it allows creators have individual relationships.
39:18
And ships with their fans because they can essentially securitize their work, sell a share of it to their fans, their fans could essentially benefit from their work.
The same way, you might, you know, benefit from owning stock in a company.
But what how is this going to change the broader world and you had this paragraph and your piece for the times?
39:37
I thought was really interesting.
I’m going to read it and I’d love you to elaborate on it.
So you write quote, if they succeed if n of T succeed, your electronic health.
Records will one day be an mft, which will be Able to seamlessly transport between doctors songs for your favorite, musicians.
Those will be, n of T, is to perhaps attached to a Smart contract that allows you to share in their future royalties.
39:57
Your kids, Fortnight skins, and of teas, or something like them.
And she’ll be able to transfer them game to game.
So, what’s the big picture here?
Like, what is the, what is the Innovative function of n FTS?
That’s allowing them to do these different things, in healthcare, in gaming, in music.
40:18
What’s a good way for people to think about how like they could sort of have this, this wedge in future technology.
I mean, I think it comes back to the point about scarcity.
They are a way to create one of something on the Internet and to give that one the properties of permanence and a permanent immutable record of its ownership.
40:39
And that’s seems simple.
But like that drives, a lot of the off the offline world.
I mean, I just bought a car.
When you buy a car, they give you piece of paper called the title, and that piece of paper proves that you own the car.
40:56
And if you lose that title, it’s a big pain in the ass to get a new one.
And when you sell the card years later, you give that title to someone else.
And that is the document that proves that that person owns that car in the event that there’s a dispute.
Like to me, there seems like no reason that that should be taking place on little slips of paper in a world where everything is digital.
41:16
And so, you know, you can imagine In lots of different ways to solve that problem digitally.
But one of them would be through something like an mft, which would just say this nfte corresponds to this vehicle identification number.
And so here on the blockchain, anyone can see that this person that Kevin owns this car and that when he sells it, there will be a permanent record of that sale that can’t that, you know, no unscrupulous dealer can come along and Forge later on.
41:42
Yeah, so I want to, I want to conclude with the kind of big picture observation, which is I think when you put Together the interest on the metaverse and the interest rate and of T is and crypto.
What seems to be motivating?
Both of them is this profound dissatisfaction with internet life as it exists?
42:02
Because both of them are clear departures from the status quo metaverse says the the web that exists on our phones.
The sort of 2D social media ecosystem has failed in all these ways and obviously it’s ironic that Facebook is the author of many of those failures than trying to build a future.
42:18
But be that as it may, the world is it exists as failed?
We want to build a new one.
Crypto says the same thing.
It says that many of the principles of the internet are built around, big companies, having all the ownership and individual creators, basically being tenants in those institutions, and it’s built around these.
42:38
These Gates that exist on the internet, where you can’t move around.
You can’t take, you know, your your your sword from one game and play with it in another.
You can’t take your health records from one place and use them in another.
You can’t take the the digital rights you have.
42:54
To a song and Spotify and use it.
And apple music.
We need to build a system that flattens.
Those Gates.
I mean, do you see metaverse and crypto like sharing like that that route of dissatisfaction?
Totally.
43:09
I mean, I think that the sort of psychology of who gets interested in this and what experiences LED them.
There has been very interesting to track in.
A lot of cases.
It’s like people who were really excited about the internet like the first time and The second time, you know, and and they had fun and they were like often their chat rooms doing weird experiments and then like the whole thing just got to be kind of a bummer like you, you know, open your phone.
43:35
It’s just like get sad and like all of the social media just makes you like stressed out and anxious and it’s like every time you get stressed out and anxious, it like makes Mark Zuckerberg fractionally richer.
And since like, well, what if I, what if my misery could be enriching me?
43:53
Is that market?
No, I do think there’s a root there of dissatisfaction with Gatekeepers with the status quo and just a feeling like this thing that once had so much promise like the internet, was this, like utopian thing that was going to make all our lives, you know, irredeemably better and it just hasn’t it.
44:12
And so I think for a lot of people this is kind of a psychological reset like the web three sort of feels like a way to sort of wipe.
The Slate clean and try again.
Great stuff.
Kevin Roost New York Times.
Thank you, so, so much.
Thank you for having me.