Maggie Wilkinson: Hi, welcome to season two of Jolty. We hope you’ve enjoyed being part of our dialogues and discussions. I’m Maggy Wilkinson, CEO of Athena, and with that, let’s jolt.
Faith Popcorn: I don’t know about you guys but I am fascinated with this Metaverse. As we’re sitting here, there is a whole life going on in this thing called the Metaverse. I got very intrigued with this woman who we are gonna talk to today, named Krista Kim, she has built a house on the Metaverse, so you go like, So what? Right? Except it’s called Mars House and it just sold for $540,000. And then her pal, his name is Hrish Lotlikar, he’s the CEO of SuperWorld, and he also is coming up with all kinds of thoughts and ideas.
MW: Let me ask you about that a little bit. Let’s go back 2000 years and you’re attending a play, some sort of oral tradition that’s been handed down, and you’re watching it on a screen and/or on a stage in front of you, and you’re experiencing catharsis, the emotions that are happening through this acting out… I think that was what we would generally have thought even 20 years ago, so you don’t even have to go back that far. Now, fast forward to you’re having these experiences in a virtual world, and there seems to be more tolerance or a general acceptance that it’s real, is it real or is it not real? And what is real anymore.
FP: What do you think Adam?
Adam Hanft: I think when we’re in the Metaverse, when we are looking at Krista’s house, we know, our brains know that it is something that is happening inside our brains, but doesn’t have a physical analog… And that’s fine, that’s absolutely fine. It doesn’t make it any less real from a cognitive point of view. I’m sure if you put somebody under an fMRI, the magnetic resonance machine, and you look at the part of the brain that lights up from the physical and the part of the brain that lights up to the Mars House, it would probably be the same part of the brain. So I think on some level our brains, don’t make a distinction between them.
FP: Okay, should we bring them on?
AH: Bring them on virtually. [chuckle]
FP: Hello beautiful Krista Kim. And hi Hrish, how are you?
Hrish Lotikar: Hey. Good, great.
FP: And welcome to Jolty. We’re so excited that you’re on. Let me introduce my cohorts, Adam Hanft, a brilliant futurist in his own right, and somebody that I’ve been futurising with for at least 200 to 3000 years, I don’t know. I’m bouncing between the time frames.
HL: Love it.
FP: And then Maggy Wilkinson. And let’s start with Krista, introduce yourself. Say where your head is at and then we’ll do Hrish.
Krista Kim: Well, I am a digital artist, I’ve been practicing digital arts since 2013. I used to practice painting, I was an abstract… Japanese abstract style painter, and I switched to digital because I saw that digital was going to take over the world, and I saw the disruption that was about to come, 2013, and I wrote a manifesto in 2014 about techism because I felt that a lot of the technology that was being introduced were so disruptive to our society and to our psychology and our behaviors. I felt that art is integral and actually becoming at the forefront and actually engaging with the leading edge of technological innovation in order to make it more humane. So I’m real humanist, digital humanist and I really want artists to engage in technology just to make a better culture, a better future for us all.
FP: And Krista, that’s not an oxymoron? Humane, digital?
KK: Yes. It’s not an oxymoron at all. It can be done, and you will see more of that.
FP: And you’re the embodiment. And then Hrish, tell us about you.
HL: So my background… I kinda started off in business, so consulting, investment banking on Wall Street, did venture capital for a number of years, started a few venture capital funds in Europe and Ukraine and Belarus. Always been kind of a world traveler, love the world’s always been in my heart. Previously started a film and television studio in Los Angeles called Rogue Initiative Studios that does film, television and gaming, and that’s what got me into the immersive entertainment world, and about four years ago, Pokémon GO came out and became this huge worldwide sensation as a lot of people know. A lot of people don’t know, but it was the fastest company in history to hit a billion dollars in revenue. A lot of other people don’t know that this was their best year ever, so a lot of people think it kinda disappeared or it was a trend or a fad, but it’s doing really well, extremely well. And basically what happened was back then, about four and a half years ago, we thought to ourselves… I got together with my co-founder and we thought, you know what, if we can’t build the next Pokémon GO, what if we could build a world?
HL: What if we could build a place where the next thousand Pokémon GOs gets built on top of it, and I’m using that Pokémon GO as an analogy for adding digital information to the real world. And then how can we empower people to be able to own the virtual world around them that they’re creating or create… Own that world for everyone, in other words, be able to be a stakeholder on the platform, and that was kind of the vision of SuperWorld.
FP: That’s brilliant. What do you think Krista?
KK: Well, actually, I’m really interested in using the NFT as a vehicle for positive social change, because never before do you have an opportunity to have artists that are actually reaching the collectors eyes directly on platforms, you are getting rid of the intermediaries. And so what you can do basically is with that capital that’s investing into your career, you can actually engage in community projects or social initiatives that you believe in and help to actually finance that through the sale of your art. So actually the Mars House is an example of this, where I put the majority of the proceeds toward the Continuum Foundation, which is funding sound and light healing meditation installations around the world. We wanna bring wellness and unity through digital to places all over the world. We all need healing.
KK: So that’s one of the initiatives I’m doing, and the next project I’m doing now is also involving… I understand… I believe that AR has a unique opportunity of actually transforming our physical reality, and inspiring us to actually see with the imagination. And so in places like the projects in the Bronx, the Mott Haven projects, we’re actually creating an installation there, an augmented reality. We’re beautifying, we’re creating beauty in that area, because I find the architecture very oppressive, so why not create an AI installation that beautifies, that inspires the community, and also gives back to the community through the sale. So this is a project that I’m starting, and a movement that I’m starting, and it will launch soon. I’ll keep you posted.
AH: I was just gonna ask a question about the relationship between NFT art, digital art, and the traditional art establishment, because as you said, you can disintermediate galleries and curators, but you also can empower them. So, how do you see the future? Are NFTs gonna be more agnostic? Or are they gonna really disrupt the entire infrastructure of the art world?
KK: Well, I think that there is a place for curation, and I believe that there is a place for galleries still, because artists do have to focus on the work itself instead of the business side. So they do serve a very important role, but I just think that the old practice of having exclusivity over an artist’s career, or demanding 50% of the sale of the artist’s artwork, and then not offering them royalties, because now with the NFTS, you’re offered a royalty per secondary sale, every subsequent sale, so that’s very fair. These NFT characteristics of the business are now being adopted into the traditional art world, which is actually shifting and changing. So it’s really incredible what the impact has been.
FP: Just for the audience that doesn’t really know what an NFT is, can you explain it in simple English? Hrish, you wanna try?
HL: Sure, I’ll take a shot at that. The way I think about an NFT is, it’s the ability to take anything, whether it’s a piece of artwork, physical or digital, music, potentially an idea, text, anything you can think of, any type of medium, and turn that into a digital asset, and that digital asset can be programmed. And then it could be programmed to do a variety of things, almost anything. And one of the main things that people think about, it can be programmed to pay you every time it gets re-sold. And then the other functionality that you can program into it, is again, related to offering other types of things related to… Whether it’s a ticket to a concert, or some kind of additional bonus, or it could be that it provides authenticity of ownership, it’s very transparent ’cause you can see it on the blockchain.
HL: It solves a lot of problems that non-digital, non-NFT assets have, which is those types of issues of, “Is this counterfeit? Is this the real owner of it? Am I gonna get it? Am I gonna get the money I’m owed for it?” All of these problems are solved through the NFT technology, and that’s what makes it very powerful.
FP: Thank you.
AH: I was gonna say, so the tokenization of it provides the certificate of authenticity, as we used to call it in the old art world, and that applies across whatever the NFT happens to tokenize. It could be a work of art, it could be an idea, it could be the first Tweet that Jack Dorsey ever sent out, and that’s where the creativity can come into, because you can then take this technology and marry it to some new creative expression, right?
HL: Yeah, exactly.
KK: Now that’s correct.
MW: I recently was given a virtual tour of the Omega Mart. It’s highly digital, and lots of artists participated, but it’s also… You’re there, so it’s immersive. I view that sort of as a hybrid experience, I guess. I was very… And weirdly, we were virtually zoomed into this, going around with someone with the cameras. They did it so I couldn’t touch or feel anything, but in theory, if you’re there, you could. What do you think about things like that? Do you think there’s a future for these sort of immersive experiences that are popping up everywhere, or…
KK: Oh, oh yeah. Absolutely. So, I think this is all… We’re using our imaginations, because we’re not actually wearing our Apple Glasses, and once Apple Glasses hits the mainstream, then the world will change. People will be stepping outside and you will be enhancing your real life experience with skins for your architecture, for your interior, for your fashion. You’re going to have fashion that actually responds to your body, to your mood, to the weather, however it’s programmed. It’s going to be very artistic and creative. We’re going to have digital pets and digital companions. It’s all going to become 3D, programmable, AI-empowered…
KK: It’s going to be a whole new experience of human life. But our aim is to really make sure that we enhance human life, we don’t take away from it. So, that’s the key factor right now is, how do you lay a foundation where the ethics are clear, and we actually do it the right way?
FP: Wow, that’s incredible.
MW: Are you coding consciousness?
KK: That’s a good question. And when I talk to people in AI, they say it’s not there yet. And who knows if it will, this is all… It’s up to the imagination, who knows? I don’t think the technology is nearly there yet, but we can definitely program an NFT to behave like an animal, or to say that… Basic things as a person, but consciousness, I don’t know if the technology will actually get there yet.
AH: Think about the COVID vaccine, the messenger RNA vaccine. Basically, what it does… It’s software, it reprograms the body, the biology of the body. So the biology of the brain, the biochemistry of the brain, should be re-programmable just like the messenger RNA is re-programming our immune systems.
KK: Yeah. We will all have our avatars.
KK: Our digital twins in the metaverse.
FP: Or a few. So, there’s the answer to, “You can do two things at once.”
HL: You can do three things at once or five.
FP: Or ten things at once. I love it.
FP: So we’re gonna be living there more and more. We’ll be dining there, we’ll be dancing there, we’ll be building businesses there, but what do you think Krista?
KK: Here’s the thing, when I think about the NFT, actually, I think of the supreme art medium, because we can basically encapsulate our ideas and then send them into the cosmos for eternity for an alien race to discover beyond human civilization. So this is really fascinating to me, and I think these are ideas that we, human ideas that we are forever capturing and it’s amazing, it’s really…
FP: Because you… They’re so light and you could send them very easily, right?
AH: We’ve always had this human desire to do that, it goes back to the time capsule, right, this just basically finds a way to turn it into an impermeable, immutable, digital object.
KK: Correct. We look at the pyramids today with so much awe and wonder, and I don’t… If only they had NFT so that we can actually understand how they lived. So now we have this permanent record of human civilization from this point onward that will never disappear.
FP: So I know this is not what you like to… I don’t know, really talk about… But there will be people that will come on and go, “Where’s the money?”
FP: So where’s the money? Like you donating your whole Mars House, right?
KK: Well, we did take a percentage, the three artists, we did split, but the majority does go to the Mars House. I think of this as an abundance game, I don’t see it as zero sum. I see lots of opportunity, and I know that I have a healthy abundant career ahead of me, so I’m happy to share it. That’s an artist mentality. Maybe it’s just the way my brain is wired. I wanna share beauty in the world, I wanna change the world for the better.
AH: When I read about the house, I thought immediately of, or quickly, all the architects’ drawings like Frank Lloyd Wright’s un-built houses and things like that, that people spend a lot of money on. So it felt… It struck me as a continuum of something that’s existed for a long time, which is to pay for, appreciate and want to experience things that exist in somebody else’s imagination before they’re physical.
KK: And the fascinating part is I’m actually building the Mars House. Plans to build the physical Mars House.
AH: Physical version of Mars?
KK: Oh yes, yes. So that’s the next step.
FP: So what if somebody wanted, let’s say they buy the Mars House here, why do they wanna go there?
KK: Well, I’m going to have the Mars House as an XR experience, it’s gonna be on SuperWorld, popping up in different parts of the world, and we’re also going to build the physical somewhere maybe in Iceland, like a three-day, four-night retreat, a meditative retreat for rejuvenation and anti-aging. I’m really into that, and the house will respond to you, it will read your bio data and it will actually program that the light send the experience for you so that you’re optimized for relaxation or for energizing or… It’s healing house.
HL: At SuperWorld, our goal is to improve the world, and our mission is, it’s not about a particular technology, it’s to movement of, how can we leverage all of these technologies. Whether we’re talking about AR, VR, AI, blockchain, all of these technologies to improve humanity, give people access a lot of people there earn money, allow them to do things that they love. And that’s possible, that’s why all these technologies have been created to empower us. But the main thing is I wanna empower people’s reality. So I’m a humanist and I want the real connection to the real world.
HL: So even though SuperWorld is a virtual world, SuperWorld’s all about your real life. How do we enhance your real world and how do we empower the real world itself? So physical world, so as an example of that is just to give you an example, if you buy a plot of land in SuperWorld, we plant a tree in the real world, and that’s just an example of the kind of things that we wanna do. We’re gonna work on a project in Flint, Michigan, we’re working very closely with COP26, we’re doing things related to climate change and the Amazon, and that’s just the start, I guess to answer your question. I think I’d hope that… I think my kids would talk about our collective goal of bringing together humanity to empower humanity and improve the world.
KK: I see Hrish and I see the world right now as a blank canvas, and I believe that the world needs more philosophy kings and queens, philosopher kings. I think that entire philosophy has to exist now, especially since we’re building a new civilization. So I…
MW: And Krista, what inspires you? Are you inspired by ancient philosophy or is there anything in particular?
KK: I am. I am inspired by philosophy, I think that philosophy is essential to building a new civilization because we learn from the past. We’re always repeating the same, the same mistakes, the same cyclical movements, and right now, I could see that the world is experiencing such disruption, we can really learn what it means to be human. [chuckle]
MW: I can’t help to think of the Allegory of the Cave.
KK: I believe that we’re coming out of the very cave, I believe that we’ve been living in a cave under surveillance capitalism and the blind adoption of pretty parasitic technologies. There is a lot of good. Okay, but there has been a lot of bad, unfortunately. Psychologically, I would say that our young people are the most depressed and anxious and lonely and, of all generations in human history, and social media is definitely to blame for that, for most of that. So I think that we definitely have to come out of the cave. Stop living in this paradigm and come out of the paradigm, and SuperWorld is definitely one way out, the Metaverse is the way out, and I see art as the light. Of course, that is art, philosophy is the light that eliminates us out of ignorance and suffering. So right now I think people are suffering and we need more light.
AH: How do you think the Metaverse as a concept and structure can help us from societally repeating the same mistakes over and over again?
KK: I spoke in depth with a good friend of mine, who is a brilliant architect, Thomas Schinko of Vasconi Architects in Paris, and he told me, and it was really beautiful, he said that the Mars House to him represents a paradigm shift of how people relate to technology. We have always been passive consumers, if you will, before COVID. Just passive of consumers of any technology, the new thing, get on to it and it just spreads like wildfire. But now the Mars House represents, okay, now we’re going to harness this technology as a tool, and we’re going to use it for good, for humanity and for health and wellness.
KK: We’re no longer just going to let companies like Facebook take our data and sell it to third parties and take away our human rights, because I believe it’s a human right to have data sovereignty and control over our own data. I think that these kinds of parasitic practices, I don’t think that they are accepted anymore. I think COVID has really alerted the world population on global injustice in general on all fronts, so I think that millennials and Gen Z and Gen Alpha have very heightened awareness of the mistakes of the older generations. They wanna rectify, and now they have the ability with blockchain, with DAWs, they’re empowered to actually change the world and NFTs will actually enable them to become activists and supporters of all of the initiatives that they believe in.
AH: NFTs are a different paradigm, but still a source of capital that could be used for good, essentially.
KK: Correct. Absolutely…
AH: Using the wealth of society in a more productive, holistic way.
KK: Exactly. When you have a decentralized system that’s a trust-less based system, then you can actually come together and build instead of worried about getting screwed over and actually fighting lawsuits. I just think that decentralization, having this incredible wealth transfer to the people and the collective power that you have, especially with DAWs. I think DAWs will also change the world because collectively people could make effective change.
AH: Well, if it’s true as people say, and I think it is that with Facebook, you’re the product, Facebook is monetizing you… If your monetizable assets were in the blockchain, then they wouldn’t be able to do that without your permission.
KK: I don’t think that Facebook’s business model can survive decentralization, because you know why? There will be a decentralized social media platform coming soon, and it’s around the corner and it’ll be better than Facebook and it’s simply a matter of switching.
FP: So I’ll just ask you this, you’ve just impressed us. We’re like, “What?” Like that. “What?” I just think you’re wonderful. And the thing I wanna ask is who are the other leaders in this mission? I call mission… Who are the other leaders? Who are the ones that if you had a stand like in a daisy chain, who would be next to you?
HL: Krista, definitely. I think that there’s a variety of people in the industry that are very much believers in the Metaverse. There’s two ways that this is happening right now, so again, the centralized worlds that are being created, the decentralized worlds, and I think the trend going towards decentralization is something that will always be the case, but I would say one of our investors, Tim Draper, Alon Goren, Josef Holm. These are people that I work closely with. Jamie Burke, also a great investor at Outlier Ventures who believes in this. Matthew Ball, who’s a writer and investor who’s in this space. There’s a lot of people that are very passionate about this. Those are some of the people that are thought leaders in the space who are investing in companies and creating opportunities.
HL: And one of our board members, Will Burns, is the guy who created the word Metaverse for the IEEE, and so I talk to him a lot…
HL: Because he’s been living in the Metaverse for 20 years and has a very interesting outlook on it, so… Yeah, I think, again, the beauty of this is everyone can be a leader in this space. I’d hope that at least our mission at SuperWorld is to bring more people into it so they can be leaders. We wanna empower everyone to take their passion and bring it to the Metaverse and become a leader, and so we have this program at SuperWorld called Inner Circle. We have an ambassador program, and so we also basically find leaders from all around the world and get them involved in the movement of SuperWorld to build a better world. So again, I would say that there’s so many people in this space that are… And so many people that should be in the space, so we wanna encourage that.
AH: We talked about how business will change. Well, business looks at a two-dimensional world, they don’t think about competition like Facebook coming from the Metaverse, so I think it’s gonna be a big mind shift for business to understand that what they thought of as a competitive universe is now being completely upended by what’s gonna happen in a space they never really think about, but should.
HL: There’s gonna be ways that everyone can benefit from this, whether you’re a business, you’re gonna have to change. A lot of things have to change in terms of their advertising models, other business models that they are employing, because we’re empowering the consumer through these business models, and so I think just like any transformation, you think that these new technologies potentially are gonna destroy certain businesses and maybe they will, some businesses, but other businesses are gonna become much bigger and they’re gonna become much more robust because of these technologies. And you’re gonna see a lot of user-generated/enterprise type collaborations. It’s gonna be very positive for the overall opportunity for a business.
FP: What businesses do you think will thrive and grow through this?
HL: As businesses embrace that virtual opportunity and the online offline interaction between selling something physical and then getting the virtual experiences while upselling the virtual [chuckle], if you will, that is again a huge, huge opportunity for any business, so I think any business that embraces this early on is gonna be a winner, so I don’t think there’s any limit to the businesses.
HL: Yeah, yeah.
FP: Great. Well, I could say goodbye at least 20 minutes we could keep going on, but I really thank you so much. If you’re ever in New York, you need a drink, [chuckle] please.
HL: I’d love that.
KK: Very kind. Amazing. Thank you.
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