I''ve been a big fan of science fiction, technology, and gaming. So weve had a booming tradition of adding sessions on the topic at our GamesBeat Summit events. It''s why we have been early to jump on trends like the metaverse, the universe of virtual worlds all interconnected, like in novels such asSnow CrashandReady Player One.
Our Metaverse Forum in 2022 was once again able to hear a roundtable on sci-fi''s themes. Sean Keith, who runs our science fiction club and is a senior director of business development at Mythical Games, attended the session with speakers; Kimberly Unger, a science fiction writer and a researcher for content publishing strategies at Meta; and Jon Jacobs, an actor and futurist who follows the brand Neverdie. Years ago, he dove Entropia Universe, which was the first M
If necessary, Unger discusses art and code, and writes science fiction about how these app-driven superpowers will impact the human race. Her debut sci-fi novel, Nucleation, is now available on Amazon, and her next novel, The Extractionist, will be published in July of 2022.
Because so much science fiction is becoming reality, Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang said that she was living in science fiction for a few years, and our events have harped on this topic for a few years, as things that we once believed were science fiction, like AI, have become so real in the last few years. And venture capitalists like Tim Chang of Mayfield have been using these ideas to feed startups.
This is a short description of our discussion.
This is not our first session here on science fiction, technology, and games. As Sean mentioned, we have a science fiction book club, and every few months we read books that often have a lot of meaning to the metaverse [or just cool sci-fi novels]. Five years ago, Tim Sweeney began speaking at our conferences and mentioning that within a few years, the open metaverse was possible. I was shocked when he saw him say this.
We used that as a springboard for a conference in 2017 that basically included science fiction, technology, and games. That was a lot of fun. A year ago, I met with Ramez Naam, who directed the Nexus series, and Tim Chang, who was basically a venture capitalist at Mayfield. He had the opportunity to get ideas for what he might be willing to provide, and analyze them as soon as possible. It is interesting for me that the relationship between SF, technology, and games is tighter than
Is there any one definition of the metaverse that inspired you from Snow Crash, Ready Player One, or Neuromancer to think about it in some way? Is there something more obscure that is an interesting conclusion about the metaverse?
Kimberly Unger: At the time, Diane Duane, a long-time SF writer, developed a new Omnitopia, which included many metaverses. It was an interesting look at the gatekeeping that goes along with those kinds of cultures, as well as the way you might have societal structures emerge.
One, the reason I got excited about metaverses in the first place was from MUDs. Jon mentioned this. These metaverses now represent beautiful locations and picture-perfect quality. You run around this continuity between different digital experiences. MUDs were the foundation for that back in the 1990s. So, I got into the whole concept of metaverse.
MUDs'' central tenet is still applicable to what we see today with metaverses. Whether you''re having a great time, playing games, or just chatting. Although metaverse today is a very beautiful object, it does not have to be. Its individuals interacting with each other in a digital environment.
My other approach is.hack/Sign, which was established in Japan. That''s a fairly different way of interpreting what a metaverse would look like. Occasionally, we think about Snow Crash or Neuromancer, these kinds of stories, but other countries have quite varying understandings of what it might look like.
Along this line, I happened to visit that studio, where Hironao Kunimitsu was the founder of Gumi and now the CEO of Thirdverse. He spoke at our event, and he said that he was inspired to think about the metaverse, which he has a different religion. I havent seen that yet, but it is interesting that these non-Western influences for the metaverse have gotten people like him long ago, in parallel with what we see in the west.
Jacobs: Im racking my brains for a definitive answer for myself. I think the mostreally Ive tried to throw everything at the metaverse, by creating it. In Rocktropia, which was my empty canvas to design a virtual reality that is more connected to science fiction. I was only drawing on pop culture in general, because I feel that everything is there. Whether its King Kong or The Thing or pirate adventures, I''m populating the metaverse with inspirations from all over the globe.
Before he passed, I did something with Motorhead, and lemmy built a castle that was really World War II-inspired. He ended up censoring himself, because he realized it was too controversial. For me, this game is fair when it comes to the metaverse and its exploration.
Question: What role do you see sci-fi playing in developing technologies that will eventually become reality?
Unger: Every technology starts with an idea. There are a lot of possibilities in life. Even if you are not a science fiction fan, there are always opportunities to grow into something bigger. Mayfields VC research, taking science fiction ideas and trying to figure out if theres a there therethis is an angel story at this point, but if you talk to people at JPL or NASA, they were inspired by Star Trek. One of my very early jobs, was working with a medical company that tried to develop
If you are a science fiction author, it is often difficult to write sci-fi in the near future. Before the Oculus Kickstarter finished, I wrote the first draft of it. I was also in a hurry to keep up. There''s a very tight link between science fiction and technology creation. It''s not always conscious, but they do benefit greatly.
GamesBeat: I can say a few things to make a connection. Will Wright used to argue that a dog-eared copy of Snow Crash was the business model for every startup in Silicon Valley. Later, Jensen Huang began saying that he was living in science fiction. He now believes that many things are much more possible now because AI is one of the dreams that actually came true.
We are contemplating how this in the form of the Nvidia OmniVerse. The simulation world that originally intended to just test robots in a digital environment is now being used as a vast simulation environment for all kinds of things. That may include digital twins of factories, where you design the entire factory with the robots in it, and then you test that digital world and create it in the real world once the design is perfected. BMW has done that.
The Matrix Awakens demo for Unreal Engine 5 is a pretty cool blend of science fiction and creating artificial realities. It''s basically the whole city around the Matrix films, and it''s meant to look real enough that it makes you think the metaverse might be just around the corner. These are just a few things I think of.
Jacobs: This makes me think about how a lot of people are quite impressed by science fiction in the 60s. You have Star Trek and even earlier stuff, returning to Jules Verne or George Orwell. These important modern novels are also being written in a time when technology was not as rapid as it is today. Today, technology is now, and almost everything that anyone has ever written can happen. It is in the concept stage. Things like gene editing.
Were a few steps back from things like warp drives or time travel. That''s still science fiction. But everything else appears to be doing it. It''s going. Somebody is making progress on it. Today, to say that you can imagine something and make it happenit''s much more of a tangible concept than it had ever been.
Keith: If you think about it, science fiction books have existed for a long time. That was even before, I would say, the technology was now living in. Maybe 80, 100 years ago, science fiction writers would write about things they believed would happen a long time in the future. These have happened now. We are living, literally, in the sci-fi age of 80 years past.
As we enter the information age, as technology advances so quickly and allows us to do so many things, the concept of sci-fi is almost just becoming fiction. Today, science is toujours-present in everything we do, but it''s really just fiction, with a heavier emphasis on the science component.
GamesBeat: I just did a search on the tricorder project. Qualcomm collaborated with the X Prize folks in 2012 to give $10 million to anyone who might develop a tricorder. They somehow reduced the amount, but a company called Final Frontier Medical Devices received $3 million in 2017. There was more activity in the area in 2018, based on what I see there.
Question: From the last three replies,Kimberley explained how difficult it is to predict things in the near future. Weve all seen things like how Blade Runner still had pay phones. They didnt think of cell technology becoming available. Do you think that will drastically affect science fiction these days, and more of that kind of thing? Is it going to affect the genre''s overall content?
Unger: The concept is alreadys, although different aspects of it are explored at different points in time. Right now, we see a lean into social science fiction, where the what-if of the story is about how societies function. However, the rest of the science fiction trend is still on the top of the charts right now. While it''s not currently what you see in reports, it''s still one of the highest-performing genres of science fiction.
There will always be a place for near-term predictions. I think the risk of being a miss will likely increase, as people get surprised by how difficult it is to predict the iPhone.
GamesBeat: I thought it was interesting to see so many different AI-related science fiction films, including Spielberg and Kubricks A.I., or Her. It''s like, this is going to be the next version of your operating system. It''s like, this was the way that you talk to Alexa. It felt like something in our own world, talking about the consequences of becoming too attached to your operating system. That was a fantastic film.
Im interested in your ideas on how real-world physical connections with the metaverse will impact the social aspect of metaverse connections, such as taking people out of the house?
Keith: While working on blockchain, a lot of people wonder, what is the value of an NFT? How has this impact on the physical world and the digital space that flows over, and the ability to interoperate with the physical world? Im very bullish about NFTs and their ability to interact with the physical world in the near future.
Think about the motivations of the users when they buy an NFT, particularly in a gaming space. One of the greatest motivations is peacocking, demonstrating off the digital assets you have. Now, with NFTs, the issue is it is often linked to these digital wallets. It can''t be done as well as an LCD screen you might see at a conference.
These gigantic NFT screens that you can potentially demonstrate your NFT. In the future it may be much more interoperable or seamless. If you buy an NFT, then you can go to the mall. Maybe an LCD screen picks up that and you see your NFT walking when youre walking. These kinds of transmedia or transphysical-digital concepts are already being discussed by some companies. It''s important to see that technology progress in the near future, the next two or three years.
If you look at anywhere there might be a LCD screen, then you might tap into it. If you work with an NFT project like Bored Ape Yacht Club, then you might say, well show them up on screen. That reinforces their own personal motivation, which is the peacocking.
GamesBeat: Genvid''s demo included one of the Times Square screens. They had people controlling a game they put up on a large billboard with their mobile phones. Different people could control the large screen and what was happening on it. That was one of the most interesting concepts in terms of how cooperative things might look in the future, in the real world.
As the metaverse, it seems like there is the core concept of Meta and virtual reality as the metaverse, compared to the Niantics concept of a virtual-reality metaverse that is set in the real world. Something that involves virtual cute characters and other things into what we see in everyday life. Both companies are investing a lot of money into those ideas.
Unger: It''s probably that the metaverse was built on the ground, not just VR, but AR, because it''s a layer that connects from your smart watch to your laptop to your VR headset to your AR glasses, which is probably more unifying, and flexible, ensuring that you have access to virtually any mode you can envision. Particularly when you start looking for social experiences and how people connect across time and space.
Keith uses a book called Reamde, and in that he has an area where people in a video game think they''re protecting a castle. They check people coming in, but they''re in an airport doing TSA-like work, looking for weapons and explosives. This may be creative opportunities.
Unger: Daniel Suarez has a series of books that delve into gamifying real-world tasks in the same way as in MMOs. I might earn five dollars for picking up a package at Point A and sending it to an NPC, who is really a live human, at Point B. Converting this digital task and gig-based economy into a metaverse layer that overlays the real world. Thats another definition of it. It''s simply a key point you might have in your daily
Jacobs: Ive been reading about the Star Wars experiences they are introducing at Disneyland, where you venture into this world. Now, the notion that you might go to any park and enter areas that are designed for interaction with people on a physical level in a persistent reality is very important. I think people would like to look back at places like Disneyland, I think, or Universal Studios as we know them now and consider it as the 18th century.
Keith: Theme parks are now designed around things like Instagram. You go to different locations in theme parks and there are design elements created because they know people want to interact with the digital space, like taking pictures for Instagram. Theyll build portions for the park around that, allowing users to take pictures and send them up into the digital space. The relationship between the two is becoming much more blurred.
Jacobs: These physical environments are costly to construct. A theme park or an event space is excellent, because you can invest in arranging the correct sets for the physical experience.
What are some of the deep messages and social critiques we see in science fiction that seem to be true, whether they are coming true, or will come true? A lot of what George Orwell talked about in 1984, ideas about propaganda and Newspeak, the proliferation of fake news that weve seen here in the last few years. It certainly feels like that was prescient. Do you have any suggestions on this?
Unger: One of the ongoing onesthis goes back into science fiction for decades now. Its the idea that people shouldn''t be isolated that some technologies or some experiences can be very isolating, but that we do things better as a whole. But I was re-reading Asimovs I, Robot recently, a long-time favorite of mine. In that society and cultureduring the epidemic it struck me that there were parallels in that people were being physically pulled further and further apart.
In the past, people were using telephones and video cameras to communicate, but everything they do was donethis was written back in the 40s and 50s, when people were using these phones and video cameras to communicate. This is how people begin to feel connected, and now they have to learn to talk again. I must wear pants again!
These kinds of messages about people and technology as an isolating force appear to be recurring in science fiction over these decades-long cycles. It appears to be more than one book at one time. It seems to continue to appear again, and I see it in what we''re currently doing with social media, and most recently with the pandemic, and with virtual reality. How do we as humans manage these scenarios and opportunities?
Jacobs: It''s interesting how much science fiction touches the narrative, and there''s an apocalypse in which people are denied the necessities of whatever universe the writer has created. It all came to the conclusion that everything was sort of overkill. But in reality, the situation has now become very tangible as a game changer.
In that regard, science fiction was very prescient and extremely helpful in allowing people to think about how to deal with this. Whether Elon Musk is attempting to get us to Mars as quickly as possible, or MMO builders, metaverse builders may be building the arks in the event that we need them. These universes and these worlds are being developed over decades to be more immersive than ever. These doom scenarios, which are crucial to bringing us into the future.
Keith: For me, science fiction is about the way people interact with each other. Or maybe aliens or robots. One message that is unique and relates to people''s desire to become involved in a community.
In the late 90s, one of my favorite anime series was Cowboy Bebop. It''s still one of my favorites. There''s an episode in which a comatose hacker, who basically creates a religion to encourage people to connect with him via the internet, because he can''t interact in the physical world. I think these things will come to an end if you don''t have an physical connection with people.
Getting rid of the digital space or being part of a community has a lot of limitations, according to us. Things like being taken advantage of. People send their bank information to people they have never met before. This is how we deal with the situation in the past, and it is because people want to be involved in these organizations. They are buying NFTs and getting the rug removed from them.
GamesBeat: I like this idea of walking a mile in someone elses shoes. I introduced it in our opening speech for the event. Weve seen that in Ready Player Two, where you could upload something to a YouTube-like platform, and your VR experience was there for somebody else to relive as you saw it. They were literally walking a mile in your shoes. That''s an interesting point about an application that we would all like to see this day.
The other theme that is always interesting is how human are AIs? How should we treat them as human? This tomorrow morning, Richard Bartle and Richard Garriott are talking at large about this. However, the thing that came to mind was the film Free Guy. I just bring them up to see if anyone else has any insight into the subject.
Keith: With walking a mile in someone elses shoes, becoming addicted to thatin Cyberpunk 2077, people are addicted to other peoples memories. I would say that Instagram and social media are similar to that already. Many people have a living experience, but you may be present with this other person here living a lavish lifestyle. It already exists today in a much more watered-down version. It''s what we see today on steroids.
Unger: Some games have been chasing for a while. There are a lot of these mile-in-someones-shoes simulators popping up. Traveling While Black was one we had in VR. Goliath, a series of experiences developed hand in hand with someone who has mental illness, was created to assist them in getting things done. Or if you look at something like That Dragon or Cancer, these games have tried to tackle this. What you should do do is to give it to a player
Reminiscence just made a great impression. It''s possible to remember your own memories from outside out, and remember someone else''s memories, so that you''re comfortable in life, and that''s how it all works. I''ve just realized that science fiction can help you find those kinds of events.
Jacobs: Is there a way to get the glasses right now on Snapchat? Im not sure who''s the most advanced there. But the moment that takes off, it will take us to an additional level. We''ll see a lot of that.
Snapchat has been seen in GamesBeat. Meta will come up with something a bit soon.
Yep. The Stories glasses with Ray-Ban are a big deal. I see that the audience will come to the conclusion about education. Were seeing a lot more progress being made into the way the metaverse can work with education. It''s difficult to get school districts to develop something that looks fantastic on paper, but perhaps hasn''t been tested.
There are companies like Roblox that are combining these educational experiences, taking the best ideas for educational gaming, and bleeding into kinesthetic learning that can really boost someone''s capacity to consume and internalize a topic. As the metaverse technology developers in a multimodal manner, were going to see these opportunities emerging more and more.
The current thing Im seeing, youre in a museum, and there are some little signs where you listen to some music. The next logical step is how you transform it into a virtual world like Roblox. It can also go so far beyond that. Were just beginning to get into that, just starting to figure out how to give people who do those things the benefit of the educational experience they need.
GamesBeat: It''s a long journey without making any changes to Elon Musk. There''s a lot of AI in those Tesla cars, and we have Neuralink as well. This is for now, however, that Twitter is going to be all connected in some way, as I am certain.
Unger: I still grateful my digital devices. I am not certain I will take the time to complete this task. I almost always say, thank you, partly because I am not going to get out of the habit. When someone on television or in a movie finishes a conversation on the phone, they hang up without saying goodbye or without a closing statement. Eep!
I feel like if we didn''t get a lot of patience to deal with our AIs, we would lose it with each other. Eventually, I''ll make my AI assistant requests without saying thank-you or just letting go. Without those social niceties, I''ll add a little more friction that affects my relationships, just out of habit.
GamesBeat: There was always a kind of ambiguous argument that video games would educate us to be criminals. However, you do not want to create negative habits that you might imply in the real world. You do not want to pick up bad habits in virtual environments that youd carry into the physical one.
Unger: Voice to text. When I talk to people, I do sometimes dictate my punctuation out loud. I do so much dictating when I write that Ill leave a phone message and say the exclamation mark at the end of it. Respecting good habits!
When you get in and start shooting at the Quest, you can make an appointment. There are some helpful information you may have about them. There''s also a lot of opportunities here. When you think about MMOs and what you were doing on a PC screen, you may connect with NPCs and go on missions and so on. Once you have that incredible experience, and you can begin to use your hands and get inside a motor or start learning.
Think about all the people who have played healers in fantasy MMOs. I mean, why notsuddenly we can actually introduce a healer who is a medic who actually has to perform surgery and first aid. That''s real learning. If you do that inside a game, youre reasserting the meaning of virtual reality.
Keith: There''s an interesting historical perspective. This isn''t necessarily about metaverse, but rather about science fiction in general. If you look at Isaac Asimovs Foundation stories, this entire series starts off with putting an encyclopedia that encapsulates all human knowledge for the future so it won''t be lost. Weve done this. Wikipedia is a thing that you have at your fingertips. It''s interesting to see what kinds of similar education predictions we could make right now in the way Asimov did
Jacobs: At the beginning of the internet, we were talking about scanning every book. It was difficult to imagine how long it would take, and yet all of this information is now. We were today at a point where we might be wondering what''s not up there. Is there anything that hasn''t been scanned and translated, or is there a new 78 RPM record for the 1930s? It''s all up there.
A time in science fiction when everything we had was books. Now we have worlds, and those worlds are effectively created, or at least inspired, by science fiction writers. Perhaps our science fiction of the future is immersive worlds. The metaverse is where we were going to create that fiction.
Keith: With that continuityall these online worlds have the potential to have continuity between each other right now. Whether thats bottoms up, where a bunch of game developers or virtual spaces federate and allow for information sharing among one another, or top down, where a gigantic corporation like a Meta creates this all-encompassing ecosystem.
Jacobs: That''s the major challenge of our time right now, by making this happen as much as possible. Creating those bridges between our two nations.
Unger: The core driver, as Sean mentioned, isn''t really science fiction. It''s fiction with science. It''s fundamentally social. No matter how easy it is for us to isolate ourselves because of technology, it''s all still in the service of bringing us together, which is this weird dichotomy that is going on right now. If we can figure it out, it will let us go further and faster than it is today.
I''ll conclude with a recommendation for the Ramez Naams Nexus series. I liked how much research we see today has moreened into 20 years later. Somebody invents a brain enhancement medication, but the United States treats it like an illegal drug, a terrorist activity. Moreover, the creators of the drug go underground and become individual intelligences, whereas rebels are striving to gain control.
I feel that this is the world we have right now, in which different parties are going to pursue different technologies for their own agendas. Somehow you need a way to keep everything open. That''s fantastic.
Unger: An interesting take on futurecastingId look at Charles Strosss'' Saturns Children, a sort of post-humanist narrative. What happens to all the robots and the AIs after humanity is gone? It looks at a vast metaverse-esque civilization that am talking about saying thank-you right now.