#681: Decentraland: Updates on the Virtual Real Estate Experiment

Decentraland is a grand experiment of bringing together decentralized blockchain technologies and virtual worlds. Decentraland ICO raised over 26 million dollars, but it wasn’t without controversy where 5-9 whales came in to buy up all of the tokens within 35 seconds of the launch.

The big open question now is whether or not the current owners of these virtual plots of land can be able to create an integrated, WebVR-enabled, experience of a virtual city that can justify the speculative prices of more than $200,000 for some parcels of virtual land.

Decentraland is a grand experiment for many different blockchain technologies and governance models, but it’s also going to be adding an immersive & embodied layer into many other blockchain technologies that are otherwise just a virtual abstraction of cryptographic mathematical formalisms representing value exchanges. Whatever happens, there will be many lessons to learn from these early experiments of blending blockchain technologies with immersive VR worlds.

Here’s an update on Decentraland in this interview with Trevor Waldorf.


This is a listener-supported podcast through the Voices of VR Patreon.

Music: Fatality

Rough Transcript

[00:00:05.452] Kent Bye: The Voices of VR Podcast. Hello, my name is Kent Bye and welcome to the Voices of VR Podcast. So Decentraland is a project that launched last year. They had an initial coin offering where they were able to sell like $26 million worth in their ICO. And the idea of Decentraland is that you have this virtual world and you have about 90,000 different plots and then people are buying these plots of virtual land that they can then sell on secondary markets. And so it's like real estate and you have a limited amount of what you can do on these virtual reality plots of land and that, you know, it's giving agency to the owners to be able to actually take a stake in owning the land and being able to resell it. Decentraland is coming from more of the blockchain community, which means that a lot of the people that were involved within Decentraland have been more from the side of people who get really excited about this concept of owning and buying virtual real estate. I think rather than from the VR development community where there was a lots of people that wanted to actually go in and build lots of virtual worlds. And so that's at least my impression because what essentially happened with their ICO was that they had like anywhere from five to nine whales come in and basically buy up all of the land. Now, some of those whales were consortiums of people that were getting split up to go off and then either build stuff on land or to resell it. But my sense is that there's been a lot of people who have been looking at this as some sort of investment. Just as an example, there was a article on Bloomberg on June 12th, 2018, that was called, Making a Killing in Virtual Real Estate. Digital 1100 square foot plots in Genesis City are selling for as much as $200,000. So you have these plots of land that are, you know, some of them selling up for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And yet I haven't even seen a demo of it yet. And so we have different VR experiences that are out there like VR chat and rec room where people are actually going in and doing lots of different things within these virtual reality environments. And yet we have this, you know, entire virtual city that is built on this idea and concept of a decentralized metaverse. but yet has yet to, you know, produce or release a kind of an official demo of what it actually looks like. And so there's a lot of speculation that's going on, I guess I'd say. So I had a chance to talk to a couple of the co-founders, Ara and Astaban, back on July 23rd, 2017. That was just before their ICO happened on August 17th, 2017. and their ICO had a lot of people that were upset because there was about 3,500 people that were from the cryptocurrency community that was really excited about getting in at the ground level to buy their plots of land. You could buy mana that would allow you to buy the land. So there's quite a lot of people that were upset that, you know, you had kind of like these five to nine whales kind of swoop in and buy up all of the different land. So my big question is, is there going to be enough of a groundswell of development and people that are kind of figuring out a lot of new things when it comes to the open protocols, when it comes to WebVR and virtual reality. That within itself is something that is still evolving and developing. And so you have Decentraland, which raised $26 million to be able to invest in different types of open protocols and open standards and try to cultivate enough of an interest to be able to actually justify some of these kind of outrageous prices that some of these parcels of virtual real estate are being sold for. So I had a chance to talk to Trevor Waldorf. He's the world product manager at Decentraland about all the different things that have been happening in the realm of Decentraland over the last year. So that's what we'll be covering on today's episode of the Voices of VR podcast. So this interview with Trevor happened on Thursday, May 31st, 2018 at the Symposium IX conference in Montreal, Canada. So with that, let's go ahead and dive right in.

[00:03:50.050] Trevor Waldorf: So my name is Trevor Waldorf. I'm the world product manager at Decentraland. And Decentraland is a virtual world built on Ethereum's blockchain. And to break that down a little bit more, what we are is a single narrative VR enabled world on the web that's built on open standards and entirely deployed with open source code. and ownership and perhaps other things in the future but primarily ownership is tracked on Ethereum's blockchain. So we use this really secure method of deciding who owns what and what that means is that ultimately we can assign parcels of land to individual users and they can truly own them in like a, I guess we'll throw out in a sovereign way. And that collection of land is all laid out in a 300 by 300 grid that makes up the world. And so there's an element of scarcity there as well. And that creates the world of Decentraland.

[00:04:43.740] Kent Bye: Yeah, and the last time I had a chance to talk to the founders of Decentraland, it was before the ICO had happened. ICO happened, and now, like, maybe you could give me an update as to, like, what happened with the ICO and then what has transpired since then.

[00:04:56.582] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, okay. So I joined like right after the ICO. That's kind of my context. My understanding is that the ICO, there was some controversy around it because China banned ICOs like the day afterwards, which was a bunch is like, okay, well, you know, what do you do now? So I there was like some reshuffling there that happened and some I don't know if improv is the right word, but we like took the The morally high road in the sense of we decided to comply and be as secure as we could with personal information, etc. So ultimately what happened is all those issues were resolved. The ICO went well. I think they raised $26 million from the token sale back in August, September. And then since then, the team has been built out. We're now around 30 people. We have a world development team. We have research teams. We have like a dApps and marketplace team. We launched our marketplace... Well, let's do it chronologically. So we auctioned off our initial batch of land, which is Genesis City, and we sold, I think, like 73,000 parcels were distributed out of our organization and into participants' and users' wallets, their Ethereum wallets. So we sold like 75,000 of those were assigned and auctioned off and about half of those were part of community districts which were like staked at a thousand mana per parcel in a district so anyone can contribute at like this relatively low price and then the rest were just done on a regular auction style and reached incredible price tags that have since gone up in the secondary market. So after we did the auction then we spent a couple months building this really robust marketplace on Ethereum and that quickly became like the largest marketplace on Ethereum when we launched it and now it's tapered off a little bit as every new NFT marketplace launch does but we see like people are still selling you know dozens of parcels of land every day between users which is really cool. We've also been building out our development tools so we launched an alpha of our SDK which includes command-line interface for like managing your dependencies and previewing what you're going to build in the world and then there's an API component of as well And we have this really extravagant, well I don't know if extravagant is the right word, but like this fancy system for running dynamic logic in a pretty secure way with TypeScript and using WebRTC for peer-to-peer interactions. So we're starting to experiment with decentralized state in a really massive multiplayer environment, which is ongoing and exciting work. But in the meantime, we've got full support for uploading GLTF and OBJ files and animations and running events and multiplayers in prototype phases right now. But you can upload your parcel contents and take it all the way from Blender to the SDK and then push it to IPFS, which stands for Interplanetary File System, which is a really cool, distributed, secure file sharing system. And we use that as the primary host of files in Decentralink, that's where most of the information lives. And so, yeah, the initial configuration works as it stands right now. And then we're planning to release an alpha or some kind of beta client by the end of 2018. So we're working towards that at the moment.

[00:08:04.940] Kent Bye: So the people who may have bought one of these parcels of land, are they able to create something and actually experience it in the context of their neighborhood? I think when this first came up, the Decentraland founders, I could sense that they're definitely coming from more of the blockchain community, more so than from the VR community. And so up to this point, I haven't seen any actual demo of any of the central lanes, so I don't know what the actual experience of that is, but I'm just curious, like, if the people who are building these parcels, if they have an ability to be able to, like, walk down the street that is their street, to be able to get a sense of a context of the other things that are around them.

[00:08:41.667] Trevor Waldorf: So we've turned that off. The functionality is built and we can walk down the streets in our test net version. Content safety is a really big deal, obviously, in VR. And so that's the primary concern for not launching that immediately. And we also think that you only really launch a game once, and that's something that we want to really knock out of the park and make a huge home run, as we're the first blockchain VR interactive project that's shipping something of this size. We're going to do this right. So the functionality of seeing parcels that are adjacent and walking down the street and seeing other people's parcels works fine. And we jump on our development test net and you can walk around and see what we're working on for Plaza prototypes and stuff like that. But it's whitelisted and so it's team only at this point.

[00:09:27.929] Kent Bye: Well, have there been neighborhoods of content themes that have emerged already?

[00:09:32.210] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah. So we have a system. The district system is basically like this neighborhood system. And what we've seen is that how the districts began was people submitted three to 10 paragraph proposals on a GitHub repo using issues. And then those were contributed to. And so some districts grew extremely massive. The biggest one is a cyberpunk district called Aetherian. It's basically a quarter of Genesis City is this cyberpunk district. And so what we're doing there is we're working with the community leaders for each of the districts and they're beginning to prototype their tools, but at the same time they also have a responsibility to their contributors, right, as the people that funded the community and paid for the land. So they're building full development plans and hiring teams and raising funding and building legal entities and frameworks around their neighborhood, their district, so that they can exist as a sovereign entity and build within it. So we're supporting them. We've just seen the first district pass its approval process with contributors using cryptographically signed votes. And that was the conference center, and they have a full development plan leadership, et cetera. And they've got prototypes. I'm not sure if they're public, but I've seen them, and they're like, well on their way. And that community actually might be, like, somewhat coming over from Second Life. So we're seeing, like, a continuation of other virtual worlds in Decentraland, which is interesting.

[00:10:51.767] Kent Bye: And a metaphor that comes to mind when I think about this is the TARDIS from Doctor Who, because you have, like, the telephone booth, but when you go inside, the space is kind of infinite. So in a certain extent, you're selling a parcel of land that is an arbitrarily fixed size in this virtual world, but yet, are you actually constraining the size of the virtual worlds? And how do you do that, since you have this kind of Tardis dimension where you can have the outside architecture of a space, but when you go on, you're kind of unlimited in terms of what you can do once you're inside of the world.

[00:11:24.032] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, so I think this is where our philosophy differs from your philosophy in that we think it's actually really important to have those artificial constraints and that this idea of scale and a consistent scale and single narrative is critical to building like a consistent and a really livable world. So we do limit the scale. There's no Tardis, there's no like bag of holding effect when you walk into a room. And how we do that is by the standards proposed in the client. So basically how this works, if you imagine this as like a pancake stack of reality, on the bottom you have Let's start with the reality model first, and this is like, not accurate in any way, but it's a fun stack to build. So the bottom is like, objective truth, whether or not you believe in that, but there's this, like, things exist, and then this middle layer is like our interaction with those, our observation, if you will, and then the final layer is like making meaning of those interactions. And then the central and the bottom layer is Ethereum, so it's like this objective truth about what is and what isn't, and, you know, where things come from. And then this middle layer is the player input and like the, the scenes and the GLTF files and the trees, etc. And then this top layer is like this dynamic logic and player-to-player social experience. So within that, we say the top layer is like a filter and we've built our own client and we expect other people will build different clients in the future to interpret the other layers in a different way. But we're saying if you want to view it through this top layer, you have to interpret it in a specific way. And that means that for anyone who's building a scene, you have to meet these specifications, which is like Right now we do it in a JSON file, so it's not exactly elaborate, but we force you into a set of artificial constraints. And if you don't comply, then your content isn't rendered in the world. And we have a way to automatically check. So as a developer, I know immediately. I've gone over the triangle limit, or I can tell if my TypeScript isn't compiling the right way, and the codes aren't accepted by the client, et cetera. And then all the dynamic stuff is sandboxed for security. And so you're not directly manipulating the client's DOM. And so you can't teleport people arbitrarily. And you can't do the kinds of infinite room TARDIS effects that you're talking about. Does that make sense?

[00:13:27.646] Kent Bye: Yeah. And I guess one question, though, is that if you're in one land, can you see other people's lands?

[00:13:33.497] Trevor Waldorf: Yes, you can. So this is an interesting question. Okay. So this thing about parcels in a few different ways. First is like a static scene parcel that just will always be like the way it is. It's a freeze frame, basically like a picture. And then the second is like a dynamic parcel that has like when people are on it, there are event chains that are triggered by their actions. which is like a very web-devi approach to building 3D scenes. And then the third kind is like this idea of a parcel that can have many different kinds of states, and the state will happen, like the tree will fall in the forest and make a sound, whether or not people observe it, right? So this dynamic state that's persistent. The answer is yes, you can see all of those. How much of the dynamic state do we really want to broadcast if you are like two parcels away, or if you're three parcels away? You know, like if someone's having a massive laser battle, you do really want to see that if you're next door. So there's a question there, one around content control and how do I decide what I want to see in the world, but also around how much do we broadcast and how much state do we share between parcels. So we think that currently it's about the adjacent parcel, you should absolutely load at least the adjacent parcels and you should be able to see all the P2P interactions that are happening on them. Maybe as performance increases, like we're experimenting with performance a lot right now, and we just moved to Babylon.js instead of 3.js, which is much more performant as I understand it. And yeah, so we expect to increase these limits over time, but right now we're starting conservative and saying you can just see what's like immediately around you and the next plot over. In the future, yeah, maybe you can see the skyline, maybe you can see every player in the world, depending on draw distance. And there will be further experiments there, but it's like a configuration question that's interesting.

[00:15:11.397] Kent Bye: Do you have, like, regulations for, like, building code regulations in terms of, like, how high you can build?

[00:15:16.536] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, so that's the height limit. Reddit has like three issues that they really want to hear about, and one of them is height limits. What are the other two? The other two is like, why do the roads look crazy? And the other one is like, when will mana moon, right? So those are the three. So the height limit. The height limit, yeah, which is the most important. So, there's a lot of really cool ideas, because you start thinking about height limits and how they affect what people build and what does that mean for like, if land near the middle of the zone of the city is more valuable than land at the edge, that necessarily means that if we make land in the middle like higher build limits, then all of a sudden you've like reinforced this social dynamic, this economic dynamic of like, you know, people that didn't invest as much money because they don't have as many resources can't build as much as the people that did, right? So that's like, okay, incredibly problematic. And it's not really the future that we want to build. So what we've done is said, okay, your parcel limit is about 10 meters. It's like, it's log two, like n plus one, where n is your parcel count that's in a scene. And then you can combine parcels and that will raise according to that formula, right? And so it's,

[00:16:23.853] Kent Bye: So if you buy a lot of adjacent parcels, you can build higher?

[00:16:26.156] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, if you buy like four adjacent parcels, you can build like, you know, 38 meters. And if you buy 25, you can, you know, X meters. So it increases the more contiguous parcels you have. And we call those estates, when you have like more than one parcel that's contiguous, then that's an estate. And your triangle limits also increase, and your mesh limits, and your texture resolution also increases. So we want people to be able to build big experiences, but at the same time, we don't want you to be walking through the world and all of a sudden a massive estate loads and your machine just chugs because you've loaded something unreasonably large. And that's the log 2 in there.

[00:17:03.005] Kent Bye: So it sounds like that the Decentraland team is, to some extent, the benevolent dictator of this community of setting all these rules. But at some point, and you mentioned yesterday, success for Decentraland would be that all of the developers sort of pack up, move on, and work on the next project. Because the essence of a decentralized entity is that it's self-sustaining in some way. So does that mean that there's some sort of governmental process that is going to emerge and form such that the people could potentially start to vote on some of these building regulations and whatnot?

[00:17:31.671] Trevor Waldorf: Yes, absolutely. So we think that the future of MonoEye is like a few different things, but it will have a role as a governance token. And so this idea of how do you make this transition from a extremely centralized organization, which is what we are right now, even though we try not to make information wells with user data, etc. But we are centralized in that we make all the decisions. with input from the community. We think that mana as a voting application makes a lot of sense. So instead of one person, one vote, we say one token, one vote, and we abstract the people away and say that people are incentivized to make good decisions for the ecosystem if they have a large holding. And so tokens will necessarily vote in the correct answer. And if you have a huge amount of tokens, then you will be taxed for making poor decisions and not doing enough due diligence. What we've actually seen is that huge token holders are setting up programs and hiring people and doing an incredible amount of work to help grow the Decentraland ecosystem outside of our organization, which is really cool. So the transition there looks like we begin to incorporate community input on more issues through this mana voting application, which is done. We're just waiting to deploy at the right time for the right kind of decision. And then that becomes more standard, and then that becomes used for district voting, etc. And then ultimately, like, there's this futarky model that becomes implemented. You say futarky? Yeah. That's, so, the way I understand it, and maybe you can, like, jump on this more, but, let's say we vote on an issue, we create these parallel paths, these parallel universes, and the one that does better is ultimately, like, we say, okay, well, you've done better. It's clear through the metrics that we outlined in the beginning, this is like the vote that you made led to a better resolution, and so we will, or is leading towards a better resolution, so we're gonna say this is now like the main branch, you're master now, and we'll merge the worst path back in.

[00:19:17.388] Kent Bye: And that's... It's like A-B testing of these different rules into the different parallel worlds of people sort of getting a part of those rules and sort of fracturing into the 90,000 parcels, so some people would get the effect of that and other people wouldn't.

[00:19:30.545] Trevor Waldorf: So we haven't talked about it to that extent. It's far enough out that we haven't thought about the details. But it's an interesting idea that maybe we could test governance changes. So yeah, what you just said is one way it could work is that we could partition the world and say, all right, these people are going to have a bigger draw distance and more triangle count. And we'll just see if their user activity increases or decreases. I don't know if that's the exact implementation or if we'll ever, like maybe the Futarky model won't work out. Tezos is kind of like a controversial figure as far as blockchain scope, but they are experimenting with a Futarky model. And so I think we'll all learn a lot from their experiments.

[00:20:07.214] Kent Bye: I think, I mean, my immediate reaction to that is that you're, to some extent, quantifying the feedback loop and that there's no phenomenological or qualitative feedback. And so I think that, just as an example, like Facebook has optimized for the time that you have paid attention and spent time on site. Well, when you optimize for that without consideration for what it feels like to do that, then you basically create this gambling type of situation where you feel like you're walking into a casino where you're getting your attention hijacked and you're sort of falling down a whorl of distraction. And you may be happy one-third of the time, but two-thirds of the time you feel like you're being used, manipulated, and controlled. And so, without sort of a phenomenological input to the systems, then you're kind of creating something that is only going to be able to see the quantified world and be completely invisible to the direct experiences.

[00:20:55.030] Trevor Waldorf: Absolutely. Yeah. And that's actually, that's like a fundamental tension that any company that has access to large amounts of data will run into is this idea of like, okay. I mean, the example is like, okay, do we do user interviews or do we do like, you know, just like traffic analysis. Right. And, and those obviously like these two approaches, like phenomenological valuation and also quantitative evaluation, I have to live together and we have to like figure out there's no resolution to that tension, but you have to balance them.

[00:21:22.028] Kent Bye: Well, I think that the thing that I find kind of strange is that in some sense you're connecting money and resources to voting power, and that seems to be leading towards more of a plutocracy, which is being ruled by those who have the most money. Which, why not tie it to the land, like land ownership, like the number of land parcels you own? Because the risk is that you have somebody who kind of swoops in and gets either a majority share or near majority share. And at that point, they kind of have direct control to be able to make over whatever rules they want to serve their own self-interest.

[00:21:55.053] Trevor Waldorf: So that's a really good point. There's a couple scenarios there. So one thing is that you don't want a situation in which someone who is a large mana holder, you don't want them to have spent all their mana on land. And suddenly they have all the land, but none of the voting rights that control the policies of the land, right? Because all of a sudden you have everything to lose and nothing to gain with agency. So that's a bad scenario. Another bad scenario is that someone who has tons of mana and no land and they make all the voting decisions for the landholders, right? So this is something that we're talking about internally and I'm like not really the lead on this. So actually I'm not even close to the lead on this. That would be Esteban. That would be Esteban and Tony would have a lot of thoughts. What we want to create is, well, okay, so, imperatively, we find that people that own land actually own the most mana as well. Like, everyone that has large holdings of land tends to have the largest pools of mana. So the whales are just like whales in every category. And we think that will continue to be true in the future as well. So there's a reasonable alignment between those two things. Second, let's say that we have an actor, and I think this is why it's good to have someone that has a huge amount of mana, and say that we have someone that owns like 30% of the mana supply, which is impossible. Well, that actually, I don't know. It's pretty unlikely that anyone would ever acquire 30% of the money supply, even if they put an incredible amount of resources into it. But let's say they do.

[00:23:22.504] Kent Bye: Well, if there's economic incentive to get voting power, I don't see why someone wouldn't be at least motivated to do that.

[00:23:27.770] Trevor Waldorf: Right, so you'd be motivated, but mechanically it'd be very difficult to get everyone to give up their mana, given the nature of the project, right? And if someone sees someone's collecting mana, they're going to be like, well, I'm not going to sell, because I didn't get it in this to be, yeah. But that person's actually, we think that could be a good thing. The example I'll give is a government, it's great that they hold a huge amount of power and the ability to take on debt burden because they are the ones that can go out and build large infrastructure projects. So governments are incentivized to grow their economies because they have a huge amount of stake in that, right? The government only exists and succeeds based on the country's economy in many cases, if you're doing it right. So, in the case of someone who owns 30% of the mana, if they don't act in such a way that is valuable for the world, because mana is so tightly tied to the world experience, then all of a sudden their holdings are decreasing in value and they're losing a huge amount of money. So, the largest holders have the most to lose when they don't foster the health of the ecosystem. And I'm like, I don't know anything about economics. So, this is just my opinion, but that's my understanding of the incentive model there.

[00:24:33.208] Kent Bye: Well, I get really inspired by the philosophical potential of the blockchain and cryptocurrencies just from the perspective of now we all of a sudden have like an economic and currency where it's built into the system where in order to mine and get access to those resources, you actually have to participate to a certain extent of generating it. Now, I think the challenge is that you have this power law dynamic where in sort of our current centralized economic capitalistic system, those who have access to a lot of capital have an exponentially increasing amount of possibility to increase that amount of capital by investing it. And so, as soon as you start to cross that threshold of having a lot of money, you can get more and more and more money faster, which means that you have this kind of the rich get richer and the poor get poorer type of dynamic. And I think the risk of having these decentralized systems in the context of also mashed up within the context of these centralized economic system is that those people who have already got a lot of power and money can come in and sort of swoop and kind of get a lot of hold and power within these sort of economic systems that are there. And even seeing the launch of Decentraland and the Mana ICO, I saw a number of people send me links to people complaining that, you know, they were all geared up in the community, they're ready to buy their parcel of land, and then it sort of opens up, and then there was a lot of people that basically, you know, swooped in, these big groups, these whales that had accumulated a lot of that land already, and then a lot of the community was shut out from actually sort of building it from the ground up. So then you have this situation where the people already have a lot of that centralized power, and so it's this tension and dynamic between the idealism of these decentralized systems and the reality of these existing financial institutions and the way that capital works that can be taken over by these financial institutions.

[00:26:19.707] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, absolutely. OK, so this is really interesting. This is where we begin to get into my holes of knowledge around proof of stake systems and my understanding of where blockchain is going. But there's a tension between what's best for the network on your summary sheet and how are we sanctifying these negative socioeconomic dynamics? So the case that you mentioned is like in the auction, people that had a lot of money got the most land, right? But there was still land at the end of the auction that was like unclaimed. There was like 15,000 parcels that were just never bid on. So if you bought mana before the auction started, it was like $36 about the week before for a parcel of land, like if you do the exact conversion, then you absolutely had a chance to get a parcel of land. So no one was locked out of the auction. They just got outbid of the middle. But ultimately, if you can teleport around the world, there's an argument that if I buy land in the outskirts, it's just as high utility as any land in the middle. So the larger question here, I think that blockchain, a little bit of context, I came into the blockchain world from the VR side. I'm not a long-time Bitcoin holder or anything like that. I'm extremely fascinated and optimistic about blockchain. I think that blockchain is a mechanism for value redistribution. And we're starting to see the first experiments of the cycle pan out as far as that goes. And a lot of people are switching to proof of stake, which is basically codified, the rich get richer from mining fees, etc. But there's this alternate model of the second layer of value creation on top of these platforms. Mining fees ultimately will be negligible compared to the value created by if I am an artist and I make an avatar set that becomes the default avatar set for Decentraland and those avatars are tokenized, the value created by that will dwarf what might be created by if I had an equivalent amount of resources for a mining machine. So like we're building a second layer of value that I think is gonna be a lot more interesting I'm worried though I'm worried that that blockchain is like not gonna live up to its promise of Redistributing value around the world and like we've already seen like like everyone that holds like the most Bitcoin is like white male straight sis lives in North America, right? So we're like or lives in China And so it's like, okay, we're not off to a great start here as far as that works. So the task is to build systems that provide avenues to value creation for other people. And things like token curated registries are a huge avenue for that. I don't know, have you heard of TCRs? Okay, this is super cool. So the idea of a TCR is that we have a It's a token-curated registry, and what that means is that you have a list. In this case, let's use the example as, like, top colleges in the world, or top universities in the world. We want to curate this list using tokens. So we say, we mint, like, 100 tokens for the list, or X amount of tokens, and if you want to add an entry to the registry, you have to buy a token, and then you have to stake a token for the entry to that registry to submit a proposal. So you submit like X college to the university and you put your token down and then people vote on it. And if it goes in, then like, okay, cool. You've just added an entry to the list. And then you build the list out over time. If people think that this is a good list and it's valuable, they'll want to buy those tokens because they think that the information will increase, right, in value. And thus the token will increase in value. And the same can be like, just applies to anything. So if I have a list of avatars, and I think like, oh, this is like a really good list of avatars that should be in Decentraland, I'm going to buy like tokens from that list. And then that like, everyone else will buy tokens if it's actually a good set of avatars. And then the people that issued the tokens, in this case, like the creator of the avatar, has like made money off of selling those tokens. So that's like a really interesting application of blockchain to empowering creators and like curating things with market incentives.

[00:30:12.253] Kent Bye: So is this kind of like a curatorial process where you're curating these lists and as a curator you get rewarded for creating good lists or is it more of like a marketing mechanism?

[00:30:20.757] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, so it's both, right? You're rewarded by creating a good list because you hold the tokens and the tokens, in theory, will increase and in practice thus far there's a thing called ad chain which is doing this with like ad networks. But if you hold the tokens and it's a good list, then the tokens will increase in value because other people are like, oh, it's a good, you know, right, like supply and demand stuff. So they become more valuable in the exchanges. And then the marketing side of that is that you have, if you're on a list, and it's a good list and a valuable list, then you get a huge amount of exposure from that if it's a curation mechanism. So a huge example is Steam is primarily a curation service, right? Nobody can beat Steam on creation. Humble can do it as far as hosting and purchasing, et cetera, and GOG can do it as far as the same thing. But really, Steam has probably the best curation in the world right now with Greenlight and their publisher relationships. You could totally replace Steam with a token curated registry or like a series of TCRs that allows people to vote on like what well-made games are and across like any category you want and that would be like an ever-evolving financially incentivized or market curated list of games. Yeah, that's like that's really interesting to me and I think that's like the potential of blockchain Oh, that's one of the potentials and we're calling those like these new crypto economic primitives that will make the next layer of value Interesting.

[00:31:38.911] Kent Bye: Yeah, and when I think about the future of technology I see that there's this kind of fundamental tension between centralization and decentralization whereas the centralized entities are able to create a unified user experience like let's say the Apple iPhone for example that is has consistent user experience and that it's just easy and it just works. Whereas decentralized systems are trying to create like tools and platforms to allow everybody to come in and be able to create whatever value added that they want to put onto that basic sort of foundation of the tools that are available. But that, you know, there can be some inconsistencies when it comes to the overall coherence of the user experience, but there's a lot more freedom that comes with that. So there's this tension between the control and the quality of experience versus the freedom and sort of the frustrations of the kind of more the Android ecosystem, just as a metaphor. So that's one tension that I see playing out, and that, to this point, a lot of those centralized systems are continuing to be more and more powerful. So I think it's good that there are these decentralized counterpoints that are acting against this. Now, the other thing that I would say is that there's also this fundamental balance between the young expression of your competitive agency to be able to really refine specific products, given the competitive free market ecosystem, but there's also the yin dimension of what are all the things that everybody needs to be able to sustain what it means to be a participant in a democracy with a free press and libraries and parks and the earth and you know natural resources that we can enjoy and so there's dimensions that that sort of yin component is usually what the government is in charge of to sort of maintain like free education and certain dimensions of these aspects of society that are nurturing to people but yet they don't necessarily have an economic return on them immediately. They're more long-term investment into the healthy societies. So my concern I guess is like as we move into these decentralized systems without sort of a concern around like if we're like using technology to mediate trust between ourselves then How do we take into account the interests of the whole or who's looking at the nonprofits or who's paying attention to the public utilities or the parks of these types of virtual spaces?

[00:33:45.341] Trevor Waldorf: Right. So in one argument you can make is like, that's where the whales come in because they have this like massive time horizon. I don't know if that's the right, I'm not using that term the right way, but they have like a, their window of relevance on like trying to generate an ROI is much, much longer than any other. any other holder and so they are looking at like oh we should you know build parks to create increase the ratio of green space to like not green space the cities etc because that'll make if i hold montreal token then i'll want to use some of those holdings to fund the creation of parks so that montreal token will become more valuable in 600 years you know because i'm a brain in a jar somewhere or something like that On the other hand, that's a huge concern, right? We're building these large protocol layers that have a thin application stack. That's kind of like this idea of, it used to be that the protocol layer was very small and lightweight, like email or HTTPS, et cetera. And then they have the large application layer, like Facebook or Twitter. And now we have all the data is in the protocol layer. And the application layer is just like UX, basically, on top of it, and some React elements in the configuration. Yeah, like I absolutely agree with with everything you've said there's a tension between You need efficiency and long-term interest and people taking risks and saying like this is something we have to do that We're gonna lose money on but it's really important for the success of society and if you don't have a hundred percent accuracy with your smart contracts and like great coverage with all your incentive systems Then you're totally screwed So we need governments, and this is why I pay taxes on my Bitcoin. It's because the government has to eventually say, okay, we accept that this is the new currency and we're going to work with it instead of work against it. And we have to do the same thing for them and say, crypto wants to work with you. We want to really help you. like trim out the fat of these areas that don't work as far as bureaucracy, as far as like corruption, etc. So we can help you increase transparency and we can come to you with these tools of incentives, alignment, etc. And we'll also give back our tax revenue from all this new value that we're creating. And so I absolutely see cooperation between nonprofits and governments and blockchain. It can't just be like some crypto anarchy, like neoliberal future at all.

[00:35:55.948] Kent Bye: Well, if it's the if it's the VC whales and the people with a lot of money that we're relying upon to bring in the arts and the cultural institutions and I'm skeptical because you know, I don't necessarily associate those those whales as with people who have really got like a deep contemplative reflection on to what's happening in the larger ecosystem and so I see Decentraland as this vast sociological experiment at a pretty big scale that is trying to work out some of these things, and I think this is yet to be seen. When I go into Decentraland, I'll be looking for where are the art institutions, where are the meditation centers, or where are these places, the libraries, or the places that don't necessarily I don't want to walk around and just make it feel like I'm walking around Times Square and a bunch of like carnivals and like a bunch of just vanquishing of zombie enemies type of vibe because we have a lot of that already and I think that you know when you have an entire city you kind of want to have that diversity and without that diversity of voices and perspectives then it is going to be kind of like this very small slice of reality that could be sort of a reflection of power and privilege that we already have. And if that's the case, then we're going to be in trouble.

[00:37:07.349] Trevor Waldorf: we will be in trouble if that happens and I will not have done my job correctly. Yeah, absolutely. We actually have a yoga district and we have a couple arts districts and we're working with museum partners and hopefully we'll have the MoMA in there and hopefully we'll have all kinds of safe spaces for dangerous ideas, right? That's kind of one of the taglines that I think is really compelling. And I agree that if it's up to the VCs to create art projects, we're totally screwed. But I think that everyone has a role to play in this. And I don't want to overstate anyone's role, but I also don't want to exclude anyone. I think that there's, it's a configuration problem. So absolutely Decentraland has to be a place for artists and exploration and revealing of privilege and etc. That's the dream, that's the vision.

[00:37:52.392] Kent Bye: Well, this safe space for dangerous ideas is really intriguing because we kind of have the situation now where we have Facebook and Google and all these social online networks that are really policing free speech around the world in terms of what they see to be acceptable or not acceptable. And so, to a certain extent, when you're in somebody's private land, you have constrained free speech rights given that whoever's land that you're on in the these virtual spaces are kind of like in some sense the domain of these companies to be able to make those choices and I saw a documentary this year at Sundance called The Cleaners which was about the people who are the moderators who are not from the United States or in some Indonesia or Malaysian country who who may have English as a second language or may just be from a different cultural context under which that there may be the letter of the law of what those terms of services are, but if they make a mistake, like three or four mistakes a day, then they get fired. So there's this impulse to be able to do this over-policing of free speech, meaning that there's all these artists who are on the edge and the fringe of being provocative that get ostracized from these online realities because they've violated the terms of service. And Facebook's solution to this is to turn on more AI. So they're going to have AI bots going around monitoring our free speech. So if it wasn't bad enough that there was somebody in a foreign country that was doing it, now they're going to try to algorithmize this boundary between what you can say and what you can't say. And so it's leading us into this dangerous future. So what is Decentraland suggesting? Is this going to be sort of like the the free speech zone of 4chan, where there's no boundaries of what people can say or do? Or is there a terms of service in terms of saying that this is going to be acceptable or not acceptable behavior?

[00:39:34.596] Trevor Waldorf: So we would posit that configuration might look like you splice up or you categorize your content in whatever way you want. So you say a really simple and reductionist approach would be like, all right, there's mature content, and there's content for everybody else, right? That's E for everyone. And then we say, OK, all the mature content, that's fine. You just do that and make that. All the E for Everyone content, OK, that's fine. You do that. And then at the very last moment, right when it gets to the client, we make a check. And we say, does the client want mature content, or does the client not want mature content? And if the answer is no, we just don't render it. And if the answer is yes, then, well, we show the mature content, et cetera. And so obviously you need much more clever and appropriate ways of making these bands, right? And of categorizing and splicing content, which is like a whole discipline and field in itself. But let's get that right, and then at the end of the line, right upon the point of consumption, that's when we'll censor if we need to. And people can self-censor and self-select into the bands that they want to experience and sit in. What do you think about the confirmation bias part of that? just surrounding yourself in your own little world of information.

[00:40:43.818] Kent Bye: What do I think? Well, I think that for me, I think that what's happening with online policing of the free speech is that there's certain risks that you have to have if you want the freedoms. And I think that we're in this battle right now. There's a little bit of philosophical difference around that in terms of creating safe spaces versus the risks that are associated with that. So to a certain extent that we're biasing towards the creating those safe spaces. And I think at the same time, you have to have tools for people who are receiving abuse and being trolled. So allowing people to defend themselves, but also potentially creating spaces where people can sort of freely express themselves. And that my sort of take is that in order to fight bad speech is with more speech, not with sort of eliminating it. And so I would rather sort of engage in a dialectic and sort of debate them philosophically and point out their either differences in axiomatic assumptions or errors in reasoning rather than doing something that would be sort of trying to ostracize them in a certain way.

[00:41:38.101] Trevor Waldorf: Right, absolutely. So there's this idea of like maybe if you can't take it, you shouldn't dish it out. So maybe I can select, okay, I do want to see political stuff, but I can't select if I want to see like stuff for or against me. So if you want to participate in that arena and those kinds of discussions, you have to be willing to expose yourself to things that you disagree with and things that you think are hurtful. But if you have the capacity to hurt other people, one of the first things that we built that actually I think works right now, and we're super early on in our avatar configuration, but one of the first things we built was like, Being able to block users. There's this question of like, okay, what is that? What does it mean to block someone, right? Does it mean that they totally disappear? Because what if you want to see them again? Like, how would you ever find them? Or does maybe it just means they have a reduced capacity to interact with you? And so there's a question of granularity there as far as how do we want to remove people from our, do we just want to not see communication from them? And then there's like this idea of, all right, when do we draw the clipping plane? So if someone reaches towards you, when can they not touch you? Like, is it close to your body? Is it far away? Is there no clipping plane? Can you turn that off? So there's a lot of really, really fun questions around that. And we're doing experiments in that area right now. I agree with you on the, you have to. You have to engage in the arena with, you have to engage. You can't just shut things down. And you have to be able to take what you dish out and match arguments that attack your position and are destructive with being able to articulate your own position and being able to articulate what you believe in in your background and hopefully expose perspective through that process. And that's discourse, the commons. That's like the ideal, right? And maybe it's impossible. And maybe we've found at this point in our society with incredible communication tools that humans are just not good at creating an effective commons. But I don't think that's true. I think with just a little bit of configuration tweaking, some testing, maybe a lot of testing, we'll get there. And we can make effective areas for discourse and embody discourse from discussion. And everything that VR gives you is the next super exciting layer of that.

[00:43:32.048] Kent Bye: Well, you're kind of creating a virtual world and another reality. But yet, at the same time, you still, to a certain extent, have to abide by the federal and local laws of different regions. So, for example, I imagine that if it's in Europe, you can't have certain Nazi hate symbols, for example, or just general limits to different things that you can and should be doing. And so how do you navigate these? ethical issues of if someone decides that they want to create a Nazi honorary museum to really exalt everything that happened during the Holocaust, like how do you as an entity deal with that?

[00:44:11.421] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, so this is, I'm gonna like totally dodge and not answer your question by asking another question. There's an example of a computer, I'm sure you've heard of this, the computer in an art gallery in Switzerland that uses Bitcoin and gets like $100 a week and it buys like a random item from the dark web and it gets it shipped to the art gallery and they put it on display and they put a little thing. Anyway, so the computer bought some drugs, some ecstasy from Germany and they tested it and it was real ecstasy. They tested it in a lab, obviously. And then the police arrested the computer and they said, okay, well, this is illegal, right? And that brought this question and ultimately it was resolved by saying, well, it's like in the name of art and no one's culpable for this like possession and sale of drugs across country borders, et cetera. There's a question facing the entire, anyone that facilitates the storage of information in a decentralized way is faced with this question of like, are you responsible for the things that you facilitate? And so is IPFS, so that we host hate symbols on IPFS, or someone puts hate symbols on IPFS, and that is served through our client. Are we responsible for the things that we facilitate, even if we're not producing them, and if the storage is distributed, and so no one holds one part of that hate symbol, right? And it's an open question that hasn't been resolved by any kind of regulating authority, as far as I know. I don't know much about the legal environment. But yeah, is Twitter responsible for hate speech on their platform? in jurisdictions that hold entities responsible for producing hate speech. So it's an open question and we're dealing with that and struggling with it and like everyone is, right? That's one of the actually really interesting legal questions of our era, I think. And it'll only increase as we become more and more decentralized.

[00:45:53.875] Kent Bye: Well, yesterday you had said that you're really looking forward to a number of different technologies that are on the horizon for the blockchain community. What are some of the things that you're looking forward to and what those might mean for what those make possible?

[00:46:04.352] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah. Okay. So I'm like eternally in love with the zero X team and zero X is a decentralized exchange platform for creating decentralized exchanges. And the idea is that instead of going to a bank and saying like, all right, I want to buy 10 euros with my $10 and then the bank has a bunch of money like holdings and then they take my $10 and they take 10 years and give me back. Instead, I can just say, I'm listing on this order book that I would like to buy, €10, and I'm just automatically connected in a single trustless transaction with someone who is selling €10 for $10. So, there's no middleman, there's no intermediary. People that confirm the transaction on the blockchain are paid with mining fees, basically. And Xerox might have There might be a configuration that they have in which you pay a fee to 0x, but I'm pretty sure it's fee-less. But that's huge, right? Because not only does it mean you can move money directly and trustless in a really efficient way, but also I can move all my digital assets in a direct and trustless way with the advantages of a global centralized marketplace. And that's like a no-brainer. That's like totally revolutionary to the way that we conduct transactions around the world. And as someone that's like lived abroad a lot, there's an unlimited set of problems that comes with like switching bank accounts and like, how do I handle my German bank account? How do I handle like my Canadian US bank account? So I love 0x and everyone loves 0x. It's easy to love them. Who else is really interesting? So... The non-fungible token side of things, obviously CryptoKitties is like a pioneer in that space. I'm not totally sold on what they're working on right now, but I think that the people in that space that are doing awesome stuff is like RareBits and FanBits. So RareBits is a company that allows you to tokenize digital goods basically. They're like a decentralized exchange for digital goods and they present them in like what we would call a rich way. So if you're a digital art piece and you're on the blockchain or if you've tokenized a digital art piece on the blockchain then you can see that digital art piece in their marketplace and that's like a really important interface and this is a good example of how blockchain is cool because in this case like the protocol is huge and it's Ethereum but the the app player is just like their marketplace and all they're doing is like creating some tooling for exposing these images and putting them in like a nice grid and like a you know filterable browsable list etc. So it's a really thin application layer on top of a strong protocol layer. It's very exciting. And then fan bits is like you can tokenize whatever you want. You can tokenize TV show characters and then people buy the TV show characters, which is absurd right now. But a really interesting start to a really vibrant economy of the next, really what is ultimately, in my mind, no question, the next phase for creators. And if you make anything, it's going to be tokenized because there's no downside.

[00:48:50.270] Kent Bye: And, you know, I saw a documentary a couple years ago at Sundance called The New Radicals. It featured Cody, who did a lot of the 3D gun printing, but also worked with another blockchain guy who's doing dark wallet. And dark wallet was, the vision was to do completely anonymous transactions. And in the movie, they talked about, well, if you're going to do that type of level of security and anonymity and transactions, that means that you're basically supporting money laundering. So again, we sort of talked about like the full extent of these decentralized systems could be sort of used for supporting terrorism to a certain extent. And the things that you're talking about, there seems to be a sort of equality of that, of like, if you have these systems to be able to sort of exchange money, then it has the potential to be used for good and bad. And so I think technology can always be used for the polarity points of good or bad. But yet, at the same time, in order to really push the technology, there becomes a point where the government could shut it down just because there could be the fear of it being supporting things that start to get out of control.

[00:49:46.460] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, okay, so there's a couple of ideas in there. One is like, will the government shut Bitcoin down or the blockchain industry down? And the other one is this crazy polarity around good and bad uses of technology. I think it's increasingly unlikely. I mean, this is like speculation that's not coming from my mouth. It's probably less valuable than most people's mouths. But I think every day that goes by, it's increasingly less likely that blockchains will be shut down. I think what will happen is we'll see more regulations and like we started this with more applications of the Howey test by the CFTC, etc. The scams are being exposed like and we're starting with like just the real mud at the bottom of scams and we're getting those out of the way and I think we'll increasingly like level up our what we expect from these projects and as the public awareness will grow as well from these scams. So we'll start to improve our ability to like detect of whether or not this technology is being used in a bad way. Yeah, the government wants to shut blockchain down because it's too interesting and like it's growing ever larger.

[00:50:43.516] Kent Bye: So self-sovereign identity and privacy I think is something that I've been covering a lot and I know that the Decentralized Identity Foundation has created some W3 specifications in order to have these standards when it comes to both the ability for you to control and own your identity but also to have that mediated through different systems in different ways. Kind of the equivalent of you flashing your ID card and How do you interface in that to be able to verify different levels of identity that you want to control? So maybe you could talk a bit about what Decentraland is doing with self-sovereign identity.

[00:51:12.387] Trevor Waldorf: Yeah, so the DID spec is like my Bible at the moment as I write a bunch of docs on avatars and identity and profiles. So a couple of things that we're working on is like an initial avatar configuration for a workable alpha. And what that includes is obviously an identity configuration as well. So when you log on to Decentraland, what does that mean? So what we think, we would say, okay, everyone should bring a unique identifier. And what that means in this case is an Ethereum address. It could be something else, but for now we'll treat it as an Ethereum address because it's very high in utility and it's relatively secure compared to passwords and any other identification thing. The problem with that unique ID is that it's not human-readable, and you can't look at someone's Ethereum ID and say, oh, I know that person. Humans aren't good at that. So the challenge is to come up with how do you pair that with a human-readable thing. In this case, we're using a display name, which is totally ephemeral. You can have 1,000 people with the same display name. It doesn't matter. And then there's like a reduced version of the unique identifier that we incorporate possibly either into your avatar or below your display name. So this brings up a larger question about expression and representation in avatars, which is kind of like a nice spectrum, which I'll circle back to in a second. But let's say that like you create these unique identifiers from the one that's brought by the user. So I bring an Ethereum address and that's like produced to a unique image. Kind of like a QR code but with more colors and variables so humans can understand it and like that's painted on the back of your avatar. Like your avatar wears a cape and this is not in the configuration but this is a way to do it. Your avatar wears a cape that is a human readable version of that unique identifier. And then as far as like, well, another easy way to do it would be we just string together like six emojis, right, and put that underneath someone's name and that has like a pretty good chance of, we like assign that to the unique ID in a relatively unique way, because like there's a bunch of emojis and that's recognizable and easy. But it's very expressionistic, right, and we're all of a sudden like expressing for the user. You think about avatars in a continuum from representation to expression, VRChat is like high expression, so I can like express whatever I want by customizing my avatar in an unlimited amount of ways with like no content guidelines or restrictions on that. As far as representation like representative avatar systems will say here's all the information we have about your identity and here's the translation of it and like it's pretty immutable but the only thing that you can do to change it is like be a different person and act in a different way and that's just like Not really what our bodies are, but in many cases, looking at someone, you get a good idea that this person can walk, this person can jump, this person can probably speak, because they have a mouth and they can hear, etc. So we get a good idea of where they come from, based on a number of factors, and what their capabilities are, in the rough sense, just by looking at them. So that's extremely representative. Obviously, you want both, right? You want a system that's high in expression and high in representation. But they are a little bit on a continuum, so it's difficult. And then you add in the decentralized identifiers, and you get this other mess of like, OK, what if we had collections of information, and then you had different private keys on each device? And you say, I'm going to give different devices access to different parts of my identity to expose them to different people for certain amounts of time. and then you can un-permission those devices and that's how you construct your identity and that's how you interact with the world. That's like a large jumble of thoughts on DIDs and how we might institute them in Decentraland. I think the longer term vision is like avatars will be customized by the community but not on an individual level so in a way like we will all decide together either through TCRs like we talked to you about earlier or through like general aesthetic evolution of a world. We'll all sort of decide the guidelines for what avatars look like and how expressive they are, and then we'll create these human-readable unique IDs that manifest themselves in a visual way. So that's the spec. The configuration is in progress.

[00:55:15.718] Kent Bye: So I'm curious to hear from you what you see is the potential of what these decentralized societies that you're creating what you hope for the potential for what we could learn from that and then potentially bring back into our concrete world because I feel like there's a little bit of a speculative world building exercise here of trying to create a society that is fundamentally structured in different ways, using the unlimited ability to have these virtual spaces that you have unlimited geography, but you're constraining the geography to have like these constraints to spur these certain behaviors and economic sort of incentives. So with that, what do you vision, you know, five to ten years from now, the most exalted potential of what something like Decentraland could teach us as a society?

[00:55:59.195] Trevor Waldorf: So imagine you're able to step into somebody else's life, right? And not only in a way that you walk through it in like 360 degree video and you like, you know, see people that They see everyone's like, oh, like this person you're on a tour or etc. But in a way that you have become them because you have like basically signed into their identity and their body and their representation in a world and all their responsibilities, right? That's a missing piece of how we build empathy, right? It's like you can see what other people's environments are and you can see like the biases that we live out by these small pivots that we make as far as perspective in the real world, like by talking with people that you wouldn't normally talk with or visiting new places, but really having the responsibilities of someone and having the same pressures that are created by real identity swapping is a really, really interesting and kind of crazy idea. On top of that, we also think that Decentraland will be a viable alternative to reality, not in the sense that you can live in Decentraland as a human, but that you could live in Earth as a human and also live in Decentraland as a citizen of Decentraland. And that's an extension of your identity, not a fragmentation of it. And there you get access to all the affordances of virtual reality and all the expanded possibilities of being able to inhabit one body as two people. being able to experience things in a really immersive way and interact with information and data in multi-dimensional models that are really fun and exciting for analysis. Community is the ultimate aspect of this and when I was in high school I was like a competitive Guild Wars player with the original Guild Wars in middle school high school and that experience and like being I still actually I still hold the world world records in the original Guild Wars which is not like a claim to fame in any way it's more like a claim to shame but it taught me a lot about a community and like a very superficial way but even those lessons have carried with me throughout my life and I think that the more spaces that we create for humans to connect in novel ways and the better the Metaverse will be. And that's ultimately what Decentraland is.

[00:58:15.779] Kent Bye: Great. And finally, what do you think is kind of the ultimate potential of virtual reality and what it might be able to enable?

[00:58:24.025] Trevor Waldorf: The ultimate potential of reality is to become another reality. And not only, I don't want to rehash the same stuff, but the reality that we're in right now is great and I love it, but it shouldn't have a monopoly on human experience, right? There are infinite ways to experience and manifest existence. And that's the ultimate potential of virtual reality is opening up pathways into that. And right now it's like a headset, but whatever. The hardware doesn't matter. We'll just reach a point where the fidelity is negligible and we can interact with information in a humane way and step out of this dog cage of thinking about things like the virtual world on screens and into this infinite universe of imagination and ideas.

[00:59:13.711] Kent Bye: Is there anything else that's left unsaid that you'd like to say to the VR community?

[00:59:17.932] Trevor Waldorf: I would say present ideas with rigor. I think that's something that we lack here. We have a lot of great research and we have a lot of great ideation, but I think we're lacking in the combination of these two things and rigor and really exploring ideas to finality and presenting them in a way that is well thought out, walked through, across many dimensions. Keep making awesome projects, yeah.

[00:59:41.787] Kent Bye: Well, Trevor, I just wanted to thank you for joining me today. And I'll be curious to see how Decentraland develops. And I'll be curious to actually have some embodied experiences within these decentralized worlds that you're creating. And yeah, I just wanted to thank you for sitting down today and both telling where it's at and where it's all going. So thank you.

[00:59:59.092] Trevor Waldorf: Thank you, Ken.

[01:00:00.453] Kent Bye: So that was Trevor Waldorf. He's the World Product Manager at Decentraland. So I have a number of different takeaways about this interview is that, first of all, I have to admit that I'm a little skeptical as to whether or not Decentraland is going to be able to pull this off. I think that the fact that there was so much unanswered questions as to what happened around their ICO and to Trevor's credit, he wasn't there. He kind of came in after this ICO. So a lot of the controversy that happened. happened afterwards. And so, you know, why was the ICO kind of like sold to these, you know, very concentrated investors? There was a statement that came out from Ari that he was basically saying that to those wondering about early transactions that came from platforms that helped us to distribute mana around the globe. And I think that Some of those transactions could have been from ICO.info, Token Capital, 3ICO. It sounds like Bitcoin Suisse AG, which they confirmed within a Reddit thread that they had bought about $3 million worth of parcels from a lot of their investors. They say, we confirm that we, Bitcoin Suisse AG, had a $3 million pre-allocation for our fiat investors. Our block was made up of a large number of individual clients, not just a few big ones. And I saw some people within a Reddit thread on ETH Treader. I think they were able to actually get some plots of land as well. And I actually talked to somebody who said that he was a part of one of the whales that got some of the lands. And so it did sound like there were some smart contracts that were redistributing out and that these big companies that were buying up the land and then kind of redistributing them in different ways. And so this to me is a little concerning because what I would love to have seen is that if there were people who were actually really excited about either investing in building something to actually take a direct stake in that from the very beginning, then it would get this sense that there wasn't a lot of people that kind of swooped in there and did this pump and dump scheme where they're able to buy these virtual plots of land and then kind of dump them off. But because Decentraland is coming from the blockchain community, there tends to be people that are more interested in, for example, on the Reddit thread, talking about when mana is going to moon, meaning when is it going to hit the peak price to be able to sell the land that people invested in. It's kind of like this interesting dynamic where I see that there's people like Decentraland that are starting with the economic viability first, where they're creating this cryptocurrency market to be able to get this facilitation to be able to buy and sell land, to be able to allow people to do that, and looking at all the kind of the latest and greatest of the cryptocurrency technologies and starting with that, rather than starting with something that is an amazing VR experience and kind of expanding out from there. I see something like VRChat and RecRoom where they're doing that, but they've got investment from these investors, and it's kind of an open question as to who's going to, in the model of creating these viable ecosystems within virtual reality, what is the business model for a lot of these different companies, and how are they going to make themselves sustainable? Decentraland has already kind of resolved that. They basically raised like $26 million, and I think they're going to have a pretty long run room to be able to actually potentially do these early launches. The other thing that's a little bit concerning when talking to Trevor is that they want to have this kind of big launch rather than this iterative process of making it slowly better rather than this kind of idea of a big waterfall launch where everything's going to be perfect. I don't expect everything to be perfect. I expect it to be kind of rough around the edges and pretty much on par with a lot of other web VR experiences that I've seen out there. The fact that they're not taking a bit of a TARDIS approach and doing something that whatever land you get is the land you get. And they're doing this one-to-one translation between how high you can build and then very specific in terms of what types of experiences that you can have. And so I guess I'll have to wait and see. I think the big allure for something like this is for you to be able to go into this virtual city, this metaverse city, and to have the fact that people are willing to pay this amount of money to create this sense of vibe of actually having really compelling or interesting things that are within the virtual reality environments. What I expect to see is that there's going to be a lot of really kind of experimental stuff when it comes to like blockchain gaming and people from the blockchain community trying to add things that are giving people an embodied experience of some of these virtual goods. So because they're kind of embedded within the larger Ethereum community, they have a larger awareness of what's happening. And I think there'll be a little bit more experiments as to how to blend the immersive world and some of these blockchain technologies. If anything, it's gonna be this grand experiment as to how to self-govern this group of many different people trying to create a virtual city in this specific type of way, specifically where you are kind of co-sharing a virtual environment with these other entities. It's like trying to replicate this sense of walking down the New York Times Square and to see that there's enough foot traffic to make this virtual real estate worth the investment and the money. And just like in Times Square, you have these places to do tourism or to look at a museum or to pay money or to have, you know, an experience of theater or playing a game. And so I expect to see a lot more of that type of stuff eventually at Decentraland, if it's able to really kind of launch and get this cohesive city together. And there's a lot of open questions around scaling the blockchain and all these different things. And so I think there's the entire blockchain community is just kind of trying to figure out how to get enough speed of transactions to actually make a lot of the stuff work, especially if you're in a virtual world and you're wanting to do some virtual commerce, then you want to perhaps have a little bit more of a, an accelerated amount of being able to buy something and purchase something and have instant access, especially if you're trying to see a live event that's happening at a specific time. So since I did this interview, I've looked into the larger ecosystem of blockchain technologies, and there is a sense of trying to create this cooperation of a larger ecosystem. And it's a little difficult for me to see how vibrant this ecosystem of Decentraland actually is, and how many of these big whales, like this Credit Suisse AG, like how many of that $3 million that was invested are those owners actually kind of reinvesting and actually trying to build something of value within these plots of virtual land and how many of these plots that got sold are just kind of sitting there with people who are just speculating on the potential value but Have never really even had a virtual reality experience or have no idea about VR or how to actually build something That's a compelling immersive experience So like I said, it seems like the developers of Decentraland are coming from more of the blockchain and cryptocurrency ecosystem rather than from the virtual reality ecosystem. And so as a VR journalist, I'm a little bit more hesitant and more of a wait and see. But theoretically and philosophically, there's a lot of concepts and ideas in this experiment that will be interesting to see how all of that plays out. So, that's all that I have for today, and I just wanted to thank you for listening to the Voices of VR podcast, and if you enjoy the podcast, then please do spread the word, tell your friends, and consider becoming a member of the Patreon. This is a listener-supported podcast, and so I do rely upon your donations in order to continue to bring you this coverage. So, you can donate today at patreon.com slash voicesofvr. Thanks for listening.

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