Yeesh! What a week. And the fun doesn't stop because we’re in Davos for the annual egoflex that is the World Economic Forum. Yes, it’s a place to go and listen to people big up their latest this or that and then we never see them again. But enough about that, how about we get down and dirty with a mixed bag of humblebrag and shitparade?
That's So Last Decade
According to Techcrunch web3 can really help fashion become more sustainable. D’uh. Don’t get me wrong, I really love everything that TechCrunch writes. I always get really excited when they release interesting news stories about new and existing tech. But this story is older than the Old Testament isn’t it? Everybody knows web3 can help fashion; everybody's well aware of the importance of digital design inside fashion and in creating a sustainable world. The Interline serves it up every week (and does it better than me, probably). It's just that fashion can't seem to make up its mind. It’s not very agile and though it develops at an impressively fast scale, it’s wasteful. Yes of course it may be to the detriment of the climate, but it isn’t necessarily to the detriment of their business model, which is doing really well—thank you. So if the status quo is fine, why try and change it?
I think that this story is not about how web3 can help sustainable fashion. The story is more about why fashion isn’t using web3. And that's, for me, the biggest obstacle that we need to overcome in 2023. That status quo has to be changed. But not for this one.
The man who [insert your blah blah tech guy thing here], Bill Gates, is a great innovator but a visionary? Not really. For Bill Gates it was a question of when, not if. So now Bill Gates is telling us how web3 is not that much of a big deal, Bill, web3 is a huge deal. Web3 is an immense deal. Web3 is the destroyer of all those incredible walled gardens and corporations that you guys have worked so hard to build. Is that what this story is all about? Nope. This story is about the fact that he’s the emeritus "technology advisor" of Microsoft. And Microsoft, just in case you’ve been in a fondue induced coma this week, is doing BIG biz with ChatGPT which is a what for $60,000, Brenda? (I’m cupping my hand to my ear like a gameshow host). Our survey said: AI. If you were the emeritus "technology advisor" of one of the world’s biggest tech corps and you wanted to sweeten up your ChatGPT deal you would talk that baby up. And, you know, AI exists nicely in web3 given that it’s a mostly open technology. By my reckoning you might want to reevaluate web3, Bill. It’s a huge deal. TBH - I prefer the Bill who is spending his billions on eradicating malaria.
You Know Nothing
Remember those halcyon days of spending 90 minutes tweaking your race, class and nose shape to blend into Kvatch only to discover it had burned down? Well, here’s a similar shaggy dog story with no happy ending and no Martin Septim. Because when you build an NFT model without utility you get absolutely sledged.
Everybody is losing their collective minds, and quite rightly so. And because I now feel like Anne Robinson and Nicky Campbell in BBC Watchdog I will tell you again that if an NFT doesn't have any utility, it is worth absolutely nothing. I don't know how many times I have to say this. "This Game of Thrones NFT collection is just like the last season of the show," tweeted user Justin Taylor, a former marketing director at Nike and Activision. "No creative vision and terrible."
The problem was not the premise. God knows we’ve had to sit through 10 seasons of rape, murder, incest, pillage and dragons to get a worse ending than Encounter, but when GOT fans opened their $150 boxes of joy, it turns out they’d been Littlefingered.
If you want to be able to break a marketplace that is populated with Oblivion era characters complete with a pair of Kruegers and nothing much else, be my guest. They say a fool and her coin are soon parted so, fill your greaves.
Alternatively, wake the eff up and start recognising that you are shipping build-your-realm on what looks like shenanigans. Can I use it in-game? Not right now, but never say never. Will it get me money off at Target? Not right now but maybe in the future.
If I were you, I'd go over and play MedievalEmpires. You're getting the same experience as you would be in Game of Thrones narrative-wise, sure, but my God, you're getting a heck of a lot more utility.
When ChatGPT came out, I didn’t dash off to the website to break the server. Instead I thought about Demis Hassabis and his genius. Since I worked at Jagex back in the day I have been utterly convinced that this one guy is a bigger brainbox than most of us can handle. When I heard him talk about DeepMind I was into raptures. So news of DeepMind’s Sparrow’s incoming technology is the gateway to a supernova in this suddenly overcrowded space.
Whether a system is open or closed, it has a beast chained up in a server room which needs to be fed. And if that thing is unleashed on the public, it usually means that everybody can have at it. If everyone's contributing to it and taking from it, you just need to grab the popcorn and watch the spike of lawsuits grow ever-taller than the Empire-bloody-State building. By the end of this year it will be off the scale. It doesn’t matter whether it’s images or words, this will be the causality of using open technology. Yet this doesn’t describe DeepMind and if 2023 shows us anything, it will be structure: in our web3, metaverse, AI tech world. DeepMind was built on a structured approach to AI from day one, it was never open and isn’t open, allowing DeepMind to control the information that Sparrow processes. It will be the service of services—and Google acquired it in 2014. Think about it. Sophisticated, robust and reinforced deep learning that Demis says is the reason why they didn’t rush to release it “It’s right to be cautious on that front”. It was only last year that Google was putting press releases out about how robots were not sentient and just a few months later, it looks like that’s exactly what’s happening and no one cares.
NLP is going into an entirely new generation, and use cases that we haven't really developed before. Woo hoo!
Unless it’s a death metal T-Shirt, I don’t wear anything designed in Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Finland, dahhhling. Why would I? It’s boring. Could I be persuaded? Always. Will it be in the metaverse? Not this one it won’t. We've worked so hard in the fashion industry to try and destroy any preconceived ideas about what the ultimate consumer should look like. Why on Earth would we throw it all away because of the metaverse? Hell, Karl Lagerfeld’s muse was the then plus-sized Sophie Dahl for ages. We come in all shapes and sizes, and we come in all skin colours and creeds and religions. So it strikes me as really strange that a couple of Scandi companies have entered the metaverse by creating fashion for avatars that basically look exactly the same as each other, just with different colour grades. Not only is it incredibly offensive, but also it's really tone deaf in terms of a world that we're trying to develop and enhance and encourage women, mainly, to enable them to picture ideals that suit their lifestyle, and suit their ambitions and aspirations. Yes, 12m users play in Ifland and no I won’t put that kind of pro-skinny trash in my weekly chart. I’m sticking with Zepeto.
There’s only one god for me. Anybody who knows me knows that it is the one and only Jungkook. He is the alpha and omega in my universe (see what I did there?) but aside from creating explosive ovary episodes in my diary, worship is in fashion. BIG TIME. No, no, not with BTS, but with that imaginary girl upstairs.
Religious communities are starting to use the metaverse and I kind of love it. As a means to be able to retain and engage different communities and different demographics to spread the word of their particular God (Goddess if you please).
I listened to an incredible podcast episode recently. Part of the You’re Dead to Me series on the BBC, Greg Jenner hosted a big discussion on the History of Fandom. If you live in the future, like me, you have to figure out the past before you can even hypothesise on what you’ll eventually make, let alone evangelise upon it. Fandom needs a few things to thrive, and if you’re a game developer like me, you know instinctively what these three things are: content, engagement and retention.
In Daniel Shin’s article he’s pretty clear about why these three things collide with enigmatic results “the metaverse is the future of the new communication channel and media that can be compared to the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg.” I heartily agree. But isn’t religion just an aggrandised version of fandom? This week, I am mostly cosplaying as Reno from Final Fantasy Crisis Core. I will probably worship at the altar of Jungkook and then go to Pocket Gamer Connects in London next week because that’s where my people are. How about you? Look, religion needs community activities to survive. If you bring all these attributes together in the metaverse, or as I just described, in a gamified experience, you’re in on the top floor boys!
My take is that this is just an extension of the already established rules of building a good community and fanship, call it enhancing religion if you want to, but it’s already there, it just hasn’t been utilised for worshipful activities yet. Using technology to be able to drive this for your own “brand” (I’m gonna get in trouble) is a fantastic idea. Look at Vampire the Masquerade, FFS.
That’s enough metaverse for this week. I’m off to write a pdf ransom note from the spare copies of Harry’s latest book - you asked for it Clarkson.