Herman Narula
Are We Ready For the Metaverse?

If the idea of Mark Zuckerberg crafting the next stage of our digital world sounds ominous, then you’re not alone. Big tech has wielded unearthly powers for far too long, often at the cost of disrupting our democracies. Now with the promise of this new digital world, the metaverse, on our doorstep, it is clear we need new ethical actors in this space to take charge.

My next guest on the 52 Insights podcast is Herman Narula, the CEO of the British unicorn startup Improbable is one of those actors, an earnest 34-year-old CEO who wants the metaverse to be a boon to humankind not a dystopia.

His company, Improbable, has been quietly building the piping of the metaverse for several years. Leading a global company of 1000 people, Narula has enormous plans for this space, including the vision of bringing millions of people into one space at any one time at the cost of enormous processing powers.

After graduating from Cambridge as a computer scientist in the 2010s, his principled vision of the metaverse took shape after surrounding himself with influential mentors and early colleagues. He has now become one the leading figureheads of this first metaverse quake – a space that also includes the CEOs of Meta, Nvidia, Niantic and Roblox.

In his debut book Virtual Society which has just been released, he shares with us a unique vision, a tech kaleidoscope full of otherworldly visions that he says will make our lives not only more comfortable but enriching in every way, however, with so much scepticism out there, we need to take a step back and ask some uncomfortable questions about this new realm.

Who will own what? How will it affect our social lives? How will it change our behaviour? And most importantly, will it further disrupt the fabric of society? If you’re even slightly interested in the intersection between politics, technology and the future of our species, then this chat is for you.

Giveaway: I have two copies of Herman Narula’s book Virtual Society to give away. If you want one, please send a direct message on any of my social media channels with your name and one line explaining why you think the metaverse will be good or bad for humankind. The best response will receive one.

Things we discuss:

– Massive layoffs are running through technology.
– What Improbable has built
– The inherent challenges of raising half a billion and navigating a company through turbulent waters
– The different metaverses and the race to control the next phase of the internet
– His opinion of Meta and Mark Zuckerberg
– Where we will be technologically 100 years from now
– How dystopian attitudes of today won’t get in the way
– Web 3.0s big picture and blockchain
– The people that inspire him the most
– Speciation and its relationship with the metaverse
– Could a Pol Pot arise in the metaverse?
– Governance in the metaverse

Further Reading:

Refik Anadol
Hacking the Mind: Rafael Yuste discussion, CogX 2021
The Idea of the Mind book
Op-Ed piece Ari Stein: Will We Soon Abandon Reality Altogether?

Virtual Society by Herman Narula is out on the 13th of October Penguin Random House