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The Metaverse Is Still Messy

This week, we talk with author and venture capitalist Matthew Ball about the metaverse and whether this next generation of the internet will ever really materialize.

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ILLUSTRATION: ABBR. PROJECTS

TECHNOLOGISTS HAVE BEEN crowing about the metaverse for a long time now, and we’ve written about it quite a bit here at WIRED, too. But sometimes we’re still unsure exactly how to define this next generation of the internet, which is contingent on 3D experiences (instead of the 2D screens we’re currently glued to) and a persistent, continuous federated identity. Still confused? It’s OK: On this week’s Gadget Lab podcast, we talk to Matthew Ball, a strategist, venture capitalist, and author, whose new book, The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, hits shelves July 19.

We ask Ball how he defines the metaverse, how the internet can possibly be reinvented when the current version is so driven by corporate interests, whether the metaverse should be regulated, and what a realistic vision of “interoperability” might be.

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Transcript

Lauren Goode: Gilad.

Gilad Edelman: Lauren.

Lauren Goode: Gilad, how do you personally experience the metaverse?

Gilad Edelman: I rig up a cup and a wire that runs to another cup at my best friend’s house across the street.

Lauren Goode: That’s it?

Gilad Edelman: That’s it.

Lauren Goode: That’s the metaverse? All this talk from Mark Zuckerberg these past several months and—

Gilad Edelman: All I needed was two cups and a string.

Lauren Goode: Wow. And do we have fundamental human rights in the metaverse?

Gilad Edelman: Well, hard question to answer because it’s all virtual.

Lauren Goode: Virtual human rights?

Gilad Edelman: Possible.

Lauren Goode: All right. Well, maybe it would be helpful if we first define what the metaverse is. And I can’t think of a better person to ask about this than the person we’re about to have on the show.

Gilad Edelman: Let’s do it.

[Gadget Lab intro theme music plays]

Lauren Goode: Hey, everyone. Welcome to Gadget Lab. I’m Lauren Goode. I’m a senior writer at WIRED.

Gilad Edelman: And I’m Gilad Edelman. I’m also a senior writer at WIRED.

Lauren Goode: Today on the show we have a very special guest. We’re joined by Matthew Ball. Matthew is the former head of strategy at Amazon Studios. He has now joined the world of venture capital and he gained a new level of notoriety when he published on the internet not long ago a nine-part series on the metaverse. And now he has a new book coming out on July 19 called The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything.

Matt, thanks for joining us on WIRED’s Gadget Lab.

Matthew Ball: It’s really my pleasure. Thank you.

Lauren Goode: OK, so we’re going to get right into it. What is the metaverse in plain terms?

Matthew Ball: In plain terms, we should think of it as a 3D version of the internet. Much like the internet, which is so called as a network of networks, it connects all different networks that choose to participate into some form of unified experience. Managing continuity of your identity, you can link from the fourth paragraph in a WIRED article to the second fold in a New York Times article. We’re talking about building an interconnection network of 3D experiences.

Gilad Edelman: So what kinds of 3D experiences? If I’m thinking about the internet that I know, I think of it as fundamentally a communication medium. Like you said, you can link from one article to another article. So we’re sort of consuming and creating nuggets of communication, whether they’re video, audio, or text. So when I add the third dimension to that, what am I going to be doing or experiencing?

Matthew Ball: Well, so the fundamental premise for many different use cases is that 3D is a more intuitive and arguably better way to do many things that we currently struggle to do online. Education is a great example. Futurists and entrepreneurs have been predicting for decades, truly decades, that the internet, digital software, new devices would fundamentally transform education. And that hasn’t really happened.

Yes, we use technology in the school more than ever, but it’s actually the highest growth cost category in the US economy over the past 40 years since the internet. We expected that Harvard would come out with an online degree that would have the imprimatur of its in-person experience and yet cost a tenth as much and be available to a thousand times as many people.

If we learned anything during the pandemic, it’s that Zoom school sucks. Digital multiple choice sucks. Playing an instructor back on YouTube sucks. And that’s because we didn’t evolve for 2D interfaces, to stare at a camera lens so that we can make eye contact with another. But in doing so, we can’t make eye contact ourselves.

And so if you have 3D, you’re going to immerse yourself into a circulatory system. You can create a volcano not in papier-mâché with baking soda and vinegar, but actually design it at the atomic level, agitate the magma before being ejected into the atmosphere. And so in many instances, the most exciting answers are the use cases that we haven’t been able to figure out in 2D.

But in other instances, it’s just a new forum for how we operate infrastructure. The buildings we go in today are barely online. We have a passcode authentication, a Wi-Fi hotspot, but it’s not really on the internet, will be in these persistent simulations too, just as examples.

Gilad Edelman: That sounds like we’re talking about the applications of just really kick-ass VR. But your definition of the metaverse in the book has other criteria besides just 3D virtual worlds. It’s supposed to be interoperable with continuity of data and it’s persistent, like you leave and then you come back and things are still there. And I’m wondering, like in the case of virtual school, are we really talking about a metaverse or are we just talking about really awesome VR? Because I’m not sure that you need the interoperability and the persistence to do the kinds of cool things that you’re talking about for education, for example.

Matthew Ball: So, such a good question. You’re exactly right. And I’ll explain why, it’s because this is one of the challenges about talking about the topic. It’s a little bit like saying, imagine the value of the internet. You can describe certain applications, content, and experiences, but we know after the fact that it was the network, the interconnection of 40 million autonomous networks. The idea that Facebook isn’t just an application for a device on a network in a country, that’s what mattered.

And so you’re right to say that we’re talking about a 3D experience, a virtual reality experience if we so choose. But the real value is combinatorial and that’s what really doesn’t exist today. It’s to say that what you do in this environment has persistence. It’s accessible to others, that the objects that are created, designed, used, bots achieved have utility beyond.

This is the primary impediment in the metaverse today. It’s why we have the question around interoperability and new standards. It’s one of the ways in which we can identify the metaverse as a successor state to what we have today, because there are so many things that are missing.

Lauren Goode: But isn’t that persistence or the potential for that level of persistence an opportunity to be more persistently monetized as consumers? We’re having this moment right now in our experience of the internet where there is maybe some correction that’s happening and people are reevaluating their relationships to the internet, how much we want to be online, and how much we want our data to be shared and how much we want to be tracked, at least for some people.

And so as we evaluate that, I mean, what’s the driving force behind, “You know what? We should just be online more,” and those online environments should be more persistent, because I just keep thinking it has to come back to money.

Matthew Ball: Well, so let me worsen your fears before hopefully making them better. We’re 15 years into the mobile cloud social era of computing and networking, however you choose to characterize it. And we still contend with many severe problems, dis and misinformation, toxicity, harassment, radicalization, happiness at large, data rights, data security, data literacy, platform power, and regulation, the role of algorithms in our lives and how they shape our behaviors.

These are all really important problems. And frankly, platform power and platform regulation, we don’t have good answers for those either. The metaverse means that they will get worse, harder, at least. Why? Because it means more of society, more time, more things, more value will go online. In addition, some of the lessons we’ve learned won’t port over quickly.

The moderation of static text or asynchronous text into 3D live spaces is a pretty different problem. But let me tell you what has me hopeful. First and foremost, we’ve all learned about disruption in part due to the work of WIRED and others. The largest technology platforms on earth are rushing to the metaverse because they know what happens in a platform should things change, leaders change, business models change, the dominant philosophies of the era change. That means we have pretty rare agency. It’s very hard to change things intracycle, but we have agency when there’s a new cycle.

One of the reasons why I wrote this book was to better educate as to what we need when we need it, what’s going to be built, what the services will be, and what we need from a regulatory perspective so that we as users, developers, consumers, government can actually change that. We actually can determine whether or not we’re monetized in which way, when and how.

Gilad Edelman: I feel like we’ve raced ahead to some high level of conceptual questions, but I’m still in my mind trying to picture my life as a metaverse user. I’m just thinking, you talk a lot about games as the sort of cutting edge of this. And that makes total sense because I mean, for one thing, VR gaming already exists. They were commercials for Virtual Boy in the ’90s. So that’s an old idea.

But for this to really have legs, it’s got to go beyond gaming. And I guess my instinctive reaction is to feel like I don’t think that I’m going to want to spend a ton of time in VR. I could imagine if I was a gamer, I would. But otherwise the things that I like to do with my time—read, play the guitar, cook, text Lauren—I don’t know that I need VR to do that. I guess I’m just wondering how much more you can try to depict a day in the life of a metaverse user.

Matthew Ball: A few things to hit on this. First and foremost, I do my best to understand why this transformation is so significant. And at a simple sense, we can think of it as every time there’s a fundamental change in who accesses computing and networking resources, where, when, why, and how, we have large-scale change. The fundamental innovation of mobile was not cramming a computer into a smaller device. It wasn’t even having constant access to the internet. It’s the fact that when you do those things, who accesses computing and networking resources, when, where, and how, changes.

I used this because there was nothing in TCP/IP in the 1990s that clearly answered that question you just asked me for today. The internet tidal wave memo from Microsoft in ’95 and the ’98 showed that the whole company was corralling around this future of the internet and then the mobile internet. But the fundamental question of “What’s a day in the life like?” was actually really hard to answer.

Instagram, Snapchat, really novel. Think about internet identities. Microsoft tried twice to build a federated identity solution for the internet. The .NET Framework was the last, but what was the way to do that? It was actually building a Hot or Not in Harvard that became a social network that is now the de facto identity service globally. And so I’m always reluctant to get too prognosticating.

Instead, we can look at more fundamental questions. When you’re thinking about virtual reality, I want to reframe that a little bit. Virtual reality actually just refers to any computer generated virtual simulation. That can be in 2D, 2.5D, 3D, can be augmented reality, what I think you’re referring to as an immersive virtual reality headset. That’s not a requirement. And in fact, we see hundreds of millions of people each day spending hours each in virtual environments without a VR headset. We see billions of people doing this on a monthly basis. It’s likely that those are going to be the most popular devices for quite some time.

When you look at Neal Stephenson, who coined the term metaverse, he’s had this really fascinating observation. He says, “When I imagined the metaverse, I did think of it as an AR and VR-centric experience.” And he highlights that that was a good bet at the time, especially among the tech community. He was surprised to find out that hundreds of millions of people were fine in 3D space with WASD, a keyboard for forward, left, right, and back, that billions of people were OK with the touch screen.

And so what we’re finding is that for many people, the devices and inputs that we have today are sufficient. And when you’re talking about the share of time, we have 300 million Americans who watch 5½ hours per day of TV, not video. I’m excluding TikTok and YouTube, just TV. The largest draw of time is not going to be from going for a walk, going to get a beer at the pub, going to a concert. It’s probably going to be from television, which we do mostly alone.

Lauren Goode: I’m really glad that, Gilad, you asked that question and Matt, that you gave the answer you did, because later this afternoon, I happen to have a VR demo coming up with a popular fitness app in VR. And I think I can say it’s Supernatural. A lot of people have written about this before.

Gilad Edelman: Literally, I’ve never heard of that, but you do you.

Lauren Goode: OK. And from what I understand, it’s going to be in a virtual reality headset. It’s limited to 45 minutes, which I’m very grateful for because I’m not quite sure I could handle longer than that in a VR headset while exercising. But let’s just say the experience was not in a VR headset. Any app like this, it’s not in a VR headset. How is that the “metaverse”? What makes that the metaverse? Because what I’m hearing you say, Matt, is not necessarily like you initially described it as it’s 3D. But then when you think about persistence and continuity and federated identity, those things are not contingent on three dimensions.

Matthew Ball: No, they’re not. And of course, versions of this already exist in the “2D internet,” right? We do have continuity of various points of data. Your Facebook ID is one. Your PayPal account is another good example. Lots of content on the internet is at least technically persistent. Part of that comes from the interoperability of content itself. I can take my website from Squarespace to WordPress. Geez, I can’t imagine how I forgot that one.

But 3D is generally understood to be a requirement for many use cases, but the elevation of human society at large onto the internet. I think what you’re coming up against, Lauren, is part of the reality of the fact that these technological waves are actually not as discreet as the names are. Take mobile. We clearly understand mobile as different. Different devices, many different companies, different interfaces, some different protocols, some different monetization models.

And yet we’re still using TCP/IP. The devices don’t work fundamentally different than a personal computer. More than half of traffic both originates and terminates on a mobile device. And yet all of the transmission is on a fixed line network, for the most part, and using TCP/IP. I’m speaking to you right now on a personal computer, and that’s where I do most of my work.

Many things are unchanged. What we think of is the advent of a 3D network, a persistent network, especially in augmented reality overall is being different, an elevated form in certainly unlocking some use cases like I mentioned in education.

Lauren Goode: All right, we have to take a quick break. But when we come back, we’re going to talk even more about the metaverse with Matt Ball.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: All right. Welcome back. Matt, let’s talk about some of the stuff that you wrote in your book, The Metaverse. Gilad, I’m going to toss this to you. What’s your first question for Matt?

Gilad Edelman: So as I was reading, Matt, I was sort of getting ready to pounce on you for not talking about the role of government policy and regulation, but you actually do at length. So I was pleasantly surprised because not all books about the future of tech actually addressed that. And there’s a lot of really great stuff in there about … I mean, I learned some. I write about antitrust a lot and, but I still learn some things about that I hadn’t considered about how Apple and Google run their app store monopolies, for example.

And so you talk in the book about basically how that kind of sucks and could prevent the metaverse from being cool. And you also talk about how the original internet was not something that somebody hacked together in their garage and then launched a startup. It was the process. It involved collaboration between academia and a ton of investment from government.

And you argue, I hope I’m getting this right, that for the metaverse to deliver on its promise, we need something like that. My question is, is that at all realistic? Because when the internet was being invented, there was no monetization or corporate layer there. There was no such thing as an internet business, because there was no internet. But now as you say, the metaverse is going to be built on top of the existing internet and it’s already super monetized and corporatized.

So the idea of government-led research and collaboration in developing new protocols sounds really nice, and I’m all for it. I’m struggling to imagine how that would actually come about.

Matthew Ball: So this is a really great point and I’m glad you picked up on that. I do my best in the book to advocate for policy changes and regulations as I understand them. I don’t think I’m the best person to talk about them. And so I focus more on what we can know, what we can predict, and hopefully, I advance the understanding so that those better positioned can talk about them, especially when it comes to equality and social issues.

But the role of government here is going to be important. And I think many, my generation included, are jaded because we feel like regulatory involvement has been nonexistent and ineffectual over the past 15 years, especially. That’s actually a new effect. Most technologies in the 20th century, whether that was, or 19th century, transportation with the railway systems, the steel industry, the energy industry, telecommunications at large, payments, all of the major technological innovations, the government was actually very involved in. And even the internet engineering task force, which shepherds TCP/IP, was created by DOD, which then had the foresight to relinquish that control. It’s really the last 15 years that it has been nonexisting.

But outside of the United States, we see a lot of focus here. The EU has started to shift its focus towards the metaverse. Their think tank released a paper yesterday on the policy implications and recommendations. The chief negotiator, as they established their new overhaul of EU regulations, the biggest ever, is very focused there. The South Korean government has established the South Korean metaverse alliance, an effectively compulsory group to drive standards and gate what is and isn’t allowed.

The US, we’re mostly seeing efforts from Senator Klobuchar, but I’m hopeful that we’re going to see a stronger hand here. But you’re quite right to say the internet was not just an unowned platform, it was not designed to sell a widget, collect a tracking piece of information, or to advertise. And yet the metaverse is definitely being designed to sell or monetize something. It doesn’t mean the philosophies of all the players are identical. It doesn’t mean that we would be equally happy with each one, but the organizing principle is unique.

Lauren Goode: So you sound rather optimistic, even if that optimism is not necessarily geared towards our regulatory standards here in the US. But you sound rather optimistic that there will be interoperability in this metaverse and that we may be able to move away from the 30 percent standard, right? The idea that platforms like Apple and Google will take 30 percent for supporting and distributing the software. Maybe in the metaverse that won’t exist.

But it sounds like the regulations don’t need to just be around how things are monetized. You mentioned standards as well. Because in your book, you write about how in the earliest days of, say, something like iTunes, it would’ve been impractical for Apple to not use a standard audio format that was industry friendly. But as the internet has matured and mobile internet in particular has grown, so many things are purpose built. This is what you write, purpose built, individually optimized, and then standardized differently.

There are so many big tech interests here. Do we really think that the metaverse is just going to be like one, big, open, friendly standard?

Matthew Ball: So this is a really good way to talk about why interoperability is a bit of an unhelpful term, because we think of it as an interoperable metaverse or not. The truth is, interoperability is a question of degrees and use cases. The internet is interoperable, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t private networks, offline networks. It doesn’t mean that there aren’t proprietary paid protocols, and it doesn’t mean that there aren’t paywall experiences or technologies you need to license to access certain versions off on that.

The world is interoperable. We have exchange of almost all goods from one country to another. And yet it’s not indefinite. I’m Canadian, which is perhaps why I’m more proregulation than most in the metaverse space. But I can’t come to the United States and do whatever I want. I can’t bring $10,001 on a plane. The world has many interoperable standards for commerce. USD, English, the metric system, the intermodal shipping container. But of course, there are many competing standards and it doesn’t mean that you can exchange everything into everything without cost, without imperfections.

That’s what we’re going to see in the metaverse. More likely, a number of competing standards that are each imperfect and inexhaustive, often with bilateral agreements. Not the EU standardizing currency, but two different countries, or in this instance, platforms doing exchange from one another. But we are seeing this effort. Just last week, the CHRONOS Foundation established the Metaverse Standards Forum, I think 28 companies from Qualcomm to Meta and Epic Games all participating.

Now, the easiest thing to do is to get a bunch of people in a room to say, let’s standardize. Where it gets tough is where you have to make sacrifices, pick something you didn’t want, suboptimize your performance because of something someone else advocated for, which one. But we’re starting to see that process already. And actually, Meta’s Oculus system is one of the most open console platforms with that in mind.

Gilad Edelman: Yeah. I mean, I was also thinking about this. You write that economics will push in favor of openness and interoperability. But that was the same argument that was made in the early days of Web 2.0. And if you go back to that era, Facebook also was pretty darn open and interoperable in its early days as a Web 2.0 platform and became more closed off, basically once it had enough power to do so.

So I was a little skeptical of the economics, this will grow the pie for everyone argument, because we’ve seen that the motive to monopolize is so powerful. But then again, to argue the other side, maybe the best argument for things working out a little differently in the metaverse such as it is, is that now we’re at a moment where regulators are on kind of high alert about monopolization and consolidation. And so that more than economic inevitability might prevent either literally Facebook, or the next, or the would-be metaverse Facebook, from kind of gobbling up enough stuff to then close their system and force everybody onto it.

Matthew Ball: I think this is the right frame. This is why, you see, so much energy in the Web 3.0 ecosystem is the belief that the natural arc of for-profit tech platforms is to rent, to capture over time, to translate open success into closed rent-taking or rent-seeking. To what extent that pans out and when is all an open question. And of course, it’s really a reflection of how many competitors are there, what the consumers demand. There’s path dependency as in how we get there, and then there’s regulatory controls.

I think this is, again, one of the reasons why I’m optimistic. These companies are working hard and I detail it in the book to enshrine different principles early on. Not universally, maybe not sufficiently, but at least thus far, they are trying to win in a way that we didn’t see before. It used to be about, we have more users, better tech, more money. Now, it is a lot more trust organized. And this is interesting, because the Web 3.0 system focuses on trustlessness. You don’t need to trust.

Gilad Edelman: Right. They hate trust.

Matthew Ball: Totally. But what we’re seeing now is actually many of the giants trying to say, “Here’s how we can prove you should trust us.” And so I’m hopeful that we’ll have some reset. How long does that last, a different question. I think we can simultaneously say, if big tech is strong now, imagine what happens when they own the virtual atoms of our parallel existence? But again, that’s one of the reasons why I chose to write the book.

Lauren Goode: It’s funny, Matt, because when you describe how some of the big tech companies, and Meta comes to mind, are trying to put themselves out there and give these far-flung visions of the metaverse future because they want to earn trust, I also see it as a reporter and as a skeptical reporter, as maybe, in some ways, trying to wrest early control of what this metaverse could look like. If you’re an active part of building it, then you get to say like, “Here’s where we’re going to put these walls.”

But I respect that you are optimistic about it. You are an investor who’s invested in this space. Let’s just say though, that it’s not a company like Meta that ends up ruling the metaverse. What’s a company that you have your eye on, maybe few people have heard of it until this point, that you think has a good chance of being a big player in this next version of the internet?

Matthew Ball: So I think there are two companies. Epic Games is not one known to most people. They, of course, have heard of Fortnite, but they’re a clear and important tech provider in the interoperability and real-time rendering space. Unity is unfamiliar to almost everyone, but they power between two-thirds and three-quarters of all mobile games.

These are interesting companies because they’re organized around essentially two different premises. Number one is democratizing the tools for creation in virtual space, as well as operation in virtual space. They’re not trying to be the sole application layer. They don’t try to own your identity. They’re just trying to say that we benefit by making it easier for everyone to build better and faster experiences.

And that connects to the second element, which is their focus on democratizing tools, which means that what they are focused on is actually further up the stack, which is getting out of the way at all points, facilitating interconnection between disparate experiences but also just trying to say, “What more can we do for you?” And this has led to very distinctive, philosophical differences.

I wrote about this a little bit in my book, that if you take a look at Tim Sweeney at Epic, he has done two fascinating things with the Unreal license. Number one is their end user or developer licensing agreement provides indefinite rights to that license irrespective of how their policies change, which is to say, Lauren, if you license 4.2.1, they can never change the tops. Now, of course they can change it for Unreal 4.2.2, or Unreal 5, but what you built your virtual business on, you can trust that forever.

They did a second thing, which is they changed their developer licensing agreement such that if there’s ever a dispute, they need a court injunction to cut you off. This is a fundamental belief that for the metaverse to thrive, developers need to trust their investments will be respected. And rather than try to come up with their own legal system, they entrust it to democratic and legislative processes. Just like a landlord has to get legal approval to lock you out of your facility, Epic has to do so in the development route.

And so we have these two companies that are not just focusing on democratization of tools, but their whole framework is actually very different from a value capture perspective. If they can crank up the TAM of the metaverse, they benefit. If they can pull it forward, they benefit and they operate very uniquely as a result.

Gilad Edelman: This book, as I understand it, grew out of this nine-part series that you wrote last year on your website. So that, of course, is available for free. So, what will people … Just teeing you up here, Matt, what will people get from the book that’s not in the nine-part series?

Matthew Ball: Thanks for the tee-up. This book is a dramatic overhaul. It’s about three times longer, but the primer itself, which has been entirely redone, is just the middle third. The rest, which was written about probably 20 times, the writing time, professionally edited, supported, many others read it first, it reflects six months of progress, probably 24 months of compressed learning. But there are three total sections.

The first gets into the history of the metaverse. Why are we talking about it now? Where does it come from? It gets into why gaming, a small part of the leisure economy, seems to be at the forefront of the metaverse. It also spends about 12,000 words providing a detailed definition of the metaverse as well as why we should think of it, not just as some of the internet but a revolution to it.

The second part, as I mentioned, is the primer for the most part, but with fundamental overhauls and some supplements. And then the third gets into social questions, what businesses will be built, when, what’s the societal implication, what’s the regulatory response, and then what can we know and what can’t we know until it’s here.

Lauren Goode: And this comes out on July 19. Is that correct?

Matthew Ball: That’s right.

Lauren Goode: All right. Matt, we’re going to take another quick break and when we come back, we’re going to ask you, our guest of honor, for your recommendation this week.

[Break]

Lauren Goode: All right. Matthew Ball, our guest of honor this week on WIRED’s Gadget Lab, what’s your recommendation?

Matthew Ball: I have two. One is television. I’m really enjoying The Old Man, which is an FX production on Hulu, starring Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, and Amy Brenneman. And then also the Strict Scrutiny podcast on Crooked Media, especially after the two very signature Supreme Court decisions of the past month. I love the Crooked Media team, but I think Strict Scrutiny is just incredible legal examination with a tinge of advocacy.

Gilad Edelman: Even though I went to law school, I’m going to ask you about the first one. I’ve seen a lot of commercials for The Old Man. So, I get a little sad that Jeff Bridges is reduced to doing TV.

Lauren Goode: Why? It’s the golden age of TV.

Gilad Edelman: I guess that’s true. Maybe I shouldn’t look at it that way. I would feel better about it if it was like an HBO series.

Lauren Goode: Hope if it was HBO Max.

Gilad Edelman: But can you just sell me on it like for 10 more seconds?

Matthew Ball: It is very much in the style of Heat in the sense that you have Jeff Bridges acting against John Lithgow with the background context of the Afghan-Soviet conflict. And it fast forwards another 40 years later, but most importantly, and this is the key selling point: He has two Rottweilers that absolutely steal the show episode after episode. And that sells me on most things.

Lauren Goode: I’m sold.

Gilad Edelman: Good dog vision. OK, cool.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, that’s a good one. Thanks for that. Gilad, what’s your recommendation?

Gilad Edelman: Mine? So Matt had two, this isn’t even a full recommendation, but it’s more of a … I will phrase it as a recommendation, and this will probably also sound really dumb to our very gear-focused audience, but I’m not a gearhead. So, I was recently visiting a friend and I borrowed his car, which is an EV, an electric vehicle. They have those now. It wasn’t a Tesla. It was a Nissan LEAF, pretty humble little car.

So fun to drive because the acceleration on these things is amazing. And it just got me thinking that I don’t feel like electric vehicles have been marketed to me on the strength of their fun-ness to drive or their acceleration power, it’s all like the environmental impact.

Lauren Goode: Yeah, the virtue signaling.

Gilad Edelman: You save my virtue. You save money on gas, sure. But like, gosh, it was really fun to zoom around in that thing. So, I guess my recommendation to listeners is, if you have not tried driving an EV, you should, because you might find that it’s just an enjoyable experience. And then maybe my advice to the industry is to lean a little bit more on how much giddyap the cars have and how fun they are to drive.

Lauren Goode: Gilad, doing the work for big auto.

Gilad Edelman: Yeah. Well, but clean, clean energy.

Lauren Goode: But clean big auto. I really thought you were going to say it was a Model 3. I don’t know why.

Gilad Edelman: What’s that?

Lauren Goode: That was the car that you ended up taking for a spin when you borrowed your friend’s car.

Gilad Edelman: Is that a Tesla?

Lauren Goode: Oh yeah. It’s the Tesla Model 3.

Gilad Edelman: My friend does well, but he’s frugal.

Lauren Goode: Well, the Model 3 is supposedly the less expensive one. All I know is I think I’ve dated more people in the Bay Area who have a Model 3 than I did anyone I dated in New York who had a car.

Gilad Edelman: Right. You’re more likely to have a Tesla here than you have a car in New York. That’s for sure.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. I’ve been in some Model 3s.

Gilad Edelman: Anyway, what’s your recommendation this week?

Lauren Goode: Oh, wait. Was that one and a half recommendations?

Gilad Edelman: I think I got to 0.75.

Lauren Goode: 0.75, it’s fair enough. My recommendation this week is also, as Matt suggested, a podcast. Mine is a podcast from our friends at Prologue Projects. They produce a show called 5-4. It’s about the Supreme Court. And in the past couple of months, the 5-4 team has put together a couple of emergency pods on the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They really do an excellent job. It’s a group of lawyers who sit around and talk about some of these Supreme Court decisions in a very irreverent and smart way. And so I recommend checking out the 5-4 podcast.

Gilad Edelman: Wow. Dueling law podcast recommendations.

Lauren Goode: Yeah. And we’re recommending them to our lawyer pal over here, you, sir.

Gilad Edelman: You could listen to both of them on a nice long drive in your Nissan LEAF, which has a cruising range of like 250 miles.

Lauren Goode: Not your Model 3. Matt, thanks so much for joining us. It’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show. I know we’ve been trying to coordinate this for a while and we really appreciate you making the time to come on and talk about your book, The Metaverse.

Matthew Ball: Oh, thank you. I really appreciate you guys spending time.

Lauren Goode: And thanks to all of you for listening. We’re going to be off next week for the Fourth of July holiday, but we will be back on the 14th with my usual cohost, Michael Calore, a k a Snackfight. Gilad, thank you so much for cohosting with me in his absence.

Gilad Edelman: My pleasure.

Lauren Goode: It’s been really fun. If you have feedback, you can find all of us on Twitter. Just check the show notes. Our producer is the excellent Boone Ashworth, and we’ll be back soon. Goodbye for now.

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