a16z Podcast

Neal Stephenson on The Future of the Metaverse

Steph Smith and Neal Stephenson

Posted November 22, 2022

When Neal Stephenson coined “the metaverse” three decades ago, his book Snow Crash was found on the shelves of “science fiction”. While the book remains in that category, many of its concepts are now found in reality…

Fast forward to 2022, where numerous companies are now building toward their version of the metaverse, including Neal himself – working on Lamina1 – a blockchain company oriented toward creators.

While the present metaverses don’t perfectly mimic that from Stephenson’s early imagination, we get the unique opportunity to discuss the various design decisions that he’s making, but also the intersection between the metaverse and gaming, the involvement that AR/VR might play, the evolving role of IP, how artificial intelligence fits in, what he’s building and why, and where he gets all of his ideas from.

Show Notes

0:00 – Introduction

1:20 – Tech’s highest impact position

4:35 – What is the metaverse?

6:46 – Interoperability

8:52 – Incentive alignment

13:06 – Immersion requirements

16:30 – VR engineering challenges

20:09 – Skeuomorphism

24:17 – Commercial VR/AR applications

27:26 – AI and gaming

30:51 – The value chain

38:13 – Right of refusal

42:05 – Good and bad tech

46:05 – Fighting “free”

49:16 – Building Lamina1

58:07 – Neal’s design designs

1:03:40 – Inspiration for Snow Crash

1:09:16 – Looking ahead from 2022

1:11:59 – Science fiction writing

1:13:46 – Carbon removal