Augmented reality (AR) glasses may be the most foreseeable invention of all time.
In the 90s and 2000s, people talked about the convergence device. Gates imagined it would be a smart television, but it turned out to be the iPhone. What’s the next convergence device? I think it’s AR glasses. Take the following technologies:
- Snapchat’s Spectacles
- Facebook’s Oculus Quest
- Google Glass Enterprise
- Apple’s AR Kit
- Augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go
If you put all those together, you get a vision of augmented reality glasses that give you instant-on access to the digital world in your field of view, and perhaps darken with another touch to give you virtual reality. Anyone can teleport into or out of your field of vision with your consent, you can “right click” on any object to get AI-informed metadata on it, and you can get computer-guided instructions to execute almost any physical procedure from repairing a machine to sewing.
We know that millions of people manage to wear glasses all day, and they’re lighter than headsets and easy to take on and off. So these may become as ubiquitous as phones. It will be an engineering marvel to get there, of course, and while Apple is a strong contender Facebook may be the most likely company to be able to ship them given its progress with Oculus and founder-led innovation.
Why will AR glasses be so big? If you think about how much of your life is spent looking at a screen, whether it’s a laptop or a phone or a watch, >50% of your waking hours is already spent in the matrix. AR glasses would reduce “screen” time in one sense, freeing you up to compute on the go without looking at a screen per se, but increase digital time in another sense, as people would constantly have these HUDs active to see the world.
This means even more of our daily experience will blend not just the physical world dominated by natural law, but the digital world run by human-written code. The offline world still exists, physics and biology still exist, but algorithms and databases run even more of human existence. The Network surrounds us to an even greater extent than the State did.
If combined with some kind of gesture interface (gloves, rings, or perhaps just sophisticated motion tracking), you might be able to use your hands to do anything in the digital realm. So, with AR glasses, the digital and physical realms fully blend, and people would actually be able to see and interact with an open metaverse in real life.
Cryptoeconomics is transforming macroeconomics into an experimental subject.
Why? Because you can actually issue a currency, set a monetary policy, get opt-in participants, and test your theories in practice. The proof is in the pudding. And, if successful, the pudding is worth many billions of dollars.
This refutes the premise that economics and business are wholly disjoint. They aren’t disjoint at all. Microeconomics is the theory of individuals and firms, which is directly related to running a business. Each price you set, each company you start, is a kind of microeconomic experiment (albeit usually a poorly-controlled one).
Macroeconomics, by contrast, until recently was off-limits to experiment. A first step forward was MIT’s Edward Castronova early work on virtual economies like World of Warcraft. Now anyone can create a cryptocurrency, set monetary policy, and see what happens.
Perhaps the closest thing to experimental macroeconomics prior to cryptocurrency was the experience of setting up & scaling massive two-sided marketplaces like Airbnb, eBay, Google Ads, etc.
You quickly learn that ideology is a poor guide. Naive libertarianism and progressivism both fail. Why? Basically, people want to make money on those platforms. They absolutely do respond to incentives, unlike the naive progressive model that it’ll all be altruistic behavior. But the marketplace operator has immense power to shape incentives for good or ill. So the naive libertarian belief in a fully decentralized Hayekian order does not always come about.