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  • Hello.

  • My name is Herman,

  • and I've always been struck by how the most important, impactful,

  • tsunami-like changes to our culture and our society

  • always come from those things

  • that we least think are going to have that impact.

  • I mean, as a computer scientist,

  • I remember when Facebook was just image-sharing in dorm rooms,

  • and depending upon who you ask,

  • it's now involved in toppling elections.

  • I remember when cryptocurrency or automated trading

  • were sort of ideas by a few renegades

  • in the financial institutions in the world for automated trading,

  • or online, for cryptocurrency,

  • and they're now coming to quickly shape the way that we operate.

  • And I think each of you can recall that moment

  • where one of these ideas felt like some ignorable, derisive thing,

  • and suddenly, oh, crap, the price of Bitcoin is what it is.

  • Or, oh, crap, guess who's been elected.

  • The reality is that, you know, from my perspective,

  • I think that we're about to encounter that again.

  • And I think one of the biggest,

  • most impactful changes in the way we live our lives,

  • to the ways we're educated,

  • probably even to how we end up making an income,

  • is about to come not from AI,

  • not from space travel or biotech --

  • these are all very important future inventions --

  • but in the next five years,

  • I think it's going to come from video games.

  • So that's a bold claim, OK.

  • I see some skeptical faces in the audience.

  • But if we take a moment

  • to try to look at what video games are already becoming in our lives today,

  • and what just a little bit of technological advancement

  • is about to create,

  • it starts to become more of an inevitability.

  • And I think the possibilities are quite electrifying.

  • So let's just take a moment to think about scale.

  • I mean, there's already 2.6 billion people who play games.

  • And the reality is that's a billion more than five years ago.

  • A billion more people in that time.

  • No religion, no media, nothing has spread like that.

  • And there's likely to be a billion more

  • when Africa and India gain the infrastructure

  • to sort of fully realize the possibilities of gaming.

  • But what I find really special is -- and this often shocks a lot of people --

  • is that the average age of a gamer, like, have a guess, think about it.

  • It's not six, it's not 18, it's not 12.

  • It's 34.

  • [Average age of an American gamer]

  • It's older than me.

  • And that tells us something,

  • that this isn't entertainment for children anymore.

  • This is already a medium like literature or anything else

  • that's becoming a fundamental part of our lives.

  • One stat I like is that people who generally picked up gaming

  • in the last sort of 15, 20 years

  • generally don't stop.

  • Something changed in the way that this medium is organized.

  • And more than that, it's not just play anymore, right?

  • You've heard some examples today,

  • but people are earning an income playing games.

  • And not in the obvious ways.

  • Yes, there's e-sports, there's prizes,

  • there's the opportunity to make money in a competitive way.

  • But there's also people earning incomes modding games, building content in them,

  • doing art in them.

  • I mean, there's something at a scale akin to the Florentine Renaissance,

  • happening on your kid's iPhone in your living room.

  • And it's being ignored.

  • Now, what's even more exciting for me is what's about to happen.

  • And when you think about gaming,

  • you're probably already imagining

  • that it features these massive, infinite worlds,

  • but the truth is,

  • games have been deeply limited for a very long time

  • in a way that kind of we in the industry

  • have tried very hard to cover up with as much trickery as possible.

  • The metaphor I like to use, if you'd let me geek out for a moment,

  • is the notion of a theater.

  • For the last 10 years,

  • games have massively advanced the visual effects,

  • the physical immersion, the front end of games.

  • But behind the scenes,

  • the actual experiential reality of a game world

  • has remained woefully limited.

  • I'll put that in perspective for a moment.

  • I could leave this theater right now,

  • I could do some graffiti, get in a fight, fall in love.

  • I might actually do all of those things after this,

  • but the point is that all of that would have consequence.

  • It would ripple through reality --

  • all of you could interact with that at the same time.

  • It would be persistent.

  • And those are very important qualities to what makes the real world real.

  • Now, behind the scenes in games,

  • we've had a limit for a very long time.

  • And the limit is, behind the visuals,

  • the actual information being exchanged between players or entities

  • in a single game world

  • has been deeply bounded

  • by the fact that games mostly take place on a single server

  • or a single machine.

  • Even The World of Warcraft is actually thousands of smaller worlds.

  • When you hear about concerts in Fortnite,

  • you're actually hearing about thousands of small concerts.

  • You know, individual, as was said earlier today,

  • campfires or couches.

  • There isn't really this possibility to bring it all together.

  • Let's take a moment to just really understand what that means.

  • When you look at a game, you might see this, beautiful visuals,

  • all of these things happening in front of you.

  • But behind the scenes in an online game,

  • this is what it looks like.

  • To a computer scientist,

  • all you see is just a little bit of information

  • being exchanged by a tiny handful of meaningful entities or objects.

  • You might be thinking, "I've played in an infinite world."

  • Well it's more that you've played on a treadmill.

  • As you've been walking through that world,

  • we've been cleverly causing the parts of it that you're not in to vanish,

  • and the parts of it in front of you to appear.

  • A good trick, but not the basis for the revolution

  • that I promised you in the beginning of this talk.

  • But the reality is, for those of you that are passionate gamers

  • and might be excited about this,

  • and for those of you that are afraid and may not be,

  • all of that is about to change.

  • Because finally, the technology is in place

  • to go well beyond the limits that we've previously seen.

  • I've dedicated my career to this,

  • there are many others working on the problem --

  • I'd hardly take credit for it myself,

  • but we're at the point now where we can finally

  • do this impossible hard thing

  • of weaving together thousands of disparate machines

  • into single simulations

  • that are convenient enough to not be one-offs,

  • but to be buildable by anybody.

  • And to be at the point

  • where we can start to experience those things that we can't yet fathom.

  • Let's just take a moment to visualize that.

  • I'm talking about not individual little simulations

  • but a massive possibility of huge networks of interaction.

  • Massive global events that can happen inside that.

  • Things that even in the real world

  • become challenging to produce at that kind of scale.

  • And I know some of you are gamers,

  • so I'm going to show you some footage of some things

  • that I'm pretty sure I'm allowed to do, from some of our partners.

  • TED and me had a back-and-forth on this.

  • These are a few things that not many people have seen before,

  • some new experiences powered by this type of technology.

  • I'll just [take] a moment to show you some of this stuff.

  • This is a single game world

  • with thousands of simultaneous people participating in a conflict.

  • It also has its own ecosystem,

  • its own sense of predator and prey.

  • Every single object you see here is simulated in some way.

  • This is a game being built by one of the biggest companies in the world,

  • NetEase, a huge Chinese company.

  • And they've made an assistant creative simulation

  • where groups of players can cocreate together,

  • across multiple devices,

  • in a world that doesn't vanish when you're done.

  • It's a place to tell stories and have adventures.

  • Even the weather is simulated.

  • And that's kind of awesome.

  • And this is my personal favorite.

  • This is a group of people, pioneers in Berlin,

  • a group called Klang Games,

  • and they're completely insane, and they'll love me for saying that.

  • And they found a way to model, basically, an entire planet.

  • They're going to have a simulation with millions of non-player characters

  • and players engaging.

  • They actually grabbed Lawrence Lessig

  • to help understand the political ramifications

  • of the world they're creating.

  • This is the sort of astounding set of experiences,

  • well beyond what we might have imagined,

  • that are now going to be possible.

  • And that's just the first step in this technology.

  • So if we step beyond that, what happens?

  • Well, computer science tends to be all exponential,

  • once we crack the really hard problems.

  • And I'm pretty sure that very soon,

  • we're going to be in a place where we can make

  • this type of computational power look like nothing.

  • And when that happens, the opportunities ...

  • It's worth taking a moment to try to imagine what I'm talking about here.

  • Hundreds of thousands or millions of people

  • being able to coinhabit the same space.

  • The last time any of us as a species

  • had the opportunity to build or do something together

  • with that may people was in antiquity.

  • And the circumstances were less than optimal, shall we say.

  • Mostly conflicts or building pyramids.

  • Not necessarily the best thing for us to be spending our time doing.

  • But if you bring together that many people,

  • the kind of shared experience that can create ...

  • I think it exercises a social muscle in us

  • that we've lost and forgotten.

  • Going even beyond that,

  • I want to take a moment to think about what it means

  • for relationships, for identity.

  • If we can give each other worlds, experiences at scale

  • where we can spend a meaningful amount of our time,

  • we can change what it means to be an individual.

  • We can go beyond a single identity

  • to a diverse set of personal identities.

  • The gender, the race, the personality traits you were born with

  • might be something you want to experiment differently with.

  • You might be someone that wants to be more than one person.

  • We all are, inside, multiple people.

  • We rarely get the opportunity to flex that.

  • It's also about empathy.

  • I have a grandmother

  • who I have literally nothing in common with.

  • I love her to bits,

  • but every story she has begins in 1940 and ends sometime in 1950.

  • And every story I have is like 50 years later.

  • But if we could coinhabit,

  • co-experience things together,

  • that undiminished by physical frailty or by lack of context,

  • create opportunities together,

  • that changes things, that bonds people in different ways.

  • I'm struck by how social media has amplified our many differences,

  • and really made us more who we are in the presence of other people.

  • I think games could really start to create

  • an opportunity for us to empathize again.

  • To have shared adversity, shared opportunity.

  • I mean, statistically, at this moment in time,

  • there are people who are on the opposite sides of a conflict,

  • who have been matchmade together into a game

  • and don't even know it.

  • That's an incredible opportunity to change the way we look at things.

  • Finally, for those of you who perhaps are more cynical about all of this,

  • who maybe don't think that virtual worlds and games are your cup of tea.

  • There's a reality you have to accept,

  • and that is that the economic impact of what I'm talking about

  • will be profound.

  • Right now, thousands of people have full-time jobs in gaming.

  • Soon, it will be millions of people.

  • Wherever there's a mobile phone, there will be a job.

  • An opportunity for something that