Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality Industries
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.
The Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality & Mixed Reality Industries are so exciting. What is coming around the corner? How will these improve our lives? What are the concerns we should keep an eye out for? Aside from entertainment, how can VR or AR help work or other parts of life? To address this, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan MacDonald.
Jonathan MacDonald is an award-winning, bestselling author and one of the most in-demand experts in the world on the topics of change, digital transformation, mindset, innovation, strategy and the future. He is also the Chief Marketing Officer at Minima, an ultra-lean cooperative blockchain network that fits on a mobile or IoT device, allowing every user to freely connect and run a full constructing and validating node. Part of the original cryptography groups prior to Bitcoin, Jonathan is a thought-leader in the blockchain space.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
Given up at birth and adopted by entrepreneurs who, after grafting for years, finally made it. That work ethic became my default understanding of how you make things work. Then the internet became wider used and ever since the first online chat rooms, a decade before the web as we know it, I’ve been involved in discussions related to human rights, specifically freedom and privacy. As the 90s evolved, I became more active in this area and wrote my first book at the end of that decade. Around the same time, The Cluetrain Manifesto was published, and a group of enthusiasts started meeting and mapping out what a more free and fair world would look like if humans were more empowered. I grew up around cutting-edge technology as if it was normal. I tended to get involved in companies just before they became huge — mainly by accident — but partly because I seem to see opportunities before other people, which can be a blessing and a curse in equal measure. Now, I’m fortunate enough to have half a dozen books including a Sunday Times Bestseller, and experience of twice as many startups. It’s been a fun journey.
Is there a particular book, film, or podcast that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
1984 by George Orwell had the first significant impact as I was young when I read it but had already suspected it was relatively biographical of the way things are in the world. I started to see similarities between Orwell’s characters and the realities of our time. That hasn’t lessened of course…in fact I think we could say we’ve never been more aware of how shockingly accurate the book is.
Is there a particular story that inspired you to pursue a career in the X Reality industry? We’d love to hear it.
I don’t see myself as being in ‘one’ industry to be honest. If anything I’m in the industry of human rights, but the X Reality world is as meaningful in that context as any other. We’re still talking about people and how we view our reality, up against forces that attempt to skew our perception for their own means.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this fascinating career?
In 2008 I hosted an event at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. I invited over 80 people from the press, tech industry and other people interested in the topic of how we could best structure an increasingly digital landscape in morally beneficial ways. The title was ‘Every Single One Of Us’ (which was the name of my second book that came out in the same year). Several of us gave presentations and discussed how we could ensure that, when dealing with the dilemma of the most valuable information being private, we could enable ethical practices to protect citizen rights. The editor of a major tech magazine was very critical at the event — standing up and stating that we were talking nonsense — that this whole ‘privacy’ thing was irrelevant. It wasn’t a ‘thing’. A decade later that same editor posted a public apology online, referencing the event I’d hosted, explaining that a) the topic and importance turned out to be absolutely justified and that b) we were just far earlier to the topic than most had considered. Of course, history shows that the digital landscape we live in has, in most part, a blatant disregard of human privacy, with users of platforms essentially acting as batteries, powering a money-making machine that thinks nothing of forcing us to tolerate interruptive advertising while monetising our most sensitive information.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
There’s been so many. Many of which are chronicled in my book Business Poison where, although I have anonymised the characters, most of them are actually me! I think the funniest mistake was when I became the youngest chairman of the Music Industries Association in the UK and let my committee try and convince me of their plans to identify and litigate against ‘the CEO of the internet’. Then there was a time I mortgaged everything in my life to fund a Sky TV Channel, only to find that my business partner was screwing me over in the background without me knowing. These things are funny now purely because the lessons were so profound in retrospect. Experience is a hard teacher as she gives you the test first and the lesson afterward.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Pretty much everyone I’ve encountered has helped me along the way. Even those who have caused me harm. The lessons I have learned are invaluable either way. Most of my early skills were learned whilst watching my entrepreneurial parents build a business from scratch to a significant size. I learned my work ethic from them. As an entrepreneur what needs to get done, gets done, and it takes an enormous amount of courage to get up again after the countless hits you take. That came from them and without that discipline I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m loving helping Minima (https://minima.global) come to market. It’s ground-breaking and seriously important as an enablement platform that empowers people to be free and prosper. It’s also nice to show the world what we originally meant by decentralization as that’s been completely mutated from the vision we discussed in the 90s.
The VR, AR and MR industries seem so exciting right now. What are the 3 things in particular that most excite you about the industry? Can you explain or give an example?
The first would be how people can become healthier and happier. The therapeutic opportunities in X reality are massive. The second would be how we can experience other cultures if we’re in situations that wouldn’t allow it to easily happen. The third would be in terms of immersive experiences, widening our perspective of what we thought our ‘limits’ were.
What are the 3 things that concern you about the VR, AR and MR industries? Can you explain? What can be done to address those concerns?
I’m always concerned about who guards the guards. Who is overseeing the ethical values. What are their objectives, ultimately? This is why decentralization is so fundamentally important. If there’s a corporation involved that has, say, advertisers or greedy shareholders; the user is seen oftentimes as a battery to power those desires.
I think the entertainment aspects of VR, AR and MR are apparent. Can you share with our readers how these industries can help us at work?
I’m pretty sure we’ve all enjoyed at least one aspect of remote working in recent times! But seriously, X Reality is about closing the gap between what people have and what people need. That can span from training to leadership and everything in between.
Are there other ways that VR, AR and MR can improve our lives? Can you explain?
It’s completely subjective. Life improvement can be as fundamental as shelter and food — and arguably those who could provide that to others, but don’t understand why it matters, could experience the stark reality of being homeless in X Reality and potentially have more empathy. Conversely, life improvement could be as esoteric as self actualisation or even spiritual enlightenment, which may be faster tracked via new stimulus provided by X Reality.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about working in your industry? Can you explain what you mean?
The greatest myth is that when a service is free, that’s a good deal…where in fact; when the service is free, you are the product. I’m convinced that people, over time, are increasingly awakening to the outrageousness of that proposition.
What are your “5 Things You Need to Create A Highly Successful Career In The VR, AR or MR Industries?”
- Follow your bliss — it’s so important to find what your true purpose is in life — or at least what fulfills you — and just do that. If you’re doing something you don’t enjoy, the outcome may be monetarily good, but the rest of your life will be less positive and you will feel a void that is only filled by following your bliss.
- Don’t follow the herd — comparison is such an evil power. This is why modern social media is corrupting our emotions and driving people into depression. In business, and for this context, modern technology, it’s tempting to follow what a popular platform is doing…but they don’t necessarily know more than you do about your dreams and ambitions. You’re the boss. Not them.
- Exercise your thought muscle as much as any other. We think 70,000 thoughts per day and up to 90% are the same as the day before. We live in a holding pattern that we cling on to. We should spend more time working on how we think (which is the topic of my most recent book ‘The Rise Of Advanced Thought’) and is the antidote to sleepwalking into an Orwellian nightmare.
- Don’t think you’re omnipotent — you’re not. Nor am I. I’d say two mistakes I made more than any are a) thinking I know best and b) trusting the wrong people. It’s a paradox, but one that is critical to achieving success.
- The people you meet on the way up, will also be met on the way down. If I lived again, I’d have been more respectful to people with different opinions. I was too opinionated and dismissive. I don’t regret it per se, as ultimately I learned from it…but from having several major business failures, I learned that how you treat people when things are good is significantly important.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Minima is the underlying architecture of many movements. For me, I’d like that to be a springboard for life systems that enable people to live more fully. Taking away the noise from the signal and reversing some of the less palatable practices of today’s popular platforms.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why?
I would have enjoyed meeting Nicole-Reine Etable de la Brière Lepaute (as would you dear reader — look her up), Ada Lovelace, Albert Einstein, Alan Turing, and Viktor Frankl. Most of my heroes and heroines are dead. I’ve met the Dalai Lama (albeit sat in silence together), and the rest of today’s thinkers and doers I’ve wanted to meet I’m fortunate to either have met or worked with. I think the people who are really changing the world are behind the scenes so I don’t know them yet. If you’re reading this and you’re one of them, please reach out…I’m easy to find online!
Thank you so much for these excellent stories and insights. We wish you continued success on your great work!
Makers of The Metaverse: Jonathan MacDonald Of Minima On The Future Of The VR, AR & Mixed Reality… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.