Revolution SEG3

The House View: SEG3: The big picture can’t be ignored

July 5, 2023

I wonder if people at the start of the Industrial Revolution said to themselves, ‘wow, we are really living through a time of profound change that will impact the future of the planet.’ 

That’s where we are now with digital transformation, and I don’t think it’s going too far to make comparisons to the age of the steam engine in looking at the implications of blockchain and digital identity and the metaverse for society, and Generative AI for employment in particular. 

How long will the transformation take? Who will call the shots? What role will government play? This kind of big-picture stuff did not dominate centre stage at the SEG3 conference at Emirates Stadium last week, but it naturally influenced the delegates’ conversation.

And it’s probably too big picture for most of us to profitably concentrate much thought on. That was the view shared with me by Beth Johnson of Umbrella, who led a workshop on brands in the metaverse. People in sports and entertainment and gaming should just make the most of new technology and get on with our businesses. Where it’s all going is beyond our control and anybody’s guess. I think that’s wise. 

But there’s difference between getting hung up on wider transformation and paying attention.

Some of the points that I found most stimulating from the speakers at SEG3 were about the big picture rather than business use cases. 

The panel led by Marie Wallace of Accenture on the future of digital identity made it clear that at some point everybody is likely to be navigating the internet as their digital ‘selves.’ 

Accenture sees digital identity as a ‘foundational trend’ of where tech is going. Marie has commented: “We are faced with a challenge in that the web was never built with an identity layer, yet access management is predicated on strong identity, so as companies have increasingly relied on digital technology to run their businesses, the challenges resulting from that gap have continued to grow.”

Tyrone Lobban of JP Morgan pointed out that Brussels is already pushing to make having a digital identity universally accessible to European citizens. I can only assume that this is ultimately going to be about blockchain. 

And I have to say that my thinking on what is going to push mass adoption of blockchain has changed since the Web3 Summit last year. I thought it would be mainly gaming and entertainment and that it would be all about fun. Now I think it will be serious.

The emergence of Generative AI has made it clear that establishing authenticity of information has become a bigger concern than ever.  It’s my guess that blockchain adoption will be largely driven by governments and banking and the need for a robust interoperable trust layer for digital interaction. 

We will all become identical with our wallets. 

Things already started heading that way with covid vaccination certificates for flying.

Actually it appears we might become identical with our ‘Souls.’ That is the name the tech theologians have come up with for wallets that will contain Soulbound Tokens (SBTs) representing a person’s identity that can include medical records, work history etc.

But what else will our future wallets contain?

This is where businesses need to focus their attention.

The digital change that is taking place is possibly more profound than the Industrial Revolution. We are looking at a re-invention of value as something that can exist virtually as well as in the ‘real world.’ 

Yes, we’ve all heard this before and we already see it in action on gaming platforms where millions are spent on virtual accessories. 

But what really struck me at SEG3 were speakers saying that a shift towards a world of virtual value might be not only possible but necessary.

Martin El-Khoury of Bertelsmann Investment was explicit. He suggested that the reality of the global economy and sustainability imperatives are such that prevailing consumer habits cannot continue indefinitely. Buying and trading virtual goods will increasingly become normalized. 

It’s already happening in fashion. Leanne Elliott Young of the Institute of Digital Fashion showed delegates that virtual designer fashions cater to and fulfil the same desires. The only difference from the clothes on the catwalk is you wear them in the metaverse. Virtual fashions are certainly more accessible and sustainable.

It’s not hard to see what all this means for sports. A trend towards digital identity and virtual consumption fits perfectly with the ambition of rights owners to expand globally. Fans all around the world who are brought into their orbits virtually will be just as valuable as the ones who go to the stadium, possibly even more valuable for data. 

And they won’t be stuck at the stadium. As ‘interoperability’ develops and they can move easily between metaverse environments and take everything with them all of sports and entertainment can benefit. 

One message at SEG3 that has not changed from the Web3 Summit last year is that the digital transformation we’re talking about is in its early days. 

On the panel about raising investment in a bear market, Nathan Pillai of Caerus said that where we are now in terms of how Web3 will develop is where the internet was in 1997.

That’s a decade before the birth of social media. And as Marc Matthieu of Salesforce puts it, “No one ever said social media was a re-invention of the internet. That’s what the Web3 philosophy of decentralization and smart contracts means.”

In the meantime, it might be a good idea to pay some attention to re-inventing the language of Web3.

One SEG3 delegate remarked on the current vocabulary that it’s as if everybody sat down and decided on words using that would create as much friction as possible. Let’s hope that as the evolution of Web3 continues, unfit terms such as NFT (I’m not sold on SBT either) become extinct like the dodo. The sooner the better. My dream would for it to be in time for our SEG3 event in Los Angeles, register your interest here.

By Jay Stuart, Content Director, iSportConnect

Revolution SEG3