Some years ago, in my first exploration of the world of virtual reality, I contrived to introduce a group of senior lawyers into what now is occasionally being called the Metaverse.
I’d managed to spend a bit of their money buying an HTC Vive rig, and at their annual partner conference was inviting them to either take a trip into the oceans, or to be able to paint without the constraints of materials.
Over the course of the evening there were three distinct responses.
There were the refusniks. People who simply wouldn’t want to engage at all.
There were the ones who asked me “This is very interesting. What will it do for the world of law?”
To those people, in varying terms, I would respond “You tell me. You’re the lawyer.”
And finally there were the curious who simply asked to have a go.
Those were ones for who the experience sparked ideas…
“Imagine what this could do for property law if we could teleport ourselves immediately to the places we were consulting on!”
“Imagine what this could do for employment law if we could bring the dangers of the workplace into the boardroom!”
Were these groundbreaking ideas? Possibly not. Is VR now ready for the mainstream? No, but it’s progressing and it’s fascinating.
What stood out, though, was that the willingness to take a chance, the openness to “See what happens” was the difference between people having ideas about the applicability of a new technology and those that did not.
Whenever something new emerges it is often dismissed as a toy. There’s only one thing to do with toys. That’s to play with them.
And whilst play might seem childish, being able to be childlike is a crucial skill for all of us adults who are trying to find ways in which to change the world around us. But it’s frowned upon, and too many of us systematically remove our curiosity and willingness to “See what happens” as we progress through education and work.
Six years ago, Chris Weston and I started an experiment to “See what happens” when we started WB-40. We couldn’t have predicted the amazing people we have got to speak to, or the community that has formed around the show, or the jobs that have been found or the careers changed in some little way by that experiment in sound.
Today I continue to experiment to see what happens. I’m seeing what happens by going to work for my current employer, itself an experiment to see what happens if you get away from some of the established trends of businesses like management lines, performance reviews and external shareholders.
I’m seeing what happens in the VR world again as I experiment with virtual workspaces using kit a tenth of the price of what I bought for the law firm 6 years ago. (More to follow on that soon).
I’m seeing what happens by distilling some of this thinking, based on conversations with dozens of people in the last few years, into a set of playing cards that I’m publishing next year.
Too often we expect to be able to understand the outcomes of our actions before we take them. A cost-benefit analysis that predicts the future. You can’t reliably predict the future other than by relying on what has happened in the past. Sometimes you just need to see what happens…