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Today's guest is Nanea Reeves, the CEO and co-founder of Tripp.
Tripp is one of my favorite AR/VR applications. It’s also one of the most important use cases for spatial computing: leveraging the power of immersive experiences for mental health and emotional well-being.
You can think of Tripp as the Calm or the Headspace of the 'metaverse'.
Nanea has had an impressive business career, operating as a C-Suite executive across numerous media & gaming companies, including Electronic Arts as the SVP & COO of Global Online. But what I find most compelling is her personal journey. She's overcome a lot of adversity, from childhood and well into her adult life.
The kind of adversity that would force most people into a pit of despair... But Nanea was the epitome of anti-fragile. She found ways to grow, evolve, and emerge as the ideal leader for a mission like Tripp’s.
As someone who’s had their own bout with mental health, I’m quite passionate about their mission. I wrote about it at length in this essay, ‘The Ultimate Promise of the Metaverse’.
It argues that to battle the inherent afflictions of exponential tech, we’re going to need more powerful ways to reset our nervous system and ‘escape’ the noise.
Ways to tap into something bigger, grander, and more vast.
Ways to tap into flow, ‘stir the soul’, and reset our perspective, similar to the power of ancient monasteries or religions of old.
From that essay….
“Depression and anxiety can have many sources. For some, it’s a chemical imbalance. For others, it’s the banality of day to day existence, lacking outlets to escape their (often destructive) habits and routines. For many, it’s disconnection from a sense of community and the transcendent, lacking that feeling of a higher purpose. For centuries, religion was the solution to this need for meaning and purpose. But we now live in a post-religious world (generally speaking… and largely in the West). So how can we fill our lives with the things that have benefited religious lives, such as community and connection to something… beyond. Something of higher power.
I think the key to mental resilience and joy are regular reminders of everything that exceeds us. Things that disintegrate the ego and remind us of the smallness of our everyday lives. Things that remind us we are specks of dust in the cosmos, made of the stars themselves. That we are, as Carl Sagan said, “a way for the cosmos to know itself”. We need daily doses of something similar to the famous ‘overview effect’ that astronauts express when viewing the earth from space.
What if the metaverse could be littered with ‘overview effects’? On-demand experiences that would allow us to feel a connection to the grandness of the universe and the miracle of our own consciousness?
What this might allow us to do is reshape our relationship with the fundamental reality at the basis of all these struggles. The reality of our own death, which Ernest Becker says in his magnum opus, ‘The Denial of Death’, is the ultimate driver of all our behavior, all our triumphs, and all of our ails.
There is a podcast between modern day philosophers, Jason Silva and Alain de Botton, that perfectly frames this problem. Highly suggest a listen, it’s magical (link here). I’m going to do my best to summarize the key points.
What Botton discusses is that as a society, we don’t have our higher psychological needs sufficiently in view. What we need, according to Botton, are practices that allow us to ‘meet our own death with less horror’.
Towards this end, he discusses how we can’t just put people on the edge of a proverbial cliff to face their mortality, and then say ‘okay, get on with it’. People need a roadmap towards the right experiences, with the right people, followed by proper integration. And currently, as a society, we’re not doing a great job of creating these paths.
Our best forms of escape are Netflix, museums, and 5-star hotels. But if you walked in and said “I’m looking for a transcendental experience to reconnect with my soul and reconfigure my vision,” you’d likely be escorted out of the building. Same story if you walked into the Oxford psychology department.
Botton goes on to say, “In many contexts, things that are imminently reasonable for human nourishment, and that found a place for thousands of years amidst organized religion, are now deemed close to insanity. We don’t have good places for dealing with mental health. And those that struggle with it are categorized as ‘ill’.
Places. That’s the key word. What if we created ‘virtual places’ of limitless imagination, completely unconstrained by the laws and limits of the physical world? Botton doesn’t touch on the metaverse, but he does discuss the idea of ‘stage designing ecstatic encounters’.
However, he alludes to macro level challenge in pulling this off at scale, particularly, something of similar size, scale, and impact as the religions institutions of old.
One of those challenges lies in finding and motivating the right people to pull it off.
He talks about how on one hand, there are people who know how to organize a movement and deal with bureaucracy. These are the people who know how to build, organize large numbers of people, and raise large sums of money… But most of these people are in a particular camp, with a certain view of life. They are capitalists trying to make money and do what’s best for the shareholder. They usually care less about creating forms of spiritual well-being.
Then you have the other camp: people who dream and hold the nourishment of the soul at a premium. These people are driven by a different set of values. They are the artists, the filmmakers, the authors; creators with the vision and talent to design these ecstatic encounters. But, Botton adds… most lack the ‘practical confidence’ and experience to mobilize such a movement, which is to “marry up the material, procedural, and bureaucratic side of life, with spiritual ambition”.
Nanea and the Tripp team have found that perfect balance between these two camps, or… the right amount of Medium Energy (if you will ;-)…
Excited for you to listen to this one. Enjoy!