"The opportunities for the digital playground lie within the metaverse" - Don Allen Stevenson III
Taking a note directly from the dictionary definition of a futurist, Don Allen Stevenson III systematically explores predictions and possibilities about the future and how exactly they can emerge from the present. Like many immersive tech enthusiasts, he tries out new gadgets, explores innovative apps, and mixes them all with tech features that ultimately create an example of what CAN and what COULD possibly be in a near, undefined future. Nevertheless, he is unlike any other immersive tech enthusiast, as we’ll get to see next.
With an impressive list of work experience and exceptional technical skills, Don Allen is a force in the industry, becoming more and more of an impactful presence as we speak. He had work featured in a Netflix show (“The Future of”), is a two times speaker on The Metaverse at Cannes Lions and is one of the elite XR creators featured in October’s Meta Connect, just to mention a few achievements. And for the cherry on the cake, he just spoke at MIT on AI art and the future of tech. Despite his impressive work, anyone who follows his professional evolution will attest to the fact that he is one of the most down-to-earth and kind-hearted people you can see in your feed.
You offer so much value on your Instagram account aimed at both XR creators and the general public, and it is obvious you do it with great passion. How would you describe the path that brought you to this specific point in your professional evolution?
Don Allen - The path I took to this point in my career is following in the footsteps of professional educators I learned from/ look up to. I learned so much 2D Animation from a Content creator, named Andrew Kramer from video copilot.net, I learned a lot of 3d workflows from a designer named EJ, and I learned motion graphics from videos provided by the company School of Motion (link), all of these entities managed to do both their creative work for a living, and still have time to giveaway immense value, free of charge curious people, to help them get started. I wanted to follow their example. Professional creative work and education are intrinsically tied together.
One day at a time, you make your own contribution to building the foundation for what we now ( vaguely) refer to as the Metaverse. The industry is filled with potential and we are all curious about the shape and form our current predictions will come to fruition. As a futurist, how do you see the general digital playground evolving?
Don Allen - As a futurist, I see the Metaverse being split into three main bubbles. Centralized, decentralized, and Distributed. Each one of these will have its perks and its cons. The opportunities for the digital playground lie in the overlap between these three. Whomever makes tools, products and services that help port things between these rounds or folks who triple down on each realm and make fantastic tools that work in either, are going to be mean “winners” from my financial standpoint.
The lines between realities are blending. The same is true for the boundaries between technologies. We talk a lot about The Metaverse, immersive tech, or XR as umbrella terms, and for those that work in this space, it is very difficult to not be curious about multiple directions. Even though you are spreading your own professional curiosity into AR, VR, MR, AI, crypto, NFTs, etc., is there any tech in particular that thrills you the most?
Don Allen - AR is the most thrilling for me because I think it has the greatest potential to enhance/upgrade our lives.
You focus so much of your efforts on education and it becomes apparent that you are democratizing creativity in three main directions. Firstly, your platform helps inspire creators, with an Instagram subscription model and a lot of free content. Secondly, you advise leading tech companies on their Metaverse strategies, and last but not least, you are also educating the general public. With your help, they get to see the creative potential that lies at the intersection of art, tech, and pure imagination. Since one of your core values is constant learning, do you have any exciting plans regarding the future of digital education?
Don Allen - The only exciting plans I have is to eventually build a planet sized education system that utilizes many languages, uses a lot of AI and helps get teachers paid what they’re worth. And ideally it would work across many different modalities not just phone, not just laptop, not just computer, but also headsets and projectors, and audio only etc. It’s still the plan but it’s far from being ready.
You’ve been featured as an XR creator in this year’s Meta Connect Keynote. A lot of people got to see you along with a few select others working at the forefront of innovation. What was this overall experience like for you and how did it feel to be among the first people on the planet to try out the new Meta Quest Pro headset?
Don Allen - The experience was so much fun and felt very aligned with my values. I was seeing a lot of my future possibilities coming true in the near future. It was the confirmation that I needed, that a lot of what I want to build will be possible with time. It felt like an honor to have the chance to interact with it first.
Can you share with our audience anything at all about the exciting projects you are working on at the moment?
Don Allen - I’m working with more AI companies. I am doing consulting for them there on how to make AI more approachable for humans. Some of them are still pretty stealth.
The tech world is known for being a basket of egos that tend to be inflated above average. Nonetheless, your approach to your craft, your colleagues, the industry and your followers seems to be untouched by your repeated success. You are an educator of technical skills and creative work, but you also, indirectly (and probably unintentionally) educate on morality and ethics. How would you advise young tech and creative people making their way in the XR industry not to be fooled by the shining lights, and to keep their values healthy?
Don Allen - One thing I would advise every young tech and creative person to do right now is to create a list of all of their values. Being extremely thorough. Once they have this list, audit it with their loved ones. If they have someone that loves them now unconditionally it would be great if they could sit down with that person and go through their value chart and see if those are all of their values. Afterward, I would include on that list all of your life goals being very thorough about them. And then, the same activity: audit the list with the loved ones. Once you have your values and your life goals, all listed out of your head and into some other form, you can hold all people that you work with accountable for it. Essentially, if someone wants to work with you, make sure they align with most of the values. That puts you on a trajectory toward achieving your life goals.