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Real connection in virtual worlds

Updated: Mar 5

“Happiness is only real when shared.” Chris McCandless

The quote above is from a hitchhiker and adventurer, made famous by the movie Into the Wild. McCandless breaks free from the shackles of society and quests tragically, yet romantically, forth; to find meaning and truth.

It’s easy to understand the appeal - to wish to break free from the modern attention traps, even if they do keep us up to date with the latest and greatest (and how else would we remember anyone’s birthdays)?

But perhaps us all becoming itinerant vagabonds is missing the point; because even if we all lived without electricity in the woods, we’d still have the fundamental human need to connect.

At this point, you'll probably be wondering what has all this got to do with broadcasting live music events into virtual spaces? Let me tell you the story which sparked the insight, and hopefully you’ll be persuaded to join us.

It’s Thursday night and I’m in the club when who should walk up to me but my wife. Turns out it’s our 10 year anniversary of being together and she wants to dance; trouble is she’s also a thousand miles away in Budapest. But this is no ordinary club, this is The Blueprint, a virtual venue built by Condense to showcase a slither of the unmapped potential this technology can bring. We dance, it’s beautiful, it’s intimate, and it’s poignant.

Technically we were both pressing “3” repeatedly on the keyboard while staring at a screen. You’d think that would ruin the magic, but therein lies the insight: it’s not what we were doing, it’s what we were doing together. We were sharing a moment. We were connecting.

It’s about connection. It’s all about connection.

People connected, to each other, to a place, an event, a time. People who can’t make it physically can still be part of a physical thing. In the Blueprint you can speak to a performing artist and they can see you, all in real time. There’s a giddy rush the first time a performer calls out your name, even more so if it’s in a free-style rap.

And all this matters. It’s important. And we know this because of an old experiment called Rat Park.

Rat Park

In the 1970s a poor (or lucky for those with a libertine bent) group of rats were given a choice between a regular bottle of water and one laced with morphine. What happened was the rats would go to the morphine bottle continuously, drinking from it, neglecting anything else, until they died. Ratquiescat in pace.This is the power of hacking the dopamine system. Depressing, but there is hope. The experimenters then created something called Rat Park, a wonderful place where the rats could socialise, play and make sweet rat love. The two bottles remained the same, and the rats would occasionally go to the morphine bottle, because hey, sometimes rats party; but the rats preferred the regular water and no longer doped themselves to an early rat grave.

The takeaway of the experiment was that real social connection, a genuine social network, acts as an antidote to addiction.

Which brings us back to today and how we spend our time. Social networks began and took the world by storm because they were places to find friends, old and new. Over time the algorithms have placed less importance on our evolved need for connection, focusing instead on ways to keep us endlessly scrolling, without any meaningful connection with our friends at all. 

Real People. Real Connection. Real Time. 

Tribalism is causing issues in all corners of the internet, and while it may seem hopeless, throughout the story of humanity we see that in the darkest moments music crosses boundaries to unite us. Let us share live music, and dance, wherever we are, together.

Tim Sweeney intimated this recently in Epic’s Vision for the metaverse: 

“And the core of it is something that every gamer already understands. It’s you and your friends getting together online and going around as a group on voice chat having a fun time and social entertainment experiences.” - Tim Sweeney, CEO Epic Games

So let's build a place to connect, really connect with each other, and it will be more powerful than anything we've seen before; because we have a renewed chance to couple the power of the internet with what it means to be human.

It’s funny that an insight about rats in the 1970s has a relevance 50 years later in the metaverse; but it does, and it does because real things are transcendent, they are profound; and profound things shape the course of history. 

All that being said, even the rats had enough wisdom to try both water bottles…

Have fun out there, and connect.


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