By her own description, Krista Kim has always been fascinated by the intersection of human existence and digital reality. Kim is a world-renowned digital artist who was one of the first to build and sell virtual real estate—in the form of an NFT known as the Mars House, a virtual structure that offers the possibility of becoming real. The home and all its furnishings are designed to be built using tempered printed glass, should the owner (who paid more than $500,000 for the NFT) choose to do so. Kim also happens to be a VOGUE Singapore metaverse editor, the founder of a movement called Techism and an avid humanist. We caught up with the multi-hyphenate in Vancouver following a panel she appeared on at TED 2023. In spite of the relatively dire predictions at this year’s TED around the future of humanity as a result of the growing prevalence of AI, Kim remains hopeful and positive about what’s coming next.
“We are becoming a new kind of human,” Kim said during the on-stage discussion featuring other metaverse and web3 trailblazers like Kevin Owocki, the founder of Gitcoin and supermodular.xyz (which is focused on regenerative finance projects) and Yat Siu, an angel investor and chairman of the board of Animoca Brands (a firm that leverages gamification, blockchain and artificial intelligence to create an open metaverse with digital property rights). “In this shift, data is power. Self-custody of data is vital and a basic human right,” Kim continued.
In a world where we freely give our private data to mega-corporations like Meta, Google, Apple, Microsoft and Twitter, Kim says that our data sovereignty will change thanks to the evolution and interaction of cutting-edge technologies that include AI, blockchain and the metaverse.
“The convergence of all three technologies is the future,” Kim tells COOL HUNTING at TED, “and that’s what’s really going to be the medium by which we communicate. It will become the medium by which we create our new political and social systems and economies. And blockchain is key because it is the technology of truth, and I believe that it is the technology that allows us to authenticate what is real versus what is fake.”
That factual authentication will happen, Kim argues, through the linking of our own personal physiological processes—like our heartbeats—to the blockchain. “The number one thing is we have to start with the definition of what it means to be human in the digital age, right? Do we want humans to be free and live in democratic, transparent systems? Yes. That is the future that I see and it will be facilitated through blockchain, meaning that our digital identity is going to be tied to the blockchain.” Kim mentioned Tenbeo.ai, a startup with a limited presence on the web, that is working to link heartbeats to unique blockchain data and give creators and individuals control over their own data.
“The future of digital identity in a democratic and free world with the acceleration of technology is to have data sovereignty attached to our data. Our bio-data identifies who we are, so that it protects us against AI-interested insurgency against our identity or faking what’s real,” she says. Kim also sees a future that offers opportunities for humans to improve their health and wellness through the convergence of AI, blockchain and metaverse technologies.
“The only way that people are going to accept a new disruptive technology is if they can see that it brings beauty into their lives,” Kim says during our interview. “And the only way you’re going to do that is through art and meaning. What we’re doing is we’re creating the very first artificial intelligence hyper-real avatar system. We are going to create the first Deepak Chopra AI intelligent avatar. With this project, we want to bring Chopra’s voice, because his intelligence, his know-how, all of the contributions that he could make to billions of people around the world at scale is so valuable for the human condition. By creating this technology now, we’re actually creating those first protocols of what an avatar will do.”
Kim is referring to her work as an advisor on a project called Seva.Love with Deepak Chopra, the meditation and mindfulness guru. The question many will have, of course, is how do you know that the avatar or NFT or digital property you’re interacting with is Chopra’s. Kim says that can happen through the leveraging of blockchain technology.
“Scalability of human knowledge to the avatar through AI is something we know will be of great use—and, of course, protecting that IP, that identity of Deepak in the blockchain. These are early protocols that we want to establish now. Because if we don’t, it could easily become an extension of the Web2 economy where people don’t own their IP, and everything is handed over to a large centralized corporation that owns and controls all of the data and all of the gatekeeping and the information,” she says. “We want to create a web3 creator economy in the future, where the creators own their IP and are protected by blockchain, and can be remunerated for it.”
While the convergence of this technology for the masses is still far off, Kim’s hopeful vision feels inspiring—especially in a climate that is currently relatively fearful of the pervasiveness of AI. “I see technology AI and the new models of web3 and the creative industry through giving back—doing good for humanity as a medium for creating art,” she says. “What I alluded to in my tech manifesto in 2014 is that artists must be involved at the forefront of the evolution of technology, through collaboration with technocrats, with engineers, with businessmen and women, to create the future because it is through the arts and artistic lenses, that we could make the technology humane.”
Images of TED Tech: Why should we care about web3? Discovery session at TED Tech: Why should we care about web3? at TED2023: Possibility. April 17-21, 2023, Vancouver, BC, Canada. Photo: Ryan Lash / TED