Web3: The Tokenization of Everything

A woman holds her fingers up in a "Fight on!" V at the front of an audience in an auditorium

March 31, 2022 | Ethan Huang

USC Iovine and Young Academy’s Web3 Conference Brings Together Leading Entrepreneurs, Creators, and Students to Reimagine the Future of Arts, Business and Technology

Entrepreneurs, designers, journalists and thought leaders convened at Iovine and Young Academy’s “ Web3: The Tokenization of Everything” to discuss Web3, NFTs, DeFi and the metaverse. 

Hosted by Tina Sharkey, cofounder of Brandless and entrepreneur-in-residence at the Academy, the event examined how tokens, technologies and communities enabled by web3 are fueling and reimagining the arts, business and technology. Full video of the event is available below.

Sharkey emphasized how advancements within this field are focused on “making a serious global change.” She also stated that “this is about people, places and spaces, and it’s about connecting people.”

The conference opened with a panel focused on “Redefining Arts & Entertainment” which included Maliha Abidi, artist, activist and founder of Women Rise NFT; Kartik Hosanager, founder and CEO of Jumpcut and a professor at Wharton School; Ryan David Mullins, CEO of Onlife; and moderator Ashley Lutz, journalist and director of audience at Fortune Magazine. Panelists discussed how co-creation, ownership and community will drive the future of the industry, from monetization for creators, to social activism. 

“We feel like there is a lack of appreciation for female founders, female leaders and female educators,” said Abidi. “We are trying to use the technology of web3 to advance women’s rights.”

Mullins elaborated on the integration of physical and digital worlds, stating that rather than viewing the metaverse as a distinct virtual world, “we see it as a virtual layer … like a grid that exists on top of our world … to encourage people to move around in culture.” He believes that it can be utilized in brand building, citing how musicians make money from touring, but not from the music itself, thus “this became the perfect way for them to monetize and interact and engage with their fanbase in a whole new way.”

A woman and two men sit, talking out to an audience just off camera. Behind them is a projection onto a white screen.

Lee Kebler, director of immersive tech for Futures Intelligence Group sat down with Sharkey for a  fireside chat on “Becoming Better Versed in the Metaverse.” Combining Kebler’s decades of experience in computer vision, robotics and all things web3, with Sharkey’s deep knowledge and skill in bringing communities and businesses together, the two attempted to clarify what defines the metaverse.

According to Kebler, the next stage of technology is on the horizon and likely will arrive unexpectedly, just as the Internet did in the early 2000s. “We didn’t really fully grasp what was coming” he stated, “these were things we were not fully aware about … now we live in Web 2.0.” He points out that online shopping and the Internet were once foreign, and yet they have grown to be commonplace in everyday life. 

A man holding a microphone talks to a woman on a panel in front of an audience in an auditorium. Behind them, images are projected onto a white screen.

Beyond the mix of arts, business and technology, the conference provided lively debate on the potential benefits and risks around web3. In the panel  “What Happens When Web3 Works?” moderated by award-winning journalist and author Joel Stein raised questions about better understanding, as well as the issues surrounding cryptocurrency and NFTs with panelists Jason Shah, product lead at Alchemy, and Jai Bhavnani, CEO of Pentagon. 

Bhavnani expressed the potential dangers about the “tokenization of everything,” calling it a Pandora’s box that could lead to a dystopian future. Still, he remains optimistic, saying that “we need to have rules here… we need to come up with self-regulation” to ensure that a “dystopian” future does not come about. He also laments the industry, as most people who make money off of cryptocurrency use it to trade more, rather than fully utilizing their earnings. On the other hand, he was content with the idea that “People made millions of dollars from our platform and people have been using it to buy homes and cars and even pay for their kid’s college.” He also suggests that to better improve the industry, “We need more of those builders,” creatives who are willing to join the community to push it forward. 

A young man holds a microphone and talks out to an audience as two men look on at him.

In response to questions about environment issues with these technologies, Shah maintained that the current state is uncertain, but ultimately “There needs to be a push on both the technology side and the cultural side for crypto to be environmentally friendly.” Like Bhavnani, he looks forward to the future of this space as one that will open up a new market for investment. He says, “We're actually seeing public goods being funded by a new form of financial support.”

To conclude the conference, the Academy hosted a Trojan Spotlight, where current USC students showcased their web3 projects and the advancements they are making within this emerging field.

Watch the full video from the event here.

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