The Man in the Metaverse
Interview with Second Life founder Philip Rosedale — serial entrepreneur, futurist and tech pioneer
As a child, Philip Rosedale dreamed of creating a fully-fledged virtual society and that’s exactly what he did with Second Life. Despite it being conceived many years before, Second Life was launched in 2003. Almost two decades later, and with one million active users and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of transactions, Second Life experienced a boom during the Covid-19 pandemic as the world went into lockdown and more of us spent more time online.
In this wonderfully wide-ranging conversation, Philip opens up about his early influences, his ability to see into the future and how he executes when the tech, not always the world, is ready.
This is an abridged version of our podcast conversation where we also discuss Philip’s latest company, High Fidelity which specialises in spatial audio, where he envisions the field going, as well as the future of virtual reality, education, crypto, live music, how tech can and should be harnessed for good, and how closely he believes the link between virtual reality and reality is.
Newnham: What were you like growing up?
Rosedale: I was a very nerdy kid. I read a lot, I definitely was a reader — books were my escape. And when I was in fourth or fifth grade, I started doing those electronics kits so I got really into electronics.
My dad also had a bunch of cool woodworking tools so from an early age, I was reading a lot, and I was making things in the garage. And then when computers became available which for me was really quite early, I was able to get cheap, Swap Meet computers and start learning to programme.
Newnham: What were your influences growing up?
Rosedale: It’s a good question. My dad was a Navy pilot and so the whole how things worked aspect of stuff appealed to me. I can remember him showing me a car engine and buying a plastic model of like a V8 car engine, and helping put that together with him, and a model airplane that we made out of balsa wood with a motor. Back then, you didn’t have remote controls so I just fired it up and let it go, and it would take off forever. So I was very…