The Executive Leadership Skillset for Value Creation in the Digital Economy
MATRIX CEO Owen Tao’s story about gaming and blockchain
Mr. Owen Tao, CEO of MATRIX AI Network, wears his gamer identity as a badge of honor — often mentioning it alongside his early innovations in global e-commerce and his dual-degree from Peking University. This lifelong love of gaming has proven invaluable in both leading one of the world’s most promising public blockchain projects and in unlocking new forms of value in the digital economy.
Like many of his generation, Tao, as a young man, poured all his free time into online games like Diablo and World of Warcraft (WoW). Although assets in these games were digital, they required real time and effort to produce and procure. Understanding that these game assets were given real value through group consensus, Tao clearly saw the components of a new economic network and was mesmerized by the collective creativity and productive potential of virtual communities. “With the massive convergence of talent, time and energy, I knew there was a tremendous amount of untapped value being created in these online worlds,” says Tao.
This led Tao to embark on a series of successful gaming ventures including establishing the world’s first large-scale 3D virtual community, creating the world’s first in-game advertising system and founding an award-winning gaming platform which attracted over 20M registered users to become the most popular gaming platform in Asia. His journey through the gaming landscape gave him insight into the motivations of individuals and the social interplay of competition and collaboration. The gaming world also gave him invaluable exposure to a varied worldwide network of players from diverse genders, ages, nationalities, languages and disciplines.
Creating a Blockchain
The goal of a public blockchain is to facilitate and incentivize decentralized users to co-create an ecosystem. To serve as a shared integration platform for cross-border enterprises, governments, institutional investors and a range of online actors — noble or otherwise — the engagement framework must sync participant behavior with a large and varied set of rules. “The decentralization of incentive models is an evolution of products. Instead of being driven by companies, it’s driven by a community. I believe, in the future, this trend will weaken the role of companies and product ecosystems will be led by multiple social clusters,” says Tao.
With his diverse background in the fields of economics, physics, social networks, computer science and gaming, it is perhaps unsurprising that Tao’s thinking overlaps with John von Neumann, founder of cybernetics and game theory. Tao’s ability to build online communities is vital in designing a sophisticated set of rules for interactions on the MATRIX public blockchain to ensure safe, efficient operation in a trustless environment. “Efficiency and decentralization are difficult to manage concurrently. Human society is always negotiating the balance between centralization and decentralization,” says Tao.
“Human society is always negotiating the balance between centralization and decentralization”
The Art of Gamification
Any product and service model will thrive or die based on its ability to engage with or reign-in group motives. Yet, countless would-be innovations are devoured daily by the market for failing to create something that people want to use. If we’re pained to understand why there are so many smart people behind so many bombed ventures, we can start by reconsidering why many still dismiss games as mere kids’ play.
Games are essentially a set of rules for interactions. The most successful games have managed to capture hearts for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. “A well-designed game, no matter how simple, is like an algorithm revealing the spectrum of human motivation,” says Tao. The power of games to shape complex behavior in unpredictable environments may just explain why game theory gets prime billing in top executive training programs. Leading organizations, from NASA to Cisco Systems, use gamification in large scale collaborative problem-solving activities and to shape complex behavior like company culture. Recent applications include Medtronic helping diabetes patients manage blood sugar levels and Facebook promoting proactive engagement with videos.
Exploration, competition, rewards and socialization — the main pillars of gamification — are practically second nature to Tao. His lifelong experience working with technology provides a platform to bring these elements together. “In everything I’ve ever done, I’ve made technology the central factor for competition. And technology serving as the primary from of productivity is always my central thinking. I always look to use technology as my primary moat and defensible competitive advantage.”
MATRIX AI Network is partnering with Bit.Game to be the exclusive gaming portal on the MATRIX blockchain. The partnership also includes developing an integrated wallet, channels for managing decentralized data and the development of gaming Dapps.
“My expertise in the game industry made it a natural transition to understand the core of blockchain and the fundamentals of cryptocurrency back in 2013, and there are still exciting applications going forward,” says Tao.