Seven Questions with John Luxford

1. What do you do for a living and why?

I help people make animated shows, using new technologies like VR hardware to make the process faster and easier so that anyone can do it. My passion is in making creation tools that help people express themselves in new ways, so naturally I gravitated towards VR and AR since how often do you get a chance to be one of the first to explore an entirely new medium to make art with?

The role of helping people make art themselves is a fine balance, because your job is to support them and then get out of the way. To not mix that up with your own desire to put yourself directly into the art, but rather to put that passion into the tools to help them.

2. What is your idea worth spreading?

That digital representations of ourselves are changing our sense of identity.

We are at the tip of another major wave of technological innovation that’s going to change how we interact with computers, and more importantly, with each other. And because these technologies are altering our perception of reality, it’s going to get pretty weird.

Weird is my favourite word. We’re all weirdos deep down, we’re just afraid that others will find out.

But it’s the things that make us weird that come to define us, and these technologies are going to help us share those things through our outward expression in a much deeper way, shifting how we see ourselves and others.

This idea sprung pretty naturally from my work in VR and AR, because we work with people embodying characters every day, and we witness first-hand how different aspects of their personalities emerge as they adopt those personas.

3. What do you most value in your friends?

I look for honest people, meaning people who can be honest with others as well as themselves, even when it’s hard to hear. To me, that’s the biggest sign of respect. Being honest with yourself means pushing yourself to do harder things than you would have, because you’re not making excuses and letting yourself off the hook. I think truly honest people end up being more driven as a byproduct of keeping themselves honest.

Also humour. Make me laugh and we might just become friends for life.

4. What’s the best thing you’ve read in the past year?

I finally read me some Margaret Atwood. The Handmaid’s Tale. Amazing; as relevant and as powerful as ever. The fact that every single terrifying thing that happened in that work of speculative fiction has actually happened in one place or another already speaks to how relevant a book like that is and always will be.

(I lied, I did read a book of her poetry back in high school, but it’s been a point of embarrassment as an avid reader that I didn’t delve any further until now.)

5. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

I’d have to think on this a bit deeper to give a real answer, but as someone who moved to Winnipeg half his life ago, I’m going to say modesty. You people are too modest!

Winnipeg has world-class artists in every area I can think of, but when you ask them about it they say things like “yeah, you know, it’s pretty cool I guess.” No it’s not “pretty cool”, it’s amazing and you shouldn’t be afraid to admit it. The rest of the world is so quick to humblebrag and compete for any attention they can get, and I think that’s a front that Winnipeg needs to learn to compete on too because that’s the only way to get the attention we deserve.

6. What motivates you?

An incessant curiosity. I need to know everything I can. To explore a thing, where it comes from, to see how it works, break it and put it back together again, and just marvel at the variety and ingenuity in both nature and our own inventiveness. I think I scared my parents as a kid because this curiosity never turned off. I obsessed about everything I was into, whether that was technology or music or food or coffee.

Good coffee also motivates me. Just coffee.

7. What TED Talk do you think everyone should see?

The one I keep coming back to is Simon Sinek’s talk How Great Leaders Inspire Action. He turns our thinking about selling, regardless of context, on its head and makes it a more human problem. Essentially, we buy into things because of why they’re done, not how or what is done differently. When the “why” gels with our own motivations, we buy in.

This idea is so simple but can often be hard to apply, because it’s hard to get out of the weeds in thinking about what we do. But it’s changed how I approach talking about the things that I do that I want to get people behind. Now I talk about our values and our goals, what we stand for and where we’re going. These are things people can become emotionally invested in.Also the talk about the intelligence of crows.

After watching that I saw another video of a crow using a frisbee to sled down a roof over and over again. We have so much to learn about the intelligence of beings that lack a neocortex, it blows me away.

The latest from TEDxWinnipeg