Blockchains are not the solution to everything, but they will help stop the metaverse from becoming awful.
Today’s largest tech companies are investing billions into building the devices and infrastructure which will power the metaverse. 100% of young Americans use the internet for hours each day, and this use will only increase as more parts of the world become digitized. As discussed in Why Blockchains, blockchains are a neutral infrastructure layer that will give users control over their digital life.
Without blockchains, Big Tech companies will dominate the metaverse in ways that are difficult to comprehend, growing closer to global governments than private corporations.
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Big Tech: Build it and they will come
Mark Zuckerburg believes in the metaverse so much he renamed Facebook “Meta.” Watch the 11 minute video of Zuckerburg lay out his vision for the metaverse.
This bet the company move is based on key trends all around us:
- increased internet use ,
- decreased friction, and
- massive profits for the first platform to solve the problem.
Due to Moore’s Law , visuals online will also continue to get better. Super Mario 64 was release in 1996 and was hailed for its innovative 3D graphics. In 2022, the Unreal Engine 5 was released, and its visuals are truly breathtaking. Take 30 seconds and watch some of the following:
The 26 year gap between this visuals between Super Mario 64 and Unreal 5 is telling. 26 years from now, in 2049, will we be able to tell the difference between reality and the metaverse? I doubt it.
Earlier this week, Meta showed off some of its progress on the Lex Fridman podcast, conducted entirely in the metaverse:
If the largest Big Tech companies are saying they are going to build the metaverse, we should believe them.
Private Property: Get off my lawn!
If Big Tech creates the metaverse, they will own the metaverse. All its user's data - from retinal scans to private conversations - will be owned and controlled by the company who builds it.
Combining visuals that are difficult to distinguish from reality with current trends around internet usage and its easy to imagine a metaverse which people spend 10+ hours a day on. People already do this today on platforms like TikTok or YouTube. the metaverse will be even more compelling.
Content moderation and the role of free speech online is something the world is intensely debating. In a world where a single company controls a platform that billions of people spend 10+ hours on, the concerns over speech online will only intensify.
For example, the 1st Amendment would not apply to this metaverse. Big Tech owns the platform, they make the rules. \\possible alt: Would this platform allow criticism of its own moderation decisions? Our would it simply ban the user and tell them to complain somewhere else?\\ Want to debate a controversial topic but Big Tech wont let you? Too bad, find another metaverse to complain in.
Blockchain: Take Your Toys and Go Home
Blockchains enable user to own digital goods without relying on anyone else.
In a Big Tech controlled metaverse, your digital clothes, house, and avatar are all owned by Big Tech. If they kick a user off their platform, the digital objects would stay behind. In contrast, blockchains would enable users to easily move their digital objects from one platform to another because the ownership doesn’t rely on Big Tech.
In the real world, you own your clothes - if your landlord went into your apartment without permission and stole your favorite Disney t-shirt, you would go to the Police. In the metaverse, who protects you if Big Tech gets in a contract dispute with Disney, resulting in your favorite shirt being erased? Probably no one.
Further, in a world where there is an Apple metaverse and a Meta metaverse, do you have a consistent avatar across the worlds? Would you have to purchase the same t-shirt in both metaverses? If you purchase a digital t-shirt and put it on your avatar in Meta’s metaverse, travel to Apple’s metaverse, and then sell that t-shirt, how would this sale be tracked?
Without blockchains there are no digital property rights. A digital world where you have no inalienable rights except those big corporations deem to bestow upon you is a textbook dystopian future.
A Not Awful Metaverse
Blockchains preserve your right to take your digital life and push it somewhere else.
Big Tech companies investing billions to create the metaverse should be rewarded for the value they will create. However, the metaverse will be a platform unlike any before it - a persistent digital space difficult to distinguish from reality where people will spend tens of thousands of hours per year.
By advancing blockchain technology today, we can prevent a dystopian cyberpunk future.
For more on the metaverse, Matthew Ball’s The Metaverse: and How it Will Revolutionize Everything is a fantastic read.
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