What Happens in the Metaverse, Stays in the Metaverse . . . or does it?
Does the bachelor party logic of Las Vegas apply to the Metaverse? I ask the question, since – as far as Vegas is concerned – countless films, books and anecdotes suggest otherwise. Regardless of what precautions you take, bachelor (or hen) party hi-jinks will eventually make their way to the real world. Don’t take my word for it, ask Bradley Cooper.
This is particularly relevant to the Metaverse, by nature of its foundation and one of its particularities, Blockchain. Blockchain’s distributed ledger system effectively ‘atomises’ and delegates the validation process to millions of verifiers. Each controls a particular aspect of the data with respect to prescribed rules covering just their proportion of the transaction in the chain. Since these verifiers have no visibility of the preceding or following links in the chain, it’s impossible for an individual one to influence or manipulate the validation process any further.
This structure creates a type of indelible watermark validating and associating an individual to a particular state of affairs. The latter could represent concepts such as ownership, status, privileges, access or qualifications.
But the Metaverse’s real impact could be far more profound – the culmination of two apparent opposites: ‘pertinency’ (ownership) and anonymity.
Traditionally – from the physical World, to our current Web – these two concepts have proved mutually exclusive; it’s effectively impossible to define and defend ownership without revealing identity. This dependency can be extended to other rights (from the right to protest, to more egalitarian forms of remuneration, for instance), and represent an obstacle to societal issues such as representation and distribution.
The Metaverse could ensure that such socio-economic fundamentals are both absolute and anonymous: a composer or artist would be guaranteed rights for the use of his/her creation (in whatever form), a farmer’s contribution to our groceries would be established and revealed, potentially on the supermarket shelf or packaging itself. In each case, remuneration or other form of acknowledgement would be defined and imposed through the blockchain . . . . immutably.
If we define immutability as the convergence of ownership and anonymity, then the Metaverse would already represent the biggest societal milestone since the concept of limited liability 200 years ago.
But the Metaverse has other characteristics such as virtual and augmented reality, as well as decentralized applications (such as DeFi and NFT tokens), all of which are based on this concept of immutability. The idea that rights, privileges and status can be accorded (and upheld/defended) to people without requiring them to reveal or publish their identity represents an even more profound implication.
It will certainly transform the way people use the Internet.
While immutability represents a departure from our traditional system of property and ownership, it is a particul contrast to most people’s experience of Web 2.0, where identity (or, user profiles, at least) ultimately drives everything, from search to unsolicited advertising. The Metaverse promises relief from this imposition!
While the full implications of immutability will only be evident over time, the potential is compelling, and we’ll be exploring a few of them in subsequent posts.
The Metaverse (and Blockchain foundation, in particular) offers the opportunity to more equitably calibrate value creation with value distribution since every single contribution can potentially be associated to an individual (or group); the days of rent seeking or other market distortions may be numbered.
Immutability will also enable professionals to protect and maintain their ‘valid’ and ‘validated’ credentials and qualifications direct, without dependence on a third party authority; or for ‘legitimate’ interested parties to intervene against powerful interests (without fear of retribution).
How such dynamics will relate to the traditional world (Web and physical) remains to be seen; but standards, protocols and behavior are more likely to be established by use and habit rather than any form of central imposition.
And this brings me to the most important question of all: will what happens in the Metaverse stay in the Metaverse?
I can offer no guarantees about any subsequent Hangover but, in a true spirit of immutability – you will get to decide!