Monday, January 03, 2022

Part 3: Metaverse - a look into the possible abyss

Owning a Metaverse is one thing, owning the discourse and language of the Metaverse is another. Note how we’re all now using an invented and owned Facebook brand the ‘Metaverse’ to even talk about this. I get the feeling that we’re being suckered. 

It comes from Neil Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash (which was the white noise seen on screens when the system crashes). It is an astonishing novel, where the virtual world, the Metaverse sits in an anarcho-capitalist world, owned by the Global Multimedia Protocol Group. You access it via VR, controlled by a monopoly cable television group that has replaced all telephone networks, all of this is very close to the Facebook bone.

Facebook’s land grab of the virtual world through Metaverse branding is slick PR but it stinks. It is as if just naming something makes it real. The brand alone acts as the new centre of gravity. Metaverses have been around for decades, what is different is the branding and financial commitment that Facebook have put into this. Apple is having to pay developers six-figure cash sums to retain them, such is the recruitment pull into this world.

Shift to Web 3.0

This is all part of a much bigger shift in tech, re-defining itself as Web 3.0 with an open, permissionless, decentralised world of cryptocurrencies, NFTs, blockchain and multiverses. Why? If you’re in regulatory trouble in this world, create a new one. You are then free from those authorities and constraints. 

Even better, create a system where you make money, and I literally mean ‘make’ money as cryptocurrencies. You create money, then rake in even more money, make virtual stuff, sell it - all of a sudden you have an economy, free from governments and control. That is how these brands already escape tax - they play us by creating virtual excuses. They trade online, making it difficult to pin down taxable entities such as true sales and profits, then shift to low tax regimes to literally steal revenues from the actual countries that accrue the sales and profits. They are the masters of illusion as what they deal in is illusions. This next step is to create a wholly illusory world - the Metaverse.

The libertarian roots of Silicon Valley have outgrown their teenage years. They’re now greedy adults - they want it all. Not content with grabbing all the real money they want to destroy the real and make even more money from the unreal.

People in the Metaverse

Commentary on Tech swings from utopian to dystopian, from hype to horror in a flash. But the

Metaverse could turn out to be a crime-ridden scamfest, full of fakery, rug-pulls, NFT frauds and cryptocurrency BS. The real world has plenty of crime and scams, as does the existing online world but the Metaverse may actually create worlds where this is made so much easier. No one can hear you scream in cyberspace. We may all have our digital twin in the Metaverse but there will be swarms of Jekyll and Hyde twins to deal with.

Objects in the Metaverse

In The Conspiracy of Art (1996) Baudrillard trounces modern art. His book Simulacra and simulations (1981) gave him fame in the art world but this critique of that world demolished the pretence that they were at the vanguard of relevance. Art has become a set of signals, everywhere and nowhere, part of a consumerist nexus with its careers, commerce and tawdry fame. For him it has become a mediocre game of high-end, consumerist and status exchange. He would have been writing about NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) if he were alive today, the creation of digital entities, largely as investment assets. They are already being seen and marketed as assets within the Metaverse.

Nike has acquired a virtual shoe company, RTFKT, who also make NFTs. Let that sink in. They want to sell virtual shoes for virtual people in virtual worlds. Other high-end brands will buy into that virtual economy. That should make us think.

What should also make us think and worry is the strange tale of the ‘Evil Ape’ NFT developer who disappeared after deleting his Twitter account and website, with $2.7 million of investors’ cash. Evolved Apes was a supposed Multiverse full of NFT apes who were to fight each other for survival. The Multiverse and game never appeared. The cash, a cryptocurrency called Ether, disappeared. You’d think the foolish investors would have learnt their lesson but they’re carrying on with Fight Back Apes, fighting the Evil Ape. The whole episode contains all the signs you need on this combination of NFTs and cryptocurrencies in a supposed Multiverse. It will be a dark place, attracting every scammer on the planet.

Places in the Metaverse

Forget simple shoes and images, land and properties are already being sold in Metaverses. When Snoop Dogg developed his Snoopverse, someone bought a property in his virtual world for almost $500,000. “I'm always on the lookout for new ways of connecting with fans and what we've created in The Sandbox is the future of virtual hangouts, NFT drops, and exclusive concerts.” Snoops virtual house is modeled on his real house and you can buy expensive  passes to get access. Platforms are already there, such as Sandbox and Decentraland, with Sandbox already clocking up a $4.3 million sale for a plot of land. Investors and major brands are already buying into the Sandbox project. The role that celebrities and influencers play in this movement will be interesting.


This may turn into a new gold rush, creating a wonderful new market or a form of tulip mania where many lose their shirts. Who knows? What makes this different from previous Multiverses, such as Second Life, is that the underlying technologies, with cryptocurrencies, an already existing NFT market and a ubiquitous, high-bandwidth, cloud-based internet, make it a much more sophisticated world. As we spend more time in such places, we may well be willing to spend money on the places we inhabit. This is the economy of experiences, not physical assets. At the moment it looks as though assets, rather than experiences are its main inhabitants.

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