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Moonlighting in the Metaverse
#WF21 Working in the Virtual Economy
👋 This is the 21st regular update from the Workforce Futurist Newsletter – which is read by those on a journey to make work better.
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All societies end up wearing masks.
Jean Baudrillard, America, 1988.
We all know someone who has immersed themselves into virtual digital worlds.
The kids playing Fortnite or The Elder Scrolls into the night.
The executive addicted to her emails and social media.
The roadrunner totally immersed in their podcast.
Over the last few years, our digital world has become more dominant.
Since the first camera lens, virtual technologies have changed the way we see the world and each other. New technology arrives and different generations use it in different ways - often scaring the hell out of the elders. This isn’t new…
A new world is being built, which some refer to as the Metaverse - a digital place where people seamlessly get together and interact in millions of 3D virtual experiences. From virtual gamers to knowledge workers and creators.
Last week, Facebook rebranded to Meta.
A play on the word Metaverse was predicted by some…
Was this a land-grab for the new infrastructure of the internet, a distraction from regulators’ pressure, or a ploy to stop their engineers from leaving?
Today I share an early consideration of the metaverse, the virtual economy, and what it might mean for the world of work. I would love to know your thoughts…
What is the Metaverse?
we are building a 1-to-1 map of almost unimaginable scope. When it's complete, our physical reality will merge with the digital universe. Kevin Kelly, Wired, 2019.
If anyone has been able to spend more than five minutes speaking to a teenager, you will soon realise that their virtual world IS their world.
We are creating virtual worlds that we interact with, manipulate and experience like a mirror image of the real world. This world reflects not just what something looks like but also its context, meaning, and function.
These virtual worlds will be connected to what we have built over the last twenty years. The online marketplaces and platforms, digital assets, identities. Connected with 2.5 billion with phones, tablets, consoles, laptops, headsets.
This is where we will go to socialise, play, create, work, trade, and to flourish.
The new infrastructure will be developed from existing concepts and tech as we move from the ‘internet of information’ to the ‘internet of value’.
It will utilise virtual reality, distributed ledgers, computer vision, DAOs, machine learning, tokens. For more reading on the Metaverse, I recommend Matthew Ball’s work.
What’s The Appeal of Wearing a Digital Mask?
Why would people want to immerse themselves in virtual worlds and wear ‘digital masks’?
The world outside is perceived by some as increasingly dangerous. We have airborne viruses that can make us ill and angry people who will attack those with different views. It is no surprise that people want to create their own safer worlds and seek solace behind different identities, and masks.
That’s a negative answer, but the appeal is more positive in my view.
Decentraland is a virtual world that is designed and governed by its own users, using a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation (DAO). Since Facebook’s rebrand, its token, $Mana has soared by over 300% in value. You can buy land, then build whatever content and experiences you want including music concerts, games, casinos, art shows, exchanges. Recently 12,600 square meters of virtual land was sold in Decentraland for about $1 million.
The Virtual Economy
It would be a mistake to dismiss the metaverse as just a wacky VR game that probably won’t work, like Second Life.
Firstly, the global gaming industry itself is bigger than the movie industry.
$109 billion Vs $97 billion in 2019.
Secondly, the scope of the metaverse goes way beyond gaming into existing entertainment industries, work, commerce, trading.
The potential scope is large. Which partly explains Facebook’s rebrand last week…
Will Meta Be Better?
Meta - mĕt′ə - adjective Making or showing awareness of reference to oneself or to the activity that is taking place, especially in an ironic or comic way.
Facebook generates the majority of its revenue from advertising in North America.
To keep growing, it needs to get regulators off its back, monitise its users outside of its home market, and stop its software engineers from quitting.
In 2019, it made big announcements on a new digital currency called, Libra.
Facebook's rebrand to Meta is from the same playbook as Libra.
It's not a technology land-grab per se, but all about attracting and keeping its' workers.
Having one company run the metaverse scares people for obvious reasons - but this will not happen.
There Be Many Metaverses
A new infrastructure is being built that will pin together diverse technologies. From DAOs, personal data wallets, self-sovereign identity, digital credentials, NFTs, DeFi, peer-to-peer platforms, virtual environments, AR, IoT, and cryptocurrencies.
Emerging players include Tencent, Snap, Epic, Unity, Facebook, Axie Infinity, Decentraland, Ethereum, and all the blockchain ecosystems including Polkadot.
This is a potentially vast market, with threats and opportunities for existing players in most industries.
Working Down The Metaverse
As the pandemic hit the Philippines, people in Cabanatuan City found a way to ease the hardship brought on by lockdowns — playing video games. Axie Infinity, allows players to earn income through nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, and cryptocurrencies by breeding, battling and trading digital pets called Axies.
I have given plenty of other examples of workers using platforms to organise their work from driver collectives in Jakarta to rideshare platform cooperatives in New York. And individuals and teams funding initiatives using DAOs from musicians to writers, to baseball fans trying to fund and govern an NBA franchise.
The metaverse will not only be a digital playground, but also where we work. The boundaries between work and play becoming increasingly porous for the decentralised workforce.
For those working in organisations and teams, there will be more VR tools to collaborate. For example, Facebook launched, Horizon Workrooms, a space for teams to connect, collaborate and develop ideas.
The Metaverse is Something We Make
the increasing virtualisation of our lives zooming us towards mass neuroticism in a ghastly mass synergy of fetishism and frigidity.
To some people, this is the stuff of dystopian nightmares. Large, unregulated, and ungovernable tech firms ruling how we perceive the world and make a living.
It is important that as a society we discuss and shape how the virtual world operates before it is too late to change.
Some early thoughts on the implications,
In my work on the impact of blockchain and Web3 technologies on work, and careers, one implication is that the firm shrinks.
Organisations will not need to control thousands of workers on restrictive contracts when they can just pull from a liquid workforce on peer-to-peer platforms. Centralised organisations are losing power to individuals.
In competitive industries, it’s important to understand this shift, and use it to attract and retain the workers needed.
Workers want more equity, flexibility, and autonomy. Same as ever, but they will vote with their feet when the job market is in their favour.
Problem solving in teams - tap into the ability of groups who are experienced solving problems in virtual environments to solve work problems.
Future of Education – the metaverse might provide a rich environment for mass learning. The best positioned might be those who can provide digital storytelling, gamification, machine learning rather than those institutions with the best researchers or historical reputation.
All societies end up wearing masks. The metaverse raises lots of questions around ethics, economics, sociology, and inclusion. We need to start working out what kind of society we want, in both the real and virtual worlds we inhabit.