What Metaverse & Crypto Fans Are Really Doing

Image by Riki32 from Pixabay

The metaverse hype machine has been full throttle since Facebook changed its name to Meta and declared it was going to create a decentralized metaverse (obviously they don’t see the irony) and of course, the world of crypto has been heavy on hype, and scandal, for several years. If we cut through that hype however, something a little more interesting is starting to come to light. Something hinted at, but not quite defined by metaverse and crypto and blockchain enthusiasts. But the evolving message and ideology is something worth paying attention to, as it could have quite profound implications for future societies and cultures, aside from some great applications.

Right now, a single metaverse doesn’t exist. For the most part, there are multiple little metaverses that are really just much larger MMOGs in a different wrapping as I wrote about before. On top of that are some evolving applications, such as using VR headsets to train surgeons or do medical examinations. But for the most part, they are platforms like Roblox. They are not decentralized. Even the much hyped Decentralized is, ultimately, centralized. Owned by an organisation that defines the rules of play and behaviour and takes its cut, like Amazon.

The world of crypto, often implicated with Blockchain is a quagmire of awesome innovations that could truly lift billions out of poverty and re-write the financial industry mashed in with some truly mind-boggling scams. Crypto at best is a highly volatile high-risk investment play for now.

The Underlying Social Innovation of the Metaverse & Crypto Worlds

So while the hype outpaces the realities of these technological innovations, there are excellent real-world uses that are invaluable. There’s also something culturally and societally coming out of the honest (and there many) people in this world. An egalitarian ideal and a re-thinking of our social and economic operating systems.

What they are doing is exploring societal structure, political and economic systems like humanity hasn’t done for centuries. The mental models and ideals that are evolving can be traced back to pre-Enlightenment times. Before the theory of Western Europeans, colonialism and empiricism that have defined the last 300–400 years of humanity. A time to of rapid schismogenesis and a division into cultural areas and nationalism, although there’s evidence of that in the Neolithic age as well.

Long before the Enlightenment, across thousands of years, cultures and civilizations, humans dabbled in a wide variety of social and political structures. They even played with various forms of policing. Some tribes like the Algonkian, formed “police” to enforce tribal laws every so often, disbanding them when the job was done. Interestingly, they often formed these police forces out of those who played clowns in theatrical groups.

What’s happening with these idealists of the metaverse and crypto is fascinating because they’re imagining a new way of organising society, economics and politics. This is something human societies at the scale we are today, haven’t done in a very, very long time. It’s almost as if we ended up in the systems we have today and lost our way of imaging something different.

These groups are doing just that though. They’ve not quite evolved a specific ideology. One could quite call them a Revitalization Movement like Humanity+ or evangelicalism. But they’re playing with new ideas.

Harvard Business School professor, Debora Spar in her book “Work Mate Marry Love: How Machines Shape our Human Destiny” talks about how we shape technology and then it shapes us. The creation of blockchain technology lead to cryptocurrency and then to NFTs, which has lead to re-thinking how we can define new financial and economic models. The technology underlying the metaverse is reshaping how we might manage the real-world through technologies such as Digital Twins and training in trades and medicine. As I wrote before, the metaverse probably won’t bring us that much closer as humans. It was said social media would do that. It has done the opposite.

The main point is, As we shape these powerful technologies, we’re starting to play with new ideas for a different society. Already we are seeing tensions grow between the established international financial system and the world of crypto and blockchain. As the metaverse is poorly understood in the bigger world and in the very early stages of the hype cycle, it isn’t shaking up much of anything. But it soon could. And both these technologies, really, are in their very early stages. What is ahead is fascinating. We should be paying attention.

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Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Giles Crouch | Digital Anthropologist

Digital / Cultural Anthropologist | Featured in Wired, National Geographic & Forbes | Celt | Explorer | Intensely Curious