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Resist Hierarchy and Protect Financial Freedom: A Metaverse Manifesto

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While I don’t agree that we are already in the metaverse, it is true that we are staring v1.0 in the face. Humans have already surrendered a portion of their existence and autonomy to the digital world. That includes algorithms that govern our lives the same way a law of nature might, as well as communication, social interaction, and survival skills. We depend on our digital extensions to interface with the world. 

It is very easy to imagine what v2.0 might look like. A true metaverse should be a persistent destination where users can go to experience a parallel “reality”. It would need to be highly interoperable between existing major platforms, as self-sufficient as possible, and with clear ground rules and protections that could not be broken. Essentially, it would be an autonomous zone for users to explore and create. No individuals or organizations should have leverage over the operations, or the people. 

Source: Subrahmanyam KVJ on Twitter

This picture is a joke, but it sums up technology talk this year. After the success of Ready Player One, everyone wants to create their own version of the metaverse. However, most, if not all, new projects fail to meet the basic qualifications for what a metaverse must be — a safe, fair environment where real money can be earned. 

Many blockchain applications (dapps) are already exploring play-to-earn models where money is earned in a safe way. Gaming on the blockchain is the only truly secure method for individuals to take a self-sovereign role and shift away from a future where corporations have too much control over people’s lives and income-generating ability. Ethereum and Polygon already have hundreds if not thousands of gaming dapps combined, and their networks are only growing. 

But if we are going to propagate  those ideas into a metaverse, certain rules must be followed. First I will describe the rules that pertain to play-to-earn applications, and then I will describe why the rules are essential to any play-to-earn application that may be built in a metaverse. 

“We are already in the metaverse, it’s just mostly 1D… 2D… and 2.5D… 3D (VR/AR) is just in the development stages.”

Richard Ward (Global lead Enterprise VR at McKinsey)

Interoperability

A true metaverse must always exist simultaneously with the real world. It must not disappear, rearrange, or reload when no one is looking. Everything should be exactly as it was when a user returns. One user should be able to pick up where another left off. Elements in the metaverse should be transferable and interoperable with most other platforms and the non-metaverse, digital world. It should be accessible by as many other dapps as possible. By all accounts, the metaverse should feel equivalent to a real place.

Why It’s Important

Items and events in the metaverse need to be interoperable because an item that is tied to a single game isn’t a real item, it is a digital skin. I should be able to take the sword that I own between games, into other digital spaces, sell it on other platforms, make a game out of it, make a video out of it, display it in various ways, or monetize it in any other way I can imagine. If it is tied to the game, then it belongs to the game, not to me. It’s important because if the game goes down, then my items and progress go down with it. If that progress is needed for a resume of sorts, I should be able to extract that data as well.

Self-Sufficiency

The metaverse must not depend on any single entity or small group of entities to exist. Just as the Earth exists, the metaverse should also exist without anyone’s help. Of course, any digital world depends on technology and electricity to function, but a fully decentralized system spread across the globe would be self-sufficient. Projects like Filecoin or Storj could help facilitate global, decentralized storage solutions. If a metaverse can  be attacked or shut down by a single corporation or country, it is not a metaverse. 

Why It’s Important

If the metaverse is not self-sufficient, then the entities that control it also hold power over everything that happens inside it. The world will become an entity that exists to please and serve its owners, not its users. That would destroy any possibility of a “free market,” and devalue everyone’s efforts within the world. Bowing to monetized interests zaps creativity, productivity, and innovation. Users need a space to build freely and conduct transactions without middlemen interfering or taking a cut of the profits. 

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Decentraland is a popular metaverse platform

Legal, Monetary, and/or Software Protections

It’s doubtful that regulatory bodies will get involved in blockchain applications any time soon, but with mainstream adoption, centralized enforcement institutions will inevitably follow. Used carefully and sparingly, these protections can be very helpful in a decentralized environment. Another option for regulation is monetary punishment. With smart contracts, funds can be sent or collected the moment certain criteria are met. For example, if an employer fails to fulfill a promise, funds that are already locked into a smart contract can be released to the employee as a repayment. This ties directly into software-based protections, which means that users should always have some level of protection built directly into the protocol. These protections are automated, therefore unable to be manipulated or taken advantage of. 

Why It’s Important

When money is involved, vulnerable individuals must be protected from large entities.If the software isn’t enough to prevent cheating or exploitation, further measures must be taken. Depending on the mechanics of the game and the criteria for earning money, some players could be putting their livelihoods on the line. At the very least, they may make their living from the game. Without a steadfast guarantee of safety and punishment for wrongdoing, a metaverse will fall apart and become overrun by a powerful few. 

As play-to-earn applications continue to develop, most vulnerabilities will be addressed. But when a full metaverse emerges, it will become more difficult to cover every base. As long as these simple rules are adhered to, players will be able to feel confident and free. New players will feel comfortable joining and trying something new. Veteran players will make a consistent, secure profit without the danger of losing it all to the whims of individuals. Just like American dollars are always useful regardless of global events, metaverse profits and collectibles should be considered a safe investment. 

Shreyansh Singh is Head of Gaming/NFT ecosystem at Polygon.

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