The metaverse is coming. Or maybe it is already here. But interest in the concept has soared higher than ever before after Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg announced that his newly renamed company, Meta Systems Inc., would take up the task of building a metaverse within the next few years. The metaverse, which started out as a fictional concept in the 1992 book “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson, is a virtual reality built on top of the real one in which people live, interact and do what people do. Meta Inc. hopes to bring this vision to life by “rendering the internet” in 3d.
The metaverse is going to be a virtual world but a much more immersive one, more so than our current digital worlds. The aim is to create a reality that would otherwise be indistinguishable from the real one in many aspects while also outdoing real life in others. The possibilities are endless. However, the crux of the matter remains that if a metaverse is built in the way currently envisioned by Meta Inc. and other tech visionaries, then the people living in those virtual worlds obviously would interact in ways already done in real life and more.
Living out life, working, playing and socializing from a 3d digital space inevitably means economics will come to play in some way. The question of how technologies like the blockchain and cryptocurrencies would fit into this digital future remains fuzzy but many are optimistic that cryptocurrencies would be the currencies of the metaverse. And they certainly could. The most touted features of blockchain based cryptocurrencies such as immutability and security are one of the biggest talking points for why cryptocurrencies should take center stage in the finances of any metaverse and should the metaverse use cryptocurrencies for its transactions and exchange of value, it could further boost their mainstream adoption.
NFT’s are also getting a buzz from the metaverse concept. While NFT’s have had their fair share of criticism, amongst which are that NFT’s are not environmentally friendly or that purchasing NFT’s is akin to buying air, all that could change in the metaverse. The issue seems to have been that an NFT token was not much use in the real world, however, this would or could be radically different in a virtual one. NFT’s provide a solid opportunity for metaverse users to own virtual property which would be NFTs of real estate to artwork or memes, all real-world items or commodities carried over to the virtual one.
What, if anything, would be the fate of fiat currencies in the metaverse? While conversation is going strong about the role of cryptocurrencies and NFTs in these virtual worlds, it is important to note that the vast majority of the world’s money exists digitally. Besides, seeing as cryptocurrency use is still far from mainstream in many ways, metaverse users ultimately must reconcile their virtual lives with their real ones. Trade and commerce in the metaverse may overlap with real life just as online shopping does and the question is how fiat currencies and cryptocurrencies would be used within those spaces.
The metaverse may already be here, in bits and pieces. Nevertheless, if it succeeds in the ways laid down by its proponents, it would fundamentally change how people live, work and play.