Convergence in the Metaverse

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From the very beginning, learning about Bitcoin could take you down multiple rabbit holes. You might start at the obvious places, money and blockchain technology, but soon find yourself studying history, psychology, stock markets, internet infrastructure and political theory, among other disciplines.

What’s happening now though, around Bitcoin and crypto, has taken this kind of multidisciplinary interweaving and raised it to another level. We’re witnessing a massive technological convergence, meaning that diving into what’s happening around crypto can drag you simultaneously in any number of directions.

Here is one of the infinite connected paths you might take.

You begin with an interest in Bitcoin, which leads to all the disciplines mentioned above, all of which could represent a lifetime of learning in themselves.

But, you also decide to learn about Ethereum, which leads you to scratch the surface of the Solidity programming language, and how to write smart contracts.

From there, you find your way to DeFi, and suddenly you’re eased gently back, part-way at least, from coding into the world of finance. Now you have to brush up on yield farming, staking and tokenomics.

After that, you find out that as well as locking up tokens, some people are staking NFTs, although the term staking is taking on several meanings now. You review the difference between proof-of-stake and proof-of-work blockchain protocols, but you’ve been distracted by some pixel art dinosaurs.

Suddenly, you’re plunged down the non-fungible tunnel, and now you’re in a whole different arena. You receive multiple, simultaneous crash courses, on the history of art, outsider art and graphic design, provenance and fraud, and upon learning that the pixelated dinosaur you stashed away is a CC0 or no rights reserved product, on intellectual property laws.

And, that is even before NFTs encourage you to research generative algorithms, augmented reality, online gaming, innovations in web3 startup funding and the ICO bubble of 2017/18.

On top of all that, you have stacks of books to read and YouTube videos to plow through explaining politico-economic cycles, civilizational epochs and something called the fourth turning.

From sound money to smart contract languages, finance and investment, psychedelic art movements, gaming and AR, the history of empire and generational change, but with each new subject area incorporating and embedding elements of the previous ones you visited, and all loop back around and into one another.

And, then through the next door, where there is a discussion taking place about virtual land: Elon Musk buying Twitter, and economic realities in central Africa.

Essentially, any crypto entry point can, in a short space of time, lead you down any and all of these paths. A dry, academic interest in monetary theory, or daily trade in developing nations, can reroute you to an interview that you might have expected to simply be about the future of online gaming (and it actually is about that), but which takes in digital monopolization, government overreach and individual liberty, and it all makes sense and links together naturally.

It is telling that a conversation with Tim Sweeney, the CEO of gaming production giant Epic Games, about games technology and the metaverse, can suddenly, about halfway through, throw a quote like this at you: “You can’t have a free world if you don’t have freedom online and freedom on platforms. If you have two corporations controlling all world discourse and kowtowing to governments, especially oppressive governments, to act as agents on their behalf and spy on users and sources of opinion and dissent, then I think the world you end up with isn’t one we’d want to live in.

“I think it would be quite a horrible place. So, I think it’s a first-class social issue that we don’t let any of these giant mega-corporations control online commerce, discourse and control the metaverse.”

This is a far cry from the Street Fighter reviews I used to read when I was growing up, and it relates to the great technological convergence that is currently taking place. Or, to take another line from the interview.

“The metaverse is the intersection of everybody’s ecosystem, kind of like back in the early history of the internet.”

Epic Games created the online multiplayer game Fortnite, and also Unreal Engine, a gaming engine that is used in the production of virtual environments. However, innovations in gaming now go beyond just gaming itself, or perhaps gaming was always more significant and wide-reaching than it first appeared to be.

What we’re really talking about is transaction and interaction, and whether we can live as individuals online as intuitively as we can in the real world. That doesn’t mean abandoning the real world, or anything as dramatically dystopian as that, but rather, when we need to dip into the online world, can it be on our own terms, in full custody of our own assets, and with the freedom to move about and transact as we prefer?

As assorted disciplinary fields, from the ostensibly very serious, things like healthcare and financial security, to what may by some people be dismissed as frivolous, pixel art and gaming avatars, for example, all meet in the same place digitally, we should expect them to seep into and affect one another, particularly if they are all running on or incorporating the same blockchain technology.

That might initially sound strange, but on reflection, isn’t it getting closer to how things are in the real world? When you walk around a city, its component features are not ghettoized, they neighbor one another and interact, all hooked up to the same base infrastructure.

In a smoothly functioning, secure and open metaverse, or whatever our online environment comes to be known as things might not be so different after all.

From the very beginning, learning about Bitcoin could take you down multiple rabbit holes. You might start at the obvious places, money and blockchain technology, but soon find yourself studying history, psychology, stock markets, internet infrastructure and political theory, among other disciplines.

What’s happening now though, around Bitcoin and crypto, has taken this kind of multidisciplinary interweaving and raised it to another level. We’re witnessing a massive technological convergence, meaning that diving into what’s happening around crypto can drag you simultaneously in any number of directions.

Here is one of the infinite connected paths you might take.

You begin with an interest in Bitcoin, which leads to all the disciplines mentioned above, all of which could represent a lifetime of learning in themselves.

But, you also decide to learn about Ethereum, which leads you to scratch the surface of the Solidity programming language, and how to write smart contracts.

From there, you find your way to DeFi, and suddenly you’re eased gently back, part-way at least, from coding into the world of finance. Now you have to brush up on yield farming, staking and tokenomics.

After that, you find out that as well as locking up tokens, some people are staking NFTs, although the term staking is taking on several meanings now. You review the difference between proof-of-stake and proof-of-work blockchain protocols, but you’ve been distracted by some pixel art dinosaurs.

Suddenly, you’re plunged down the non-fungible tunnel, and now you’re in a whole different arena. You receive multiple, simultaneous crash courses, on the history of art, outsider art and graphic design, provenance and fraud, and upon learning that the pixelated dinosaur you stashed away is a CC0 or no rights reserved product, on intellectual property laws.

And, that is even before NFTs encourage you to research generative algorithms, augmented reality, online gaming, innovations in web3 startup funding and the ICO bubble of 2017/18.

On top of all that, you have stacks of books to read and YouTube videos to plow through explaining politico-economic cycles, civilizational epochs and something called the fourth turning.

From sound money to smart contract languages, finance and investment, psychedelic art movements, gaming and AR, the history of empire and generational change, but with each new subject area incorporating and embedding elements of the previous ones you visited, and all loop back around and into one another.

And, then through the next door, where there is a discussion taking place about virtual land: Elon Musk buying Twitter, and economic realities in central Africa.

Essentially, any crypto entry point can, in a short space of time, lead you down any and all of these paths. A dry, academic interest in monetary theory, or daily trade in developing nations, can reroute you to an interview that you might have expected to simply be about the future of online gaming (and it actually is about that), but which takes in digital monopolization, government overreach and individual liberty, and it all makes sense and links together naturally.

It is telling that a conversation with Tim Sweeney, the CEO of gaming production giant Epic Games, about games technology and the metaverse, can suddenly, about halfway through, throw a quote like this at you: “You can’t have a free world if you don’t have freedom online and freedom on platforms. If you have two corporations controlling all world discourse and kowtowing to governments, especially oppressive governments, to act as agents on their behalf and spy on users and sources of opinion and dissent, then I think the world you end up with isn’t one we’d want to live in.

“I think it would be quite a horrible place. So, I think it’s a first-class social issue that we don’t let any of these giant mega-corporations control online commerce, discourse and control the metaverse.”

This is a far cry from the Street Fighter reviews I used to read when I was growing up, and it relates to the great technological convergence that is currently taking place. Or, to take another line from the interview.

“The metaverse is the intersection of everybody’s ecosystem, kind of like back in the early history of the internet.”

Epic Games created the online multiplayer game Fortnite, and also Unreal Engine, a gaming engine that is used in the production of virtual environments. However, innovations in gaming now go beyond just gaming itself, or perhaps gaming was always more significant and wide-reaching than it first appeared to be.

What we’re really talking about is transaction and interaction, and whether we can live as individuals online as intuitively as we can in the real world. That doesn’t mean abandoning the real world, or anything as dramatically dystopian as that, but rather, when we need to dip into the online world, can it be on our own terms, in full custody of our own assets, and with the freedom to move about and transact as we prefer?

As assorted disciplinary fields, from the ostensibly very serious, things like healthcare and financial security, to what may by some people be dismissed as frivolous, pixel art and gaming avatars, for example, all meet in the same place digitally, we should expect them to seep into and affect one another, particularly if they are all running on or incorporating the same blockchain technology.

That might initially sound strange, but on reflection, isn’t it getting closer to how things are in the real world? When you walk around a city, its component features are not ghettoized, they neighbor one another and interact, all hooked up to the same base infrastructure.

In a smoothly functioning, secure and open metaverse, or whatever our online environment comes to be known as things might not be so different after all.

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