3 December, 2021

The Metaverse

The science fiction novel Snow Crash (1992) described the first concept of the Metaverse as a three-dimensional virtual space that acts as a metaphor for the real world. A 'meta'...

The science fiction novel Snow Crash (1992) described the first concept of the Metaverse as a three-dimensional virtual space that acts as a metaphor for the real world. A 'meta' version of our 'universe,' the metaverse is a place where avatars represent our ‘alter egos' from the physical world.
In Greek it means ‘false name’ or 'pseudonym’ and in Latin it is called an ‘alias'. So, the Metaverse is the collective virtual shared space in which we can live and work as digital twins of our physical selves.

Digital Shadow

With digitization, and especially the intensive use of the internet, we as analog beings started to create more and more digital data and messages decades ago. But once sent, these early digital messages would disappear to who-knows-where. In recent decades, we have thus created a 'digital shadow' that has left huge historical footprints - known as Big Data.
Every visit to a website, every email, every order, and every article we read leaves an invisible digital footprint. I think if someone saw their own shadow-world, they would be shocked by all the data they’d spread around the planet.

Everything you do in life leaves traces. This is understandable in the real world and, as a society, we therefore set limits on how anonymous we are in private spaces. At home, we get our privacy behind closed doors, because nobody knows what we do behind them. For a government to access what goes on behind those doors, they need a search warrant from a judge.
Anyone on the street can be searched by the authorities and they may also examine the goods you have with you. That includes your mobile phone, which contains far more private data than was previously stored safely behind your closed doors.

Digital Trespassing

In the past, your calendar, diary, photo albums, contact lists, correspondence, and documents were safely locked away behind your front door. That made it safe for anyone who was not legally allowed to enter your home. Now, you take that data outdoors on your digital device and share it in the cloud. That data is barely protected by any laws. Edward Snowden recently summed it up nicely in the sentence, 'We used to say a man's home is his castle. Today a man's phone is his castle.' And this modern castle offers hardly any protection. But which data on your phone or in your personal cloud is part of your virtual house? And shouldn't your virtual house have the same legal protection as your physical house: privacy behind closed doors for everyone?

With the advent of virtual worlds and the Metaverse, legal protection has become much more important. Is your avatar legally protected? Can virtual goods be insured? Does the digital data you create also remain your property? In the world of blockchain, we have seen that NFTs can be created. These Non-Fungible Tokens are irreplaceable and unique, secured on a blockchain and linked to items or contracts. A digital property document in the virtual world that gives you immutable property rights. The hype around NFTs is substantial and they cover all kinds of digital collectibles that can be bought by virtual buyers.

New World, New Safety

We have started a transformation that is making our lives increasingly digital. And now, COVID lockdowns worldwide have proven that 'being digital' works. We can do almost everything digitally, both socially and professionally, that we can do in normal life. Like Yin and Yang, the physical and virtual worlds are intertwining ever more closely. But we must create the same security levels in the digital, virtual world that we have established in our 'normal' world. If we can't legally do that - after all, national borders are no limitation for virtual worlds - then technology must help us. And blockchain is of course a wonderful tool for exactly that.

I purposely say 'tool,' because blockchain as a distributed ledger is not enough on its own. It's a great way to connect distributed chains of immutable tokens, but it also needs to have a federated infrastructure that is secure and provides business continuity. And you must also be able to identify yourself unambiguously as a clear digital alter ego, as well as being able to store your data securely and unalterably. You must be able to communicate securely with other people. This new innovative world is still in part a blueprint, but the contours of the new solutions we need as a whole are becoming more visible day by day.

The Digital Metaverse

We are undeniably moving towards an integration of this Metaverse with our physical world. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a good reason for betting on this new development. He has also stated that the Metaverse will provide enormous opportunities for individual creators and artists. The Metaverse will be also important for industry, government, and professional users in the world of enterprise. The Metaverse can provide a professional, virtual world of services and digital products where security, reliability, availability, and continuity are the main values. In addition, decentralized, user-friendly applications eliminate security risks, offering secure data management that respects privacy and forms the basis for all kinds of applications and services. We can adopt cryptocurrencies, secure ownership of objects and documents with NFTs, and live in a world of peer-to-peer information exchange and corporate communication.

The new, secure business platforms of the future are developing clearer contours. The necessary virtual components, the distributed technology, quantum-based security, and crypto payment models are already available. Pilot projects have proven successful and just as with Moore's law in previous times, there is continuous improvement both of performance and cost savings in the fields of photonics, quantum computing, grid computing, and sustainability. The challenge now is to take the plunge and immerse ourselves in all the new techniques and methods that are available to us.
The old adage, creative thinking, contemplative action, remains valid and unabated. Now, we must learn to embrace the new world and enter it with confidence.

DigiThree offers a suite of cloud-based enterprise solutions to help businesses accelerate seamless digital transformation, implement highly-secure processes, and use blockchain to secure and improve processes.

Want to know more? Please contact us at [email protected].

Article by Hans Timmerman

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