Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash”, the birthplace of the metaverse, was not a cheerful book. Imaginative and ahead of its time, it foreshadowed a disturbing future in several respects. A twin world (real and virtual) run by a gamut of corporatised criminal monopolies, highly socially stratified and brought to the brink of extinction by a combination of corporate greed and religious extremism. Granted, the distinction between science fiction and reality is evident. Yet, there are aspects of Stephenson’s nightmare that we cannot consider altogether inconceivable in our current race to the metaverse.
Facebook and Microsoft have both rolled out ambitious plans for the metaverse. And while Google has been relatively silent, it emerged last month that the company is intensifying its work in the Augmented Reality (AR) space. This technological foresight has coincided with fresh scrutiny on tech giants over monopolistic practices and user data management. Unsurprisingly, the alternate reality sphere with nonexistent regulatory roadblocks has been identified as the next avenue for exclusive control and data harvesting.
The threat of a big tech-led meta-monopoly is genuine. It could shape user experience in the metaverse and define the myriad ways in which future technologies will intersect with our political and cultural life.
Privacy in a centralised, monopolistic metaverse
We previously discussed the importance of privacy in the context of the metaverse.
The one-way traffic of Web 1.0 and the permissioned user-generated content that is Web 2.0 enabled the rise of big tech monopolies whose expansive reach due to systematic acquisition of competitors has made them challenging to define as a collective. Yet if a single business model collectively describes big tech today, it is “spying as a service”.
This graphic below captures how frequently and profoundly tech giants have breached the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
But privacy alone is only part of a more significant, worrisome threat that big tech monopolies pose in the metaverse.
A scramble for meta-monopoly status?
Within the past 30 years, the FAMGA tech giants (Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Google, and Apple) have collectively made over 800 significant acquisitions, a hobby of monopoly that portends disaster for advocates of free and permissionless internet.
In the metaverse, big tech giants will create virtual worlds that encompass a variety of everyday experiences, working, gaming, studying, and more. The normative challenge for such spaces is the extent to which users can alter, shape, and define it. Effectively, Web 2.0 enabled the erection of social media walled gardens that encourage individuals to share activities and create memorable experiences within strictly limited and regulated constraints. Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and others exercised ultimate control over the content and ecosystem. This control enabled spying on a massive scale and auctioning user data to the highest bidder.
Today, these companies face stiff competition from decentralised solution providers like our Cudos network. We are currently testing our free and decentralised ecosystem to support DApps and NFTs in the metaverse. Our network will also meet the compute and storage needs of various projects in the metaverse. You can support this vision by reaching out to us. We support NFTs natively on the Cosmos chain and are well-positioned for a vital role in the economy of the metaverse.
In Stephenson’s monopoly-dominated Snow Crash, the use of public access terminals to gain entrance into the metaverse carried a stigma and signified low social status. A metaverse controlled by centralised monopolies could be equally socially stratified and segregated. It must be prevented at all costs!
The Cudos Network is a layer 1 blockchain and layer 2 computation and oracle network designed to ensure decentralised, permissionless access to high-performance computing at scale. It enables the scaling of computing resources to hundreds of thousands of nodes. Once bridged onto Ethereum, Algorand, Polkadot and Cosmos, Cudos will enable scalable computational and layer-two oracles on all bridged blockchains.