Metaverse not the endgame, but 'ongoing digital transformation': Davos 2023

The metaverse has been a buzzword inside and out of the Web3 world over the last year. Moreover, development in the metaverse is something that has remained strong relative to the overall turmoil of the decentralized space.

It is also a hot topic at the 2023 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland. The WEF has been developing its own initiative, “Defining and Building the Metaverse,” with the participation of over 120 participants, for which it held a press conference on Jan. 18. 

The WEF panel highlighted the initiative’s first two papers, which cover interoperability, governance and the consumer’s role in the metaverse of the future.

Huda Al Hashimi, one of the panelists and the deputy minister of cabinet affairs for strategic affairs in the United Arab Emirates, framed the future of the metaverse as a space to break societal barriers and not recreate the same issues.

“We have to ask ourselves why we are still stuck in the domains we want to break through. We believe that a breakthrough will happen.” 

Particularly when it comes to governmental bodies creating their presence in digital reality, Hashimi says the vision of the initiative has reimagined the role of regulators.

“We also see that regulators will be acting more like referees rather than gatekeepers. That code of conduct will actually take precedence over formulating policies.”

Across the globe governments have been exploring the metaverse. The UAE in particular has already launched a government-backed metaverse city in the country as one of its many initiatives in digital reality. 

Norwegian governmental offices have also opened up metaverse branches to cater to the generation of users.

Cathay Li, the head of Shaping the Future of Media, Entertainment & Sport and member of the ExCom at World Economic Forum Geneva, said regulations and value creation are two key issues that needed to be understood for a digital reality that is beneficial for users.

“There is tremendous economic and societal value in this. But if it is unregulated, then there might be some issues with privacy, safety and security.”

Li said that the metaverse should not be looked at as an “end state” to all of the work and developments underway now. Rather it should be seen as an “ongoing digital transformation” of human experience in digital reality. 

In addition to ideas of governance, the panelists touched on interoperability and user data generation within the metaverse.

Related: Seoul government opens city’s metaverse project to public

Siu Yat, the co-founder and executive chairman of Animoca Brands, noted that digital property rights are key to the interoperability needed in the next evolution of the metaverse. He said :

“If you don’t have judicial property rights, then you can actually have digital freedom – the freedom to transact because it’s always permissioned. I think that this lies at the foundation of making interoperability benefit everyone.”

All three panelists had a five year vision of the metaverse that is more integrated into most people’s everyday life, along with more clear governance structures in place. “The metaverse will be part of our lives whether we like it or not,” said Hashimi. 

Yat closed by highlighting that a metaverse in the near future will also have generated new economies, which could be of a national scale. 

“New national economies will spring out of the metaverse, like a virtual society that is real because of all the transaction value and all the commerce that’s happening on it.”

He particularly stressed that with more robust digital properties, users will actually be able to have a stake in these new digital economies. Recently, McKinsey reported the metaverse to potentially create $5 trillion in value in the next seven years. 

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