- The Global Collaboration Village is described as the first global, purpose-driven metaverse platform. The World Economic Forum has launched it in prototype in partnership with Accenture and Microsoft.
- A panel at Davos pitted decentralized Web3 disruptor Neal Stephenson versus a senior Meta executive.
- While it’s good that the WEF recognizes the importance of standards and universal access to with which to frame a successful next-generation internet, very little in terms of concrete action has resulted to date
Just as the arrival of the internet was heralded as a “global village” that would unite people in a universal exchange of information, there is now an effort to turn the next-generation internet into the “Global Collaboration Village.”
That’s because the vision of a connected global village has gone sour, exacerbating polarized views and leaving many without broadband cut off from participation.
While it far from being built, there’s optimism that the metaverse can be built with sturdier open to all foundations.
At Davos, the glamourized meeting of global financiers, the World Economic Forum talked about establishing the Global Collaboration Village, described as “the first global, purpose-driven metaverse platform.”
Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, described the initiative in an article on the organization’s website. “Created to enhance more sustained public-private cooperation and spur action to drive impact at scale, this global village will not replace the need to meet face-to-face but will instead supplement and extend our ability to connect regardless of where we are physically located around the world,” he said.
“Business executives, government officials and civil society leaders must come together to define and build an economically viable, interoperable, safe, equitable and inclusive metaverse.”
A prototype of the Global Collaboration Village was launched at Davos including Accenture and Microsoft, with the support of “leading global corporations, governments, international organizations, academic institutions and NGOs.”
“To create mass adoption, the metaverse must show that it is not just a replacement for what we already do but that it enables us to do things in new and more effective ways,” declared Schwab.
For example, people will be able to “dive in” to an interactive ocean experience that reveals the importance of safeguarding the ocean through collective action. In other words, instead of telling us how important mangroves are for coastal ecosystems, this global Metaversian vision “invites us to witness and experience the power of restoration and conversation for ourselves — all while engaging with global experts and innovators who are on the physical frontlines of this work.”
The WEF and supporters of this project may mean well, but this appears on the surface to be little more than a marketing stunt with no actual concrete plan to lead development of an open, interoperable internet.
Perhaps that’s understandable given that its paymasters at Davos are Big Tech, including Microsoft and Meta, which have a vested interest in shaping the internet to their own ends.
A bit more meat on these bare bones was provided by a panel discussion at the event featuring representatives from Meta pitched against the author and technologist Neal Stephenson.
Stephenson is building a blockchain intended to help individual creators make more money from the future internet than they currently do in an online landscape dominated by monopolies like Meta, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon.
“What we’re trying to do with the Lamina 1 project is to build a blockchain that is optimized specifically for creators,” says the futurist. “These are the people whose talents are going to be needed to actually make a metaverse that people are going to want to visit. It’s a kind of pure engineering project at this point.”
A core tenet of the metaverse is for people, as avatars, to be able to move friction-free from one experience to another, without having to continually log in and log out.
That means personal data in the form of identity (plus payment mechanisms and virtual assets) needs to be shareable and also secure. It is one of the basic frameworks that the WEF’s Collaboration forum needs to discuss.
For Stephenson there’s no doubt that identity needs to be distributed and decentralized “if the metaverse is actually going to work.”
Christopher Cox, chief product officer at Meta Platforms, agreed with the overall vision, but didn’t quite acquiesce that user identity needs to be decentralized (and outside of Meta’s walled garden).
“We view the feeling of presence as being the essential ingredient for the user experience, of something that feels metaverse-like,” he said. “I think the Internet’s a pretty good way to think about the metaverse because some parts of the Internet are very coherent with each other. If you’re inside of Wikipedia, if you’re inside Instagram, you know, these are experiences that are self-consistent, that have a single designer, that have a single server, that have a single privacy and identity model where you understand the rules. Those systems are interlinked,” he said.
“So you can move from Instagram easily to Google Maps. You’re not confused how you got there. The hyperlink was the thing that got you there. And I think part of what doesn’t exist yet for the metaverse is what is the hyperlink? What is the model of travel from sort of one set of experiences for the other?”
Stephenson conceded that both models have a decentralized, bottom-up approach to building the metaverse and that centralized, top-down approaches had their advantages, but came down on the side of Web3.
“[The metaverse] doesn’t happen unless you create an open system that’s kind of analogous to the early Web or the early Internet where anyone who’s interested can latch on to a shared protocol and begin to build what they want to build in that world.”
However, invited by the moderator to challenge Meta on the topic, Stephenson declined.
For his part, Cox largely swerved the answer, but toed the party line:
“One thing about the development of Facebook and Instagram is a lot of it is focused on giving tools to creators and tools to businesses. The creative tools that we give them is a lot of what makes the experience unique, along with some set of assurances around safety and privacy, which is where the centrality can offer a big benefit to the user.”
The digital divide is a conundrum for any kind of internet universality — in poorer or rural parts of the US as much as Rwanda, a country represented by a government minister on the panel.
Most people imagine the metaverse, and its experience of immersivity and presence, will be accessed not via a 2D flat screen but in 3D via AR or VR hardware.
“We believe that one day that computing platform will be as important as the smartphone has become in our lifetimes,” said Cox. “We’re working on a lot of the early R&D to bring that to life.”
He explained that Meta had spent the last eight years since acquiring Oculus to deliver a VR product line that is affordable enough, usable enough and impressive enough that it can be used in social experiences.
“We’re working on augmented reality, which is a much further out version of the future where you would wear, you know, a nice pair of glasses. It would be light, it would be comfortable, it would have waveguides that would allow you to see screens in front of you.
He also said Meta was building software to support a developer ecosystem of developers including filmmakers who are starting to make 3D content.
“We’re really just trying to start to seed the ecosystem of content and experiences for VR.”
For all its talk about the metaverse as a driver for progress and the rhetoric behind the WEF’s Global Collaboration Village, it was clear that in honesty not much progress had been made and nor would there be when those controlling the divided internet of today want to control it tomorrow.
Stephenson appeared exasperated too. In response to a question about how the metaverse can be engineered he said,
“In order for everyone to not die, we have to remove carbon from the atmosphere on a scale that is completely mind boggling, even to people who consider themselves really well informed about this issue. And that’s going to be the biggest engineering project in the history of the world.”
The metaverse may be a wild frontier, but here at NAB Amplify we’ve got you covered! Hand-selected from our archives, here are some of the essential insights you’ll need to expand your knowledge base and confidently explore the new horizons ahead:
- The Metaverse Will Make $5 Trillion By 2030. That Sounds Awesome and… Wait, What Are We Talking About?
- Metaverse Expectations vs. Reality
- A Metacode of Conduct for the Metaverse
- Metaverse Interoperability: Utopian Dream, Privacy Nightmare
- Consumers Are Confused About the Metaverse, But Seriously, Can You Blame Them?