NFT and the Metaverse: New technologies and their impact on our lives.

Araujo Novoa, Alejandro

We live in a world that is rapidly developing. A world where it is easy to fall behind and feel outdated even for the youngest generations. On occasions, we may find ourselves surrounded by concepts and technologies we do not fully understand yet, technologies that are going to affect the way we live in the future.

The perfect example of this is NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens) and the Metaverse, concepts of which most people know surprisingly little. In this article we aim to inform about these emerging technologies. What are they exactly? How are they going to impact our lives? It is easy to confuse NFTs for just another rising cryptocurrency, they even use the same blockchain technology that Bitcoin would. Nevertheless, as the name indicates, NFTs are non-fungible which roughly means that each one of them is unique, a non-interchangeable unit of data stored in a blockchain. To further exemplify this, if you change a euro for another euro you will still have the same amount of money, but this cannot be done with NFTs as each one of them is different from the others. NFTs are now widely used to indicate ownership over pretty much anything in the digital world but the extent to which they provide ownership is questionable, given that anyone can still download said content and enjoy it. You only own the original copy of that digital file.

The latest application of this technology is digital art, expositions of which can already be found on the Metaverse. Some of these art pieces that are now being sold online have already reached incredibly high prices. Let me exemplify, the highest price an NFT has been sold at was $69.3 million in March 2021. The NFT consisted of a collage of images created by Beeple, a 40-year-old American graphic designer who has been producing content since 2017. Not all NFTs reach such astronomical prices, but the amount of money moved in the market for digital art has attracted all types of investors who attempt to make a profit in this market. For example, YouTube star and influencer Logan Paul has launched NFTs representing himself in a Pokémon card. He has already earned an estimate of 2 million dollars and is planning to release another 5 million worth of them (The Verge, 2021). But why do people invest in content that they could download online for free and what exactly are they planning on doing with them? Expositions of these digital pieces of art are already being developed in the Metaverse, a virtual space where you can enjoy NFTs for sale and even participate in an auction for them. NFTs are being broadly used to assert ownership over different types of goods, not only virtual art, in the Metaverse.

But once again, what exactly is the Metaverse? The concept of the Metaverse is even broader than that previously explained by the NFTs, and it can also get tricky. To some, it might even feel almost like a videogame, a simulated digital environment where you can create an avatar and interact with other users. A persistent world that develops even when you are not online (XR Today, 2022). The limits of what is and what is not in the Metaverse can often be blurry. But it is only normal that questions regarding its nature appear, in the same way they did when the Internet was only a work in progress. Because that is what the Metaverse currently is, a project that is still being developed by videogame companies and technology giants, most of which are based in the United States or Asia. Examples of these companies could be Chinese giant Tencent or Meta Platforms, formerly called Facebook until December 2021 (WIRED, 2021). Nevertheless, the Metaverse is going to open a new horizon of possibilities and is already providing us with examples of what it could mean for us in the future. According to experts, it is already possible to move office jobs to the Metaverse and it is not far-fetched to think that it may be common in the future (UC Today, 2021). A virtual office with immersive reality would allow us to save on transportation costs while allowing better communication
than online work as understood now. It would also provide firms with unlimited working space and higher interoperability. Not only that but there are also other positive consequences that virtual offices could offer, such as liberating office space which could be then transformed into residences, or reduced pollution due to commute.

So far we have only seen the tip of the iceberg regarding the extent to which the Metaverse and the NFTs are going to impact our lives and on how many aspects they are going to do so. What is clear is that these new technologies will, sooner or later, be of great relevance to the society we live in. For this reason, it is important to stay updated about the events around us, as hard as that can be in this ever-changing world we live in.

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