The case against cryptocurrencies in the metaverse

This newsletter has already asked if encryption is it will be fundamental to the metaversebut it is a question worth revisiting.

The pro-crypto argument is that technology is the only way to secure digital property rights. ace up Andressen Horowitz’s note on the “essential ingredients” of the metaverse puts it “True digital property rights were not possible before the advent of cryptography, blockchain technology and related innovations such as NFTs.” Think of the recent craze for metaverse real estate: The NFT is a certificate of authenticity that acts as a “deed” for one’s “home”. This principle could therefore apply to anything from your avatar’s clothes to his virtual car to anything else used in a virtual world.

But Minecraft, one of the largest metaverse-like spaces, simply NFT banditsdirectly accusing them of being vehicles of financialization “inconsistent with the long-term joy and success of [their] Players. “Does this make the game outlier or ahead of the curve?

I spoke to Liron Shapira, an investor, entrepreneur, founder of the relationship coaching app “Relationship Hero” – and an outspoken crypto skeptic and Twitter boxer, asking him to evaluate the relative merits of the Web3 metaverse booster claims.

“It’s such a classic case of abstract reasoning that it sounds like it makes sense on an abstract level, but then when you open it up and get more specific it dissolves,” Shapira said of the argument that blockchain is the key to interoperability and Freedom from Big The strange grip of technology on our data. “It’s kind of nice to think what would happen if you didn’t have to trust me [those companies]but in practice it’s not a big deal … their examples don’t make a compelling case. “

A good example of Shapira’s argument came in his own January debate with Balaji Srivasan, a former partner of Andressen Horowitz (and former CTO of Coinbase) who argues that blockchain is a technology that changes the world. Shapira asked Srinivasan why use blockchain for registration or fundraising, for example, when DocuSign and Kickstarter are working well? Sophisticated payment systems already exist for digital financial transactions; why add another layer of obfuscation based on the “portfolio”? (Srinivasan’s counter-argument: that the programmable nature of blockchains makes them particularly valuable for facilitating the flow of money and increasing the number of possible transactions on it.)

But you don’t have to be a well-rounded crypto evangelist like Srinivasan to see technologies as potentially complementary. When I spoke with Matteo Palla when his book comes out “The Metaverse“- describing both the advantages and disadvantages of Web3 / metaverse integration without taking a stand – he said he sees the potential of the technology to make users less dependent on large companies, but is in tune with gamers and other consumers who simply they see it as a gain scheme (the same case the “Minecraft” developers announced their NFT ban).

And it’s not just the players that cryptocurrency’s reputation is on the decline right now, given the market crash and the growing likelihood of a regulatory crackdown. In light of this, it is easy to imagine that gigantic corporations keep their distance (especially considering those of Meta tortured history with cryptocurrencies).

The best argument for the instrumentality of cryptocurrencies in the metaverse would be a demonstrated everyday and ubiquitous use for it, but virtual real estate is more of a speculative ball than a high-impact app like Google Maps or, well, Facebook. Perhaps a new use will emerge, but as the two technologies develop, their relationship resembles less the interdependence and more the overlap of the good old style.

The Treasury today sanctioned Tornado Cash, one of the largest cryptocurrency mixers in the world, for its role in helping North Korean hackers (and others) launder stolen money.

What is a “cryptographic mixer”? A profit Ars Tecnica Explainer describes them as “creating a disconnect between the funds a user deposits and the funds the user withdraws”, pooling large amounts of users’ funds and then allowing users to withdraw initial funds Quantity they put, but not the same deposit. There are legitimate reasons someone might want to protect their privacy, but it also represents an obvious opportunity for large-scale money laundering.

And on a large scale Tornado Cash is gone: like Eric Geller of POLITICO known for Pro subscribers today the Treasury Department is accusing North Korean hackers of laundering $ 455 million worth of Ethereum through the service that was stolen as part of a March robbery. (And over $ 7 billion in total.) Tornado Cash isn’t even the first mixer to be slapped for providing such a service, after Blender.io in May.

A senior Treasury official told Eric that the efforts are aimed at “sending a strong message” to cryptocurrency companies with excessively weak intelligence-gathering capabilities.

It’s time for a long awaited update from DFD’s history of the future department this time from the literary world.

As part of a weekend Wikipedia rabbit hole, I came across an essay by Thomas Pynchon titled “It’s okay to be a Luddite? “, In October 28, 1984 New York Times book review. In it, the giant of postmodern literature faces the role that anti-Technologists have traditionally played in shaping our technological and scientific culture, providing catharsis to those who feel disoriented or repressed by “progress” – think Frankenstein’s monster avenging man’s arrogant attempt to play God.

The essay includes some oddly optimistic speculations about the “computer age,” noting that there seemed to be a growing consensus that knowledge is indeed power, that there is a rather simple conversion between money and information, and that somehow, if logistics can be solved, miracles may still be possible, “including a final rapprochement between the so-called Luddites and the techno-optimists. (So ​​much for that.)

Pynchon also alludes to the potential for such a modern Prometheus moment in the essay’s closing, where he points out that “If our world survives, the next big challenge to look out for will come – you heard it here before – when the search curves and development in artificial intelligence, molecular biology and robotics all converge. “

Which sounds a lot like “Blade Runner” (a film that was only two years old when the essay was released). But those curves – in the ongoing debates about how humans react to AI, the ethics of genetic engineering, or the meaning of “work” in an automated world – have only bent further upward from Pynchon’s writing. , if they have not yet reached an explosive convergence as he could have imagined. He hasn’t heard much from the lone author in recent years, but perhaps it’s not too much to hope for an exploration of the topics in another twilight era novel.

Keep in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Constantine Kakaes ([email protected]); and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]). Follow us on Twitter @DigitalFuture.

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