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Autonomous Arbitration in the Era of the Metaverse – Lexology

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In 2005, Julian Lew spoke of his dream of autonomous arbitration – i.e., arbitration that is free from state interference. The theory of autonomous arbitration has remained a much-debated topic, with the most recent observation (by Ralf Michaels) being that autonomous arbitration does not exist and probably could not exist.1) However, in the author’s view, recent technological developments relating to blockchain technology and the metaverse, along with technology’s rapid penetration into the lives of the masses, have now enabled the materialisation of Lew’s improbable dream, and autonomous arbitration is already on the road to mass adoption.
Theory of Autonomous Arbitration
According to the autonomous arbitration theory, arbitrations must remain autonomous and free from state interference. Accordingly, international arbitrations must be governed by international rules and practices, and not national laws. However, proponents of this theory have acknowledged that parties must rely on courts for enforcement of arbitral awards. To quote Lew,
inevitably there are tentacles that float down from the international arbitration domain to the national jurisdiction, to assure recognition of agreement to arbitrate, to give effect to awards of international tribunals and to obtain assistance for the international arbitration process when needed”.2)
Admittedly, when parties refuse to voluntarily fulfil the terms of an award or directions of the tribunal during the arbitral process, the aggrieved party is constrained to knock on the doors of national courts, primarily those which have jurisdiction over the assets of the defaulting party. Most national courts, when exercising their jurisdiction, apply national law.
Michaels argues that, for arbitration to be totally autonomous, it must not rely on states at all, and must have its own enforcement mechanism.3) Whilst there have been considerable impediments to facilitating a totally autonomous arbitration, developments such as distributed ledger technology have changed this for the better. Prior to discussing how arbitral autonomy may be achieved, an understanding of its necessity is warranted.
The influence of arbitral autonomy in promoting commerce, through total party autonomy and procedural flexibility has been widely discussed. However, this article considers the impact of arbitral autonomy in making justice accessible to the masses. Currently, international arbitration mandates an understanding of national laws and state practices, as it continues to be influenced by states. Consequently, parties are constrained to bear the cost of such intervention, including the cost of appointing experts, such as arbitration practitioners familiar with international and national laws. In the absence of an affordable mechanism, parties to international disputes with limited resources remain remediless. To counteract this, the tentacles of state intervention must be slit, and an autonomous mechanism which permits parties to directly resolve disputes with minimal intervention must be formulated. The key to facilitating total arbitral autonomy, and consequently accessible justice, is blockchain technology.
Automating Enforcement via Blockchain Arbitration to Properly Autonomise Arbitration
One significant development which has facilitated arbitral autonomy has been the creation of blockchain arbitration platforms built on the ethos of decentralisation, providing affordable and efficient dispute resolution services to the masses. (The concepts of smart contracts and blockchain arbitration have been covered at length in this blog and can be understood here, here and here.)
Realising blockchain’s potential, several platforms have started to provide arbitration services, harnessing this technology, including Kleros, Jur and Aragon. These platforms facilitate automatic enforcement of arbitral decisions by formulating awards as smart contracts on the blockchain. Smart contracts are computer code, drafted as a set of promises to be automatically executed upon certain conditions being fulfilled.
As automation via smart contracts is entirely digital, the remedy stipulated in the award must also be digitally executable. For instance, an award for monetary compensation can be enforced via a smart contract, as money can be digitally represented. This smart contract will direct the digitally represented funds to be transferred to the winning party from an account linked to the said contract.
In most cases, the smart contract is linked to an escrow into which the parties would have transferred a pre-stipulated amount. This makes the scope of autonomous arbitration limited. Unlike conventional awards where parties have the option to approach state courts to attach assets of a defaulting party, here, parties are constrained to rely on the pre-stipulated escrow amount or a personal account with limited funds.
Consequently, if the award mandates a greater sum to be paid than what is available in the escrow or linked accounts, they may be compelled to seek court intervention. However, this issue may be remedied if blockchain arbitration, like conventional arbitration, comes to have the means to control the parties’ assets. This may be facilitated by representing assets digitally, which can then be linked to the smart contract. For instance, non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are a class of digital assets, which may be leveraged for blockchain arbitration. They are digital tokens recorded in the blockchain, which represent ownership of unique items.
The NFT boom of 2021 and the rapid growth of the metaverse indicate a future where ownership of digital property will be the norm. Whilst the past has been bleak for autonomous arbitration, the recent technological developments, and predictions on adoption of digital assets by the masses, indicate a positive future. Consequently, by leveraging ownership of virtual assets and currency to enforce smart contract awards, affordable blockchain arbitration mechanisms could be designed to be the go-to dispute resolution mechanism for the masses.
Metaverse and Autonomous Arbitration
A metaverse is an alternate virtual universe, where users in their digital avatars can interact with other digitally represented persons and items (see example here). Although originally habituated by gamers, metaverses have evolved in the last few years to provide a virtual alternative to human interactions beyond gaming. People can attend concerts, host weddings, or even raise digital pets.
The metaverse opens the door to ownership of a wide range of digital assets, which will include wearables such as clothes and accessories, collectables such as pets and artwork, and even virtual land. Last year, a digital representation of a Gucci bag was sold for over $4000 on Roblox. The smallest parcels of land in Sandbox and Decentraland, can cost over $11,000 and $10,000 respectively. Unlike the Gucci bag in Roblox, blockchain metaverses like Decentraland record digital items, including land, as NFTs. The ownership and usability of these NFT assets are not limited to the platform from which they are obtained. Your NFTs, much like cryptocurrency, are linked to your personal wallets, and can be used on multiple platforms. As our reliance on virtual assets and currencies increase, more parties will be inclined to have their disputes resolved via blockchain arbitration.
As we transform to this new virtual space, the services we currently access via Web 2.0, such as social media and e-commerce, will be replaced with services accessible via Web 3.0. For instance, Zoom meetings may be replaced by virtual meetings in a metaverse, where we would be wearing NFT clothes and renting an NFT boardroom. Consequently, interactions in Web 3.0 will give rise to a new class of commercial disputes, exclusive to this new world, furthering the scope of autonomous arbitration.
Conclusion
International arbitration, although developed to be a cost and time effective alternative to litigation, remains inaccessible to the masses. The 2020 decision of the Canadian Supreme Court,4) wherein the majority observed the concerned arbitration agreement to be improvident due to the high cost of arbitration, evidences this. As the metaverse’s borders become blurred and cross-border transactions between the masses become the norm, an affordable and efficient dispute resolution mechanism is indispensable. The answer to this is blockchain arbitration, which incidentally is also the key to unlock total autonomous arbitration. Blockchain arbitration platforms, in addition to creating a viable alternative to conventional arbitration, are building self-sufficient commercial arbitration communities, where everyone has the opportunity to deliver justice and engage in promoting commerce.
It has been predicted that a large proportion of people will be in the metaverse by 2030, in some way. Growth of the metaverse indicates the adoption of virtual assets and currencies by the masses. Consequently, parties will be able to access autonomous arbitration without state interference. To facilitate this, it is crucial to contribute to the growth of decentralised arbitration platforms, which provide affordable services to the masses by leveraging technology and community participation.
Some may continue to argue that the heavily criticised theory of autonomous arbitration remains improbable due to our reliance on intermediaries. However, considering the adoption of decentralised finance, despite our history of reliance on intermediaries, a self-sufficient arbitral mechanism is inevitable.
This article was first published at Kluwer Arbitration Blog here. Authored by Sneha Vijayan of resolutio firm
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Lamina1 Presents Inaugural “Open Metaverse Conference” Connecting the Worlds of Blockchain and the Metaverse for a Next-Gen Internet – Business Wire

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Featuring a keynote from co-founder and futurist Neal Stephenson, the first-of-its-kind event aims to empower creators and coders to build the Open Metaverse together
LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Lamina1, a Layer 1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse, today announced its role as founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, a first-of-its-kind industry event bringing together the worlds of the Metaverse and Web3 to build a more open and immersive Internet. The two-day conference will take place from February 8-9, 2023 in Los Angeles, California, and will gather experts and builders spanning Metaverse experiences, Web3, and entertainment.

Co-founded by Neal Stephenson, renowned futurist and science fiction author who originally coined the term “Metaverse,” and cryptocurrency pioneer Peter Vessenes, founder of the first VC-backed Bitcoin company, Lamina1 will provide the infrastructure to empower rapid expansion of the Open Metaverse. As the founding sponsor of the Open Metaverse Conference, Lamina1 will provide a forum for critical conversations around identity, privacy and interoperability, while exploring how audience engagement, creative storytelling, and the technicalities of blockchain can work hand-in-hand to make the vision of the Open Metaverse a reality.
The Open Metaverse Conference will feature keynotes from renowned technologists and storytellers who are pioneering visions for the next era of the Internet. Attendees will hear from Lamina1 co-founders Neal Stephenson and Peter Vessenes, as well as Philip Rosedale, founder of virtual world Second Life (Linden Lab) and co-founder of virtual platform High Fidelity, John Gaeta, Oscar-winning VFX pioneer (The Matrix) and CCO of character persona company Inworld AI, Cathy Hackl, Metaverse and Web3 strategist and founder of design consultancy Journey, and other industry crossover leaders to be announced. Keynote sessions will be complemented by diverse speakers and side events spanning games, art, entertainment, and commerce. To connect these key areas of culture with the technology that enables them, the Open Metaverse Conference will also facilitate technological deep dives for attendees from leaders in Web3, immersive computing, and technology standards groups. Presenting partners include the Metaverse Standards Forum, the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3), all organizations fostering interoperability.
“We are at a moment in time when developers, creatives, and producers can finally design the seamless and persistent experiences we’ve dreamed about,” said Jamil Moledina, Vice President of Games Partnerships and Media at Lamina1. “The Open Metaverse Conference will serve as the big tent for everyone who’s thinking about creating never-before-possible experiences that allow creators and consumers to enter unique virtual worlds on a level playing field.”
“OMA3 is pleased to collaborate with Lamina1 and the Open Metaverse Conference in promoting interoperability,” said Robby Yung, CEO of Animoca Brands. “OMA3 looks forward to developing talk tracks to encourage the creation of a more open and immersive internet.”
The conference will encourage interdisciplinary dialogue through debates, pitch sessions, roundtable discussions, and networking opportunities to help drive new ideas and connections.
“We felt a real sense of urgency to facilitate discussion with our colleagues and creators across the spectrum,” said Rebecca Barkin, President of Lamina1. “We know that the Open Metaverse will be built collaboratively and with a set of shared values, and we’re happy to provide this forum to address the needs of the community and to solve big problems together.”
For more information on the Open Metaverse Conference, visit www.openmetaverseconf.com.
About Open Metaverse Conference 
The Open Metaverse Conference (OMC) is an industry-first event presented by Lamina1 focused on bringing together the Metaverse and blockchain technology. The conference gathers key stakeholders spanning developers, creatives, producers, product owners, and executives to ask and address big questions around the development of a truly Open Metaverse that leverages open-source, collaborative principles and blockchain decentralization.
About Lamina1 
Lamina1 is a Layer1 blockchain optimized for the Open Metaverse. The brainchild of legendary futurist Neal Stephenson (who first conceptualized the term “Metaverse” in his 1992 best-selling novel Snow Crash) and Peter Vessenes, a foundational leader in the crypto space from the early days of Bitcoin – Lamina1 is on a mission to deliver the blockchain technology, interoperating tools, and decentralized services that will establish it as the preferred destination for creators building a more immersive Internet. It is the first provably carbon-negative blockchain in the world.
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Wachsman
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Facebook Founder, Zuckerberg Drops Out Of 10 Richest Men After Losing Half Of Fortunes – SaharaReporters.com

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According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
 
Meta chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg has lost his spot in the list as one of the 10 richest people in America.
According to Forbes, the Facebook founder has lost more than half his fortune—a staggering $76.8 billion—since September 2021, dropping him from No. 3 on The Forbes 400 list of the U.S.’ wealthiest people to No. 11. Worth $57.7 billion on this year’s list.
Zuck trails Walmart heir Jim Walton, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and other tech moguls such as ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. No one in America has lost as much money over the past year as Zuckerberg.
He has the cratering stock price of Meta (formerly Facebook) to thank for his exit from the top 10. Shares have plunged 57% since last year’s Forbes 400, which used stock prices from September 3, 2021. Tech stocks are generally in a slump with the market downturn, but Meta’s fall outpaces both the Nasdaq (-9.8%) and the S&P 500 (-13.5%), as well as Microsoft’s 14% decline, Google-parent Alphabet‘s 25% drop and Amazon’s 27% dive.
Investors are spooked by a privacy policy update from Apple last year that made it harder for tech companies to track users across apps, impacting Meta’s ad sales. Meta reported its first-ever quarterly revenue decline in July–a 1% drop, to $28.8 billion.
“Facebook makes most of its money from advertising, and now it just doesn’t have that data anymore,” says Mark Zgutowicz, an analyst at research and investment banking firm Benchmark.
“All those data signals went away, which basically means that advertisers are having trouble telling whether a campaign was successful or not.”
Compounding the problem for Meta, TikTok is luring away advertisers, along with lucrative Gen Z and millennial users. In February, Meta announced its first-ever quarterly loss of daily active users. A recent internal report showed that Meta’s TikTok clone, Instagram Reels, is struggling to compete, according to Wall Street Journal report.
Under normal circumstances, a slight dip in revenue might be manageable, but Meta is also investing heavily in virtual reality and the metaverse, which is dragging down operating profit. In 2021, the company’s metaverse division, Meta Reality Labs, lost $10 billion. While the metaverse is all Zuckerberg wants to talk about, investors are less enthusiastic so far. “It’s a long tail investment and, for now, it’s kind of a cash suck,” Zgutowicz says.
Zuckerberg first became a billionaire in 2008, just four years after founding Facebook. At 23, he was the youngest self-made billionaire at the time, debuting at No. 321 on The Forbes 400, worth $1.5 billion. By 2011, Zuckerberg’s net worth had increased nearly 12 fold to $17.5 billion.
This year isn’t the first time Zuckerberg’s net worth has taken a dive. After Facebook’s famously disappointing IPO in 2012, Zuckerberg fell from No. 14 to No. 36 on The Forbes 400. But it didn’t last long. The following year, Zuckerberg bounced back and, up until now, his fortune has continued to climb. Despite the litany of controversies and scandals plaguing the company, Facebook’s ad machine had reliably churned out enough money to impress investors, sending Zuckerberg’s net worth soaring to $134.5 billion last year, his highest net worth ever.
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Disney CEO Bob Chapek plotting a metaverse for Disney+ that will recreate their parks online – Daily Mail

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By Alex Oliveira For Dailymail.Com
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Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park.
CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow ‘the 90 percent of people that will never ever be able to get to a Disney park,’ to experience it in virtual reality.
‘We call it next-gen storytelling’ Chapek said in an interview with Deadline, noting that he didn’t like use the phrase metaverse ‘because it has a lot of hair on it.’
But regardless of whatever Chapek prefers to call the planned platform, many have responded by calling the move out of touch with Disney’s fanbase, and argued that if the parks stopped hiking prices more people would be able to visit.  
The move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger, and keep afloat amid controversies ranging from the park’s rising prices, to Disney’s stance on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill. 
Just last week, Chapek broke a months-long silence on an apology he issued in an attempt to quell Disney staff who were outraged by his failure to speak out against the controversial bill last spring, saying he chose to remain mum on the matter because he didn’t want to get Disney caught in a ‘political subterfuge.’ 
Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the media giant’s metaverse would exist on its streaming platform, Disney+, and allow people to experience park rides in virtual reality
Disney’s metaverse move comes as Chapek – who took the helm at Disney in 2020 – struggles to make a name for himself in the shadow of his innovative predecessor, Bob Iger
Chapek characterized the Disney metaverse as a way to experience the theme parks for the multitudes of people who are unable to actually make the trip in person.
‘We wish every person would have the opportunity to come to our parks, but we realize that’s not a reality for some people,’ he told Deadline, ‘we have before us an opportunity to turn what was a movie-service platform to an experiential platform and give them the ability to ride Haunted Mansion from a virtual standpoint.’
He said metaverse users would have an experience beyond what regular parkgoers have, and be able to step out of the ride-cars to explore sets and interact with characters. 
‘Maybe we’ll give them the opportunity what every single person in the park wants to do, and unfortunately too many of them do it, just to get off the attraction. See how it works, see how those ghost dancers move,’ he said. 

But many responded to the news by saying if Disney would just stop raising its prices, more of those 90 percent of people who cannot visit the parks would be able to.
‘Damn Disney. Just say it direct like that,’ wrote tech critic Juan Carlos Bagnell on Twitter, ‘90% of the HUMAN POPULATION is too poor to visit our parks, but hopefully some are less-poor-enough to own VR goggles and ride our rides in a metaverse clone…’
Commenters on the Deadline interview were equally unimpressed, with one saying ‘The reason 90% of people may not be able to experience the parks is because you keep hiking the cost of GOING to the parks beyond what most people can actually afford, Bob.’
‘Costs are up at the parks. Moral appears to be down. Iger had imagination and could adapt,’ said another.

Disney park prices have skyrocketed since Chapek was fully given charge at Disney in 2022. At California parks, ticket prices jumped 6 percent to $164 for single-park passes, while the price of getting into more than one park over the course of a day rose 9 percent to $319.
At the Florida parks the price to get into the park after 2pm rose to $169, while before 2pm fans were asked to fork over $194. Those prices could also rise based on an increased demand on any day.
‘If you’re the kind of person that budgets or saves for vacations, Disney Parks aren’t for you any longer,’ wrote a fed-up customer on Reddit, ‘That’s a Premium Physical Experience, and there’s plenty of national and international wealthy families to afford going indefinitely.’
And in August, as inflation scorched the US economy, Chapek warned those prices could continue to rise.
‘It’s all up to the consumer,’ he said, according to The New York Post, ‘If consumer demand keeps up, we’ll act accordingly.’
Disney’s metaverse would allow people to experience park rides like the Haunted Mansion without ever setting foot in Disney World
Chapek noted the virtual reality experience could go beyond simply sitting in the car and experiencing the ride the way park-goers do, but would allow people to step off of the tracks and explore the ride sets up close
Chapek has hardly been the happiest CEO on Earth since he took the reins at Disney.
After beginning his tenure in February, 2020, he was thrust immediately into the chaos of navigating Disney through the perils of the pandemic, which saw the media company’s primary revenue streams – theme park revenue and movie theater tickets – vanish like a pair of glass slippers at midnight.
To help steady the ship, Iger – much to Chapek’s ire, reportedly – was kept on in a leadership position through 2021.
But as soon as Chapek was given full control in 2022 his price hikes had customers raising eyebrows about whether he was up to the same scratch as the visionary Iger.
Those doubts were doubled-down on by Disney staff after Chapek decided to remain quiet on Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill, a law which barred schools from discussing sexuality or gender with children between kindergarten and third grade.
Many Disney employees viewed the law as homophobic and an affront to the inclusive values of Disney, and publicly voiced their outrage that Chapek did not speak out against it.
Chapek said the metaverse would also work in conjunction with real-world visits to Disney theme parks
Disney is plotting a metaverse that would let people experience the most magical place on earth without ever setting foot in the theme park
He later apologized to staff, publicly decried the bill, and announced Disney had paused all its political donations within Florida.
Last week, Chapek addressed that apology for the first time since he issued it, saying he had struggled to balance the needs and beliefs of every one of his employees and customers.
‘What we try to do is be everything to everybody,’ Chapek told The Hollywood Reporter in a recent interview, ‘That tends to be very difficult because we’re The Walt Disney Company.’
‘We certainly don’t want to get caught up in any political subterfuge, but at the same time we also realize that we want to represent a brighter tomorrow for families of all types, regardless of how they define themselves,’ he said.

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