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Does the metaverse need crypto?- POLITICO – POLITICO

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How the next wave of technology is upending the global economy and its power structures
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By DEREK ROBERTSON 
04/27/2022 04:00 PM EDT
The Fidelity Stack in Decentraland. | Business Wire
Crypto and the metaverse drive this newsletter for a reason: Their relationship will matter a lot to how our next digital landscapes get built, and who oversees them.
Already, crypto is a huge asset class with growing attention from Washington. The metaverse, so far, is not like that. It’s a piecemeal virtual landscape that looks more like a bunch of experiments than a full economy.
Almost everyone agrees, however, that their futures are interlinked.
To a certain type of metaverse enthusiast, our virtual future is inseparable from blockchain technology — not just for practical reasons, but almost for moral ones.
One key question is something called interoperability. In layman’s terms, that’s the idea that your avatar and virtual possessions could be ported between different virtual worlds seamlessly and securely — you buy a shirt at a virtual mall in let’s say, I don’t know, the H&M-verse, and then enter the world of “Fortnite” and your avatar is wearing it.
There’s no specific reason this has to be done on the blockchain. Meta and Roblox and other virtual world-builders could just agree on some norms and make property interoperable between those platforms, or not.
But a lot of metaverse idealists want to see virtual worlds built more like the original internet — not controlled by any one company, and with value firmly resting in the hands of the users, rather than the world-builders. These people view blockchain technology as a necessary backbone of the metaverse. Blockchains are decentralized ledgers that exist outside of any one company, so anything of value stored on the blockchain will be really yours, not Mark Zuckerberg’s or Bill Gates’s.
A blockchain-based metaverse would look very different from one built by the modern tech giants. There are already nascent examples of both kinds. There’s Roblox, with its in-game currency, or Facebook’s Horizon Worlds, both essentially walled gardens controlled by one company’s platform. A counterpoint is the popular online world Decentraland, an Ethereum-based virtual world in which virtual “real estate” deals are reported regularly. Buyers there have spent millions of dollars in cryptocurrency on virtual “land” authenticated by NFTs.
It sounds great, in principle. But that idea also comes with complications.
I talked about this with Yonatan Raz-Fridman, the founder and CEO of metaverse games company SuperSocial, and co-host of Bloomberg’s “Enter the Metaverse” podcast. He described how as natural a solution as blockchain might be for interoperability, it also opens an entirely new vista of potential uncertainty and complication.
“Can you imagine a world where the entire internet is programmable money, and people need to deal with, ‘Oh my God, my virtual avatar asset just declined by 70 percent in value? What does that mean?’” Raz-Fridman said.
Raz-Fridman believes that the future of the metaverse will likely be a hybrid of the two models, with the big established platforms making concessions to interoperability that might be enabled by blockchain technology.
“If you think about companies like Apple, and Snapchat, and Meta, they understand that there’s something going on with blockchain and decentralized technology,” Raz-Fridman said. “Each of them are going to work on finding a way to integrate that school of thought.”
A hybrid virtual future would be pretty weak tea for Web3 enthusiasts who view blockchain technology as a revolutionary force that could supplant corporate tech giants, the financial system and even current methods of governance.
As with most pioneering technologies, that culture has an obviously libertarian bent. Regulators worry about the potential for anonymized criminal transactions and financial fraud in an economy meant to evade centralized oversight. But just as they purport to be looking out for the “little guy,” so do the Web3 cowboys — the premise of decentralization being it’s guaranteeing users’ rights and autonomy from corporate tech-world power.
It’s still not clear which of these philosophies will win out, but the metaverse is a high-profile arena in which they’ll both be tested.

Some interviews are easier to sit for than others. Hoan Ton-That, Clearview AI’s CEO and co-founder, most likely knew he wasn’t exactly going to get the Oprah treatment when he participated in a live panel with Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell. Clearview’s facial recognition technology, deployed recently in Ukraine to identify Russian soldiers, has earned the ire of U.S. lawmakers who fear its privacy-smashing use in law enforcement. Clearview has been fined by European legislators to the tune of tens of millions of dollars for the same thing.
Critics “feel like you’re kind of using this tragedy as a way to advertise, or potentially to launder Clearview’s reputation,” Harwell said. “What do you say to people who suggest that you’re using this war as a promotional tool?”
Ton-That mostly demurred at the question, pointing out PR-friendly uses for the tech like nabbing child predators or tracking down Jan. 6 offenders. As U.S. regulators have looked to Europe for models of how to rein in powerful new technologies, the difference between Clearview’s infamy in Europe and its widespread embrace by law enforcement in the States reveals a potential philosophical break.
“The U.S. sees facial recognition as a tool for law enforcement, and is quite deferential to law enforcement, and Europe just cares more about their citizens’ civil liberties,” said Jon Fasman, a reporter for The Economist and the author of We See It All: Liberty and Justice in an Age of Perpetual Surveillance. “It goes hand in hand with their data protection laws. They put their citizens’ interests first, and the U.S. puts law enforcement interests first in this case.”
It might not stop there: While European regulators recently called for a ban on the kind of database assembled by Clearview, and facial recognition in public places in general, some U.S. legislators are pushing for its adoption in even decidedly less life-or-death scenarios than crime or war. A member of New York’s State Senate recently introduced legislation that would enable facial recognition to be used as ID for alcohol or tobacco purchases.

Regardless of intent, it’s unsettling when a social media app’s name can be read as a command. Such is the case for “BeReal,” a new quasi-social network recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal as a no-frills, spontaneity-oriented alternative to the curated worlds of Instagram and its competitors.
The French app has a deceptively simple premise: At a random time during each 24 hour period, it prompts the user to take and share a selfie and a photo of whatever happens to be in front of them at the moment, a task for which they’re given two minutes. The unpredictability of the timing is meant to give users a more “real” look into the lives of their peers; there’s no time to primp, or mess with filters, or add a funny GIF.
Feel the realness. | via BeReal

So, you know, it’s more “real.” Which is apparently an appealing alternative — according to WSJ, nearly 7 million users have downloaded the app during the two years it’s been available. Of course, its “realness” exists within the parameters set by… BeReal. For an app whose function is premised on breaking down the barriers between our digital presence and our “real” life, there are weirdly stringent rules: A user can take a photo outside the two-minute time limit, but if they do, it tells friends that they were late, and by how much time. (It also reduces the amount of time users have to view their friends’ photos, as one can only do so after one has made a daily post.)
The advent of social media has caused users and critics to develop a near-religious fear and awe of algorithms. An app like BeReal, with all of its rules and built-in assumptions about what is and isn’t “real,” is a reminder that algorithms are ultimately just sets of manmade rules.

Stay in touch with the whole team: Ben Schreckinger ([email protected]); Derek Robertson ([email protected]); Konstantin Kakaes ([email protected]);  and Heidi Vogt ([email protected]).
Correction: Yesterday’s newsletter originally misstated the location of the EDHEC Business School campus where Gianclaudio Malgieri teaches. It is in Lille.
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Money Laundering via Metaverse, DeFi, NFTs Targeted by EU Lawmakers’ Latest Draft – CoinDesk

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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.
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com
K.C. Maas
Wachsman
kc.maas@wachsman.com

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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.
View the discussion thread.
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