– Bobby Suman, Fintech Finance
Goldman Sachs predicted that the metaverse exists as an $8 trillion global market opportunity. In a report released by Citi Global Perspectives and Solutions (Citi GPS), the metaverse could even represent a total addressable market worth $13 trillion by 2030. The potential is clearly in front of our eyes and it’s up to us to separate the noise and signals, to truly understand the capabilities of the metaverse. In speaking with Ronit Ghose, Future of Finance at Citi, I was able to find out some of the most exciting opportunities about the metaverse, the misconceptions people have about it and much much more.
“The Next Generation Of The Internet”
“Anything that can be done digitally is going to be impacted by the metaverse”, said Ghose. In the context of enterprise, the way we work is going to be reshaped, just like how Covid changed our working style. If anything, Covid was an accelerant in metaverse adoption as “our patterns of behaviour have completely changed so that we are completely primed and ready for the metaverse.” Ghose spoke admirably as he explained how whilst the younger generations may have been “metaverse-ready” when it comes to technological savvy already, the pandemic primed those who were less technologically savvy to the metaverse world too, with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, having to FaceTime to communicate, all making everybody ready for the 3D visuals of web3 and metaverse that is being offered. “We may not have holograms beaming out of our phones but it’ll be a more intuitive, rich experience so that, profoundly, everything we do is going to be touched by the metaverse.”
When we think of the next generation of the internet, what also comes into play is another layer of regulatory principles to abide by. Existing principles like content moderation and such will no doubt run parallel in the metaverse, but are regulators ready? With all technological developments, innovators usually push ahead and then regulation follows, because if you try and regulate something before it exists then you’ll kill any chance for it to grow. With that in mind, regulators might not be ready for the metaverse yet, however it’s much smarter to work with the emerging technology as time comes and goes.
With all the attention the metaverse has gained in the last year, it’s easy for the reality to become clouded. “The biggest misconception is that so many people automatically assume that it’s only VR. VR is important and has some great use cases but the metaverse is about how any interface and any access point gives me a 3D, immersive world” explained Ghose. Furthermore, the metaverse is misconceived to be purely about gaming, or a toy. In fact, the metaverse has a variety of use cases, such as in enterprise, health services and education, which Ghose is most excited for as a trend in the future. “Getting the kids interested in online learning has been hard.” Having the ability to transport pupils to iconic visual moments in history, whether it’s the Battle of Hastings or The French Revolution, could truly galvanise attention beyond traditional classroom practices. “Say you’re studying Indian history and you’re transported to the Declaration of Independence and taken to the midnight speech, the whole class is transported to that moment in history where you’ll retain so much in a truly magical experience.”
In terms of health too, Ghose cited how patients who were geographically distanced away from their doctors could still receive medical experiences via the metaverse. In fact, the services could be provided in a 3D, much more user friendly, accessible way where medical specialists could, with the help of a doctor on-site, provide advice for treatments, exercises, or even assist in surgery. “Ultimately, people are missing the ubiquity and diversity of the use cases.”
Gaming could be big initially but I think it’ll be more social. “In a positive and a negative way, the internet is really good at connecting people to each other, to information, and this will just be the next step”, continued Ghose. “For older people, maybe Covid has allowed them to accept zoom and become more digitally savvy. But think of the joy you bring when you could see them in 3D via a call, the joy and happiness it will bring people. The way to think about the metaverse is that it’s not physical being replaced by digital, it’s merging the good things about physical into the digital”
Addressing The Negatives
There’s no light without the dark. “Web2 issues around privacy, content moderation, and data security are problems we are all extremely familiar with. In a study conducted on 10,093 US adults in 2020, it was found that roughly 4 in 10 experienced online harassment. In a broader sense too, nearly two thirds of all Americans experience online harassment. That’s a huge figure. What happens when somebody is abusing me in a hyper-realistic way in the metaverse? Or if a child is in a forum where the abusers in a physical world get reproduced in a virtual world? How do we create safe spaces in the virtual world? For young people, a digital assault can be as traumatic and shocking as a physical one. This is especially true given that research from security.org shows 21% of kids aged between 10 and 18 have been victims of cyberbullying, primarily through social networking channels. In a metaverse all about connectivity, how do we monitor that? It’s a gateway to amazing connectivity and knowledge but it can also be a portal to hell.” Ghose was honest in addressing these completely valid and realistic concerns, but it comes back to that point with regulation again. These are fears and issues the metaverse will prepare for, but will continuously manage and reorganise with all trends that the metaverse develops in its evolution.
Whilst Ghose was honest in stating he is not in a position to make a judgement on the metaverse from an environmental perspective, I think it’s valuable to cite the fears of Hannah Duncan here. “Environmental analysts are worried. For the metaverse to work, Intel revealed that a 1000-fold increase in energy is needed.” That stat alone is staggering to comprehend, considering how much businesses claim they’re already doing in the race to Net Zero and the energy price increase that many feel severely strained by. Duncan points out that “high-end gamers pump 2,000 pounds or 907kg of carbon emissions into the atmosphere each year, which, I believe, is closer to the level of environmental harm that the metaverse would do.” Will we ever have the infrastructure to support this? Again, whilst there has been so much hype created for the metaverse, we are still in extremely early stages of development – thus, time will have to tell.
If you want to view more data on the topic, feel free to browse Citi’s report here.