Mark Zuckerberg, my billionaire doppelganger, described the metaverse as “an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it.”
Zuck went on to describe the metaverse with the same youthful, giddy excitement that we saw in Jeff Bezos before he strapped himself to a rocket.
So, how will the next iteration of the internet change how we live? How we interact? And most pertinently for this site, how will the metaverse change how we handle our money, and the financial landscape as a whole?
What is the metaverse?
The metaverse is the PR buzzword for the sequel to the internet.
It means different things to different people, but the consensus seems to be that it’s going to resemble The Internet… In Virtual Reality!
Naturally, each of the Silicon Valley tech giants has their own grand plans for the metaverse. Microsoft has remained more mum on the subject, focusing more on their recent acquisition of gaming giant Activision for now.
Meta, rather appropriate, is way more focused on the metaverse. And on October 28th, they shared their grand vision with the world.
Meta’s Connect 2021 keynote gave us the most tangible vision of what the metaverse will become, what it’s capable of across industries, and how it’s going to impact our lives.
Here’s a TL;DR of Meta’s 77-minute presentation on the metaverse
Zuckerberg and co. broke up their metaverse keynote into an ominous 13 chapters. Each one was surprisingly dense with data, demos, and reveals, so I thought they deserved their own separate TL;DRs:
- Mark Zuckerberg himself reveals Meta’s plans for the metaverse – “to build it together,” i.e. to give creators tools to design immersive VR games, worlds, workspaces, and experiences.
- It’s interesting – Meta seems more focused on empowering us to build out the metaverse versus building it out themselves.
- You can use the metaverse to seamlessly teleport in and out of 3D realms – from concerts to conferences to poker night in space.
- “Horizon” is Meta’s sub-brand for its easy-to-use space and game-building tools.
- A young woman in Kyoto is scrolling through Insta when she sees her friend posting from a live concert across the world. She taps a button and instantly teleports there.
- She and her friend attend a Meta-exclusive afterparty and shop for NFTs (surprise surprise, Meta is building a proprietary NFT marketplace).
- Mark shows off some upcoming games for Oculus (Meta’s proprietary VR headset). They include Blade & Sorcery: Nomad and GTA: San Andreas VR. Nothing too groundbreaking.
- Zuck touts a funky VR visor insert that’s supposed to help wick away sweat – a much-needed innovation, if you ask anyone who’s worked out in VR – and also shows off a few neat VR fitness apps.
- We see avatars and holograms projected across a virtual conference table, where colleagues presumably at an architecture firm display and manipulate a 3D blueprint in real-time. It’s very Minority Report and very cool.
- Zuck claims that the metaverse will boost jobs, productivity, and even help to fight climate change by reducing flights and traffic. Hard to argue.
- Marne Levine, Meta’s Chief Business Officer, shows how students and educators can use Meta to explore realistic VR spaces like ancient Rome, the inside of a car’s engine, or the human body. It’s honestly pretty neat.
- Meta announces that they’re dedicating $150 million to pay creators to build “immersive learning experiences.” Sounds like a potential job opportunity for someone entering the education or instructional design field!
- Zuck claims that one of Meta’s primary missions moving forward is to reduce “fees” for developers and creators, buyers and sellers.
- Everything you buy in the metaverse “will go with you.” If you buy a cool outfit from a video game, for example, you’re no longer restricted to wearing it inside that game. Your avatar can wear it anywhere.
- The owner/curator of an Insta-based design business describes how Meta would allow her to effectively invite clients into her “home” to build connections, make more sales, and even create 3D popup shops and sell virtual products that open windows to 3D experiences.
Building the Metaverse together
- Some Meta devs show off some neat VR creator tools.
- Zuckerberg and Nick Clegg awkwardly dance around the glaring issue of Facebook’s illicit data mining and the role it played in misinformation campaigns – some of which ended in real-world violence. Zuck relied on vague buzzwords like “principles” and “responsibility” to get through it.
- This section was definitely the big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Cringe we all knew was coming at some point in the keynote.
Building the next devices to unlock the metaverse
- Zuck and Angela Chang, Meta’s Director of Product, VR Devices, announce Meta’s intentions to make VR headsets as wearable as everyday reading glasses. I personally can’t wait for those, but they’re apparently 10ish years out.
What will it take to make the metaverse feel real?
- Michael Abrash from Meta’s research team shows the technology breakthroughs needed for a seamless, photorealistic, and 100% immersive VR experience like we saw in Ready Player One.
- He also showed off the graphics fidelity they’re targeting for VR words.
The next chapter
- Zuck claims that “in our DNA, we’re a company that builds technology to connect people.” Hmm.
- Zuck describes the main problems that Meta is attempting to tackle via their entry into the metaverse: the fact that our apps don’t really talk to each other, and the various high “taxes” on creators generating digital content.
- “Together, we can unlock a massively bigger creator economy”.
Phew. What a breathtaking amount of information to unpack.
So, before we dive into the financial stuff, let’s address the big elephant in the room: the controversy, and why the world is terrified of Meta’s plans for the metaverse.
The metaverse seems kinda neat – or at least benign – so why are we terrified of it?
Meta’s family of products, most notably Facebook and Instagram, have been blamed for stoking ethnic violence in Ethiopia, preventing the spread of misinformation leading to the January 6th Capitol Riots, and causing one in three young women to have body image issues.
Worse still, we have evidence proving in all three of these cases that Meta knew this horrible stuff was going on, and did almost nothing about it.
In short, experts are worried that all of the problems social media generates today – misinformation, division, mental health issues, addiction, and body image problems – will only get worse in the metaverse.
And that’s not even counting the new problems that the metaverse might generate, including something the current internet has largely suppressed: price discrimination (which I’ll go into later).
How will the metaverse change our financial landscape?
For the next section, let’s assume that Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the metaverse moves forward as intended, and the adoption rate skyrockets in the next five to ten years.
Will the metaverse change the way we handle our personal finances? Will certain stocks explode? How about crypto and NFTs? What investments and/or job opportunities should Gen Z look out for as the metaverse becomes a reality?
Let’s explore how the metaverse will change our financial landscape!
NFTs will become a bonafide part of your investment portfolio
Make no mistake; NFTs are already here. According to projections by investment bank Jefferies, the market cap for NFTs is slated to hit $35 billion in 2022 and over $80 billion in 2025 (CoinDesk).
That’s a staggering forecast for an asset class that most people don’t even understand yet, let alone value.
But the metaverse is poised to change all that. Not only will NFTs be easier to acquire (no more clunky gas fees and loading wallets with Ethereum), they’ll also become a much bigger presence in our daily lives. You’ll be able to visit NFT art galleries, hang NFTs in your virtual home, and buy/sell/trade them with ease. Heck, your friends and colleagues will be wearing NFTs on their avatar.
Thanks to the metaverse, I think we’ll see NFTs finally explode the way crypto did in the late 2010s. As both a digital asset and an investment, they’ll go from niche to mainstream to crazy in-demand.
Prices will rise, Meta will curate a thriving marketplace, and soon, your financial advisor may very well ask you what NFTs you own – and factor their current market value into your investment portfolio.
“Interoperability” will make Meta obscenely rich
One of Mark’s favorite words to use during the keynote was “interoperability.”
It sounded like he was saying “let’s create tons of apps and games that work well together.”
But I think what he was really saying was “let’s create tons of apps and games that work well together… within the Meta family of products, and using Meta building tools.”
After all, if Meta truly believed in full interoperability, even with their competitors’ territory inside the metaverse, why would they have their own proprietary VR headset that required a Facebook account to use? Why not play ball with Sony VR or HTC Vive?
In the current iteration of the internet, Meta and Google have a tenuous relationship at best. YouTube videos are still suppressed on Facebook, and Google has tried to dethrone Meta’s social media dominance several times (see Google Plus).
So when I hear Mark tout interoperability in the same breath he mentions Meta-only creator tools, I’m confident that what he really means is that he wants the metaverse built out of Meta-branded bricks.
The more apps, games, and spaces that are built using Meta’s products, the more the company can monitor and monetize the Metaverse.
But hey; maybe that’s not such a bad thing. If their creator tools are as robust and easy-to-use as they claim, and they stay true to their stated goal of minimizing creator fees, maybe Meta really could make owning and operating VR spaces cheaper for all.
One thing’s for sure; even on razor-thin margins, Meta is going to make a killing from leasing space in the metaverse.
Consider that when you start handpicking the blue-chip stocks in your brokerage account 🙂
Crypto will play a huge role – but none of today’s top cryptos will be invited
Thinking of scooping up some Bitcoin and Ethereum before the metaverse sends them to the moon?
There’s no doubt that blockchain and crypto will play a huge role in the development of the metaverse. Blockchain may very well be the concrete it’s built out of.
However, it’s very unlikely that any of today’s cryptos will be involved.
And it’s not because Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Dogecoin are too volatile. I mean, they are, but that’s not the main reason they’re poorly suited to power the metaverse.
Rather, the top cryptos changing hands on Coinbase and eToro are just too… old-fashioned.
That’s funny to say about something as cutting edge as crypto, but it’s true. You see, Bitcoin, Ethereum, and their ilk all use what’s called a “proof-of-work” model of self-maintenance. That means they require mining. Mining requires a breathtaking amount of computer power, which itself comes from power plants.
That means that in certain places, Bitcoin and Ethereum quite literally run on fossil fuel.
The other problem isn’t just what kind of power they’re using – it’s how much. As of August 2021, the Bitcoin blockchain alone was consuming more power per day than Argentina (CNET).
Therefore, just like a Hummer H2, a gas-guzzling cryptocurrency has no place in a clean, green future. Just ask Tesla, who no longer accepts Bitcoin as payment since it goes against their core pillars of being energy-efficient.
The metaverse’s new stablecoins could provide a fresh source of easy, passive income
I predict that we’ll see each tech giant introduce their own proprietary stablecoin to the metaverse.
Heck, I don’t really even have to predict. Meta’s is already here; it’s called Libra.
Stablecoins are cryptocurrencies that try to peg their value to a real-world asset or fiat currency like $1 USD. This makes them much easier for newbies and non-investors to trust, understand, and start using just like existing dollars and euros.
In addition to having more predictable daily values, the new wave of metaverse stablecoins will use the slick, ecological new replacement for proof-of-work, which is proof-of-stake.
Proof-of-stake uses crypto, not mining, to maintain the blockchain. That makes it way, way more ecological and sustainable. If proof-of-work is a Hummer H2, proof-of-stake is a Nissan Leaf.
OK, so where’s the money-making opportunity here?
Well, stablecoins aren’t appreciating assets. So you can’t buy a boatload of Libra and just ride it to the moon.
You can, however, stake your crypto by essentially loaning it back to the blockchain in exchange for a trickle of more crypto.
You can think of it like opening a high-yield savings account on the blockchain.
So, one day soon, there may be an opportunity to convert lots of USD into metaverse stablecoins, stake them, and generate passive income. At some point soon, the metaverse may have its very own interest rate – hopefully higher than the pithy 0.50% we’re getting from savings accounts today!
Metaverse developers will make bank
Remember when your teacher said “most of you in this room will get jobs that aren’t even invented yet”?
Well, I think one of those jobs has just been invented, and that’s the Metaverse Developer.
Now, Meta was quick to show off just how easy using its Horizon creation tools would be. They made it look like you could create a bonafide 3D workspace in just a few flicks of your wrist like Albus Dumbledore.
But I promise you this:
Even if building out the metaverse using Meta’s creation tools is super easy, Fortune 500 companies will still pay young developers $100+ an hour to build out their pages for them.
I make this conjecture with confidence because it’s already true today; DIY site-building tools like Wix, Weebly, and Squarespace have been around for years, and businesses of all sizes still outsource their web page development for crazy high fees.
Granted, market saturation has forced web development fees to come down a bit over the years – but the metaverse will be a totally blank canvas.
If you’re one of the first people to show up with a paintbrush, you’ll be the opposite of a starving artist.
Your internet will get faster (and certain telecom stocks will explode)
According to Insider, the average home internet speed in America in 2020 was between 12 and 25 megabits per second.