On The Metaverse with Anndy Lianby@anndylian
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On The Metaverse with Anndy Lian

by Anndy LianOctober 22nd, 2021
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Anndy Lian is the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. He is also the Chairman, Asia for BigONE Exchange, which is developing decentralized finance (DeFi) DeFi is key to building the payment rails for an interoperable metaverse - what I like to call the ‘metaverseFi’ DeFi needs to play a key role in the development of the metaverse, to avoid two versions emerging: one dominated by the likes of Facebook and the other built on open interoperable platforms.
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HackerNoon Interviewer: First, tell us a bit about yourself. For example, name, profession, and personal interests.

My name is Anndy Lian. I have provided advisory across a variety of industries for local, international, public listed companies and governments. I am an early blockchain adopter and experienced serial entrepreneur, book author, investor, board member and keynote speaker.

Currently, I am appointed as the Chief Digital Advisor at Mongolia Productivity Organization, championing national digitization. I am also appointed as the Chairman, Asia for BigONE Exchange, a global cryptocurrency exchange started in 2017.

I believe in giving back to society. I am doing philanthropy work in Asia on my own, helping different grassroots organisations to aid several communities. On top of this, I am also the Non-Executive Chairman at EG Association, the social impact body of Elongate.

Please sum up what the metaverse is in 1 to 2 paragraphs.

Put simply, the metaverse is a virtual digital world that exists alongside the real world, though like the real world it’s got no single creator or commonly agreed on definition.

First used in Neil Stephenson's 1992 fictional novel ‘Snow Crush’ the term metaverse refers to a loose federation of 3D immersive shared spaces, including social media, augmented reality, online gaming, and cryptocurrencies and NFTs.

Are you currently, directly or indirectly, working on building a metaverse?

At BigONE as an innovative cryptocurrency exchange, we are supporting projects developing decentralized finance (DeFi) which are key to building the payment rails for an interoperable metaverse - what I like to call the ‘metaverseFi’.

DeFi needs to play a key role in the development of the metaverse, to avoid two versions emerging: one dominated by the likes of Facebook, and the other built on open interoperable platforms. Together with NFTs, the role of DeFi is to provide the essential infrastructure for the vision of an open metaverse which liberates us to explore our online identities in both work and play.

It’s understandable that many regard the metaverse as a tech concept that may never fully materialize into the grand vision for a virtual world of the future. Certainly, in its recent review of the metaverse, the BBC concluded, “everything is in the early stages. The evolution of the metaverse - if it happens at all - will be fought among tech giants for the next decade, or maybe even longer”. Yet just a couple of days later it reported plans from Facebook to hire 10,000 people in the EU to work on the metaverse.

However, on its own, the involvement of tech titans like Facebook is not enough to make the metaverse inevitable unless people see real value in it. This is why the work Facebook is putting into building VR remote working apps for its Oculus VR headsets is particularly relevant in our post-COVID world of remote working.

That said, we believe the ultimate success of the metaverse will rely on the engagement of engaged individuals and communities, connected by their use of gaming worlds such as Fortnite and able to easily build their online identity and creative work through crypto-enabled NFTs.

Why is the metaverse such a revolutionary concept?

Tim Sweeney, the chief executive of Epic, which is behind the metaverse-like game Fortnite explained the potential impact:

“This Metaverse is going to be far more pervasive and powerful than anything else. If one central company gains control of this, they will become more powerful than any government, and be a god on Earth.”

Clearly, the development of a fully functional metaverse has the potential to fundamentally alter how people interact with the digital world. A collective virtual experience would reimagine the creative industry and open new doors for creators, gamers, and artists.

Just as smartphones created the mobile internet the revolutionary impact of the metaverse would not just be in a parallel digital world, but it is connecting the digital and physical worlds together for the first time in a seamless experience.

As Mark Zuckerberg outlined recently in his vision of the immersive metaverse this for example would allow you to take your office with you whenever you went, and in return allow colleagues to see the full context in which you are working, from anywhere around the world.

What can people build in the metaverse that we can't build on the Internet, or in virtual reality today? What limitations of our current technology does the metaverse free us from?

Currently, our use of technology with smartphones isn’t in a simple sense that far removed from the vision of the metaverse, in that we are connected to our phone from waking up to going to sleep, talking to friends and colleagues, with a whole host of uses from dating apps to cryptocurrency trading. The vision for the metaverse is removed from what critics often see it as currently, a bolt-on VR headset like out of a scene from Ready Player One.

Rather it’s a place where we can merge our online and offline worlds together more naturally, so that for example in a workplace in the metaverse you would have a sense of being in the same physical space as people, as you do in the real world right now. But with the metaverse, we can dress our virtual selves as we see fit, attend the meeting from all corners of the world, and bring up documents and the like in a 3-D environment, rather than the current 2-D world of Zoom we deal with currently.

If you still cannot visualize what I am saying, for starters, you can find out more about metaverse from The Sandbox. You can experience, play, create, own real estate and monetize their virtual experiences. Snoop Dogg is there too.

A key reason why the future of the metaverse is inextricably linked to the use of blockchain technology comes down to the use of cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum as programmable payments rails. The properties of blockchain as inherently decentralized, trustless, and able to automatically compensate users means that developers can build apps for the metaverse confident they won’t be dependent on a proprietary payment currency as exists in online games currently, for example.

As metaverse guru Matthew Ball explains:

“Today, only a tiny fraction of online users and gamers even have a crypto wallet, and almost no brands and games issue NFTs. But irrespective of multi-month dips in the blockchain/crypto/NFT economy, we see more of these groups embrace blockchain-based experiences each month. This produces a virtual cycle that drives more users to register a wallet, mint an NFT, or integrate crypto assets.”

So, while we do not yet know what it will look like, or say when a metaverse is finally created, the key role of blockchain-based cryptocurrencies and NFTs in making it a reality is already apparent.

How quickly do you think the metaverse will be developed? How much can we expect metaverse tech to grow in the next 5 to 10 years?

The DeFi and NFT technology to enable payment and identity as well as interoperable wallets within different virtual worlds are already here, and only likely to accelerate in development following news of Facebook’s big bet in this sector.

Only in August this year the world’s first intelligent NFT was released by software developer Alethea AI this year, and later auctioned off for $478,000, while securing $16 million in funding via private token sale to create a metaverse populated by its bots. What’s interesting is that as AI bots, they have the potential to take the metaverse to the next level with “fully interactive, engaging and autonomous agents that can learn and evolve from the environment."

Therefore, as more and more connected technologies come together, pulling together blockchain and AI, NFTs, and gaming, the rate of development could see a tipping point in the next few years, which makes talk of timescales less useful than the kind of exponential growth that is already taking place in new technologies such as electric vehicles and AI.

What is your hope for the metaverse? Do you have any worries or does the concept pose any threats?

The metaverse has a lot of potential to bring people together, not just corporate works connecting with their colleagues over virtual meetings, but also in giving hope to people who’ve had less opportunity to earn a living for themselves or learn new skills. Certainly, the growth of play-to-earn gaming, with the likes of Axie Infinity, where a younger generation of gamers in countries like the Philippines shows how this can make a real financial difference to people’s lives. This is also why the role of DeFi in the metaverse, can be so important in providing people with a low-cost way to earn, save and send money from person to person.

I believe like any radical technology, which is attracting the attention of large players such as Facebook and no doubt governments keen to keep control of the internet, there are risks involved as well as rewards. But I’m optimistic that the decentralized community-led nature of the development of an interoperable metaverse will ultimately have positive outcomes if user safety is a key part of it using NFT and blockchain solutions.

Thanks for your time! Any final words?

The development of the metaverse concept may still be in its early stages, but the example of Facebook’s backing shows it’s here to stay, as people’s activities and technologies converge online. While we do not yet know what it will look like or say when a metaverse is finally created, the key role of cryptocurrencies and NFTs in making it a reality is already apparent. With the combined involvement of tech giants, the advancement of cryptocurrencies, and the NFT sector, it appears to be a matter of when, not if, the metaverse will become mainstream!

This article is part of The Gaming Metaverse Writing Contest hosted by HackerNoon in partnership with The Sandbox.

Submit your #gaming-metaverse story today for your chance to win up to $2000.