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By: Alan Markoff

The Metaverse is already here

The Metaverse is already here

Blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, NFTs and metaverse, will fundamentally change they way people live in a decentralised "Web 3.0" world.

That was a prevailing sentiment of the speakers at the fifth annual Cayman Islands Digital Economy Conference – CYDEC22 – on 21 June at The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa.

The conference, which was held virtually in 2020 and 2021 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, brought together a mix of local and overseas speakers, and included one – Jennifer Vessels – who spoke virtually from Oslo, Norway.

A Silicon Valley innovator, Vessels is the CEO and founder of the company Next Step. She discussed some of the applications of blockchain technology beyond cryptocurrencies. The resulting "Life 3.0," as she called it, will heavily involve the metaverse, an immersive digital world facilitated by the use of virtual reality and augmented reality headsets.

"It's the blending of technology and humanity together," she said, noting that the shared immersive experiences of online gaming and the wider metaverse also merge "what is real and what is virtual."

However, fun isn't the only use of the metaverse, Vessels explained, noting that it allows for immersive training, remote working and global collaboration "without having to fly around the world."

The metaverse will also allow for improved healthcare by giving access to global specialists and for "digital twin simulations" that will help teach and improve surgical procedures and provide a safe method of testing medications and vaccines.

The metaverse can also improve mental health treatments, Vessels said.

"You can have virtual reality therapy where patients interact with situations that cause them anxiety."

Education can also improve using the metaverse.

"We tend to learn more by experiencing," Vessels said, adding that the metaverse offers a place for experiential learning. "Seeing and interacting with concepts deepens learning."

Instead of just reading or hearing about history, she said the metaverse will allow students to personally experience a war or other historical event.

The potential uses of the metaverse are vast and many haven't been invented yet, but Vessels pointed out some of the new applications in the world already, including J. P. Morgan Chase & Co.'s opening a bank branch in the metaverse and the country of Madagascar's establishing a virtual embassy so people can do things like apply for passports without having to travel to the embassy in the real world. Vessels stressed, however, that "human touch" will remain an important part of the future world.

"The more time we spend in the metaverse, in this digital environment, the more important humanity will be."


The ongoing volatility of cryptocurrencies continued in May and June, with Bitcoin and Ethereum losing more than $2 trillion – or two-thirds of their high watermark prices – since last November. The stable coin Terra and its associated token Luna crashed to become virtually worthless, bringing into question the viability of many other types of coins and tokens.

Cryptocurrencies might be down, but the conference speakers at CYDEC22 mostly saw this as just another phase with a very volatile asset class.

Panellist Ryan Watson of Brave Software said he thought the downward adjustment in the price of cryptocurrencies was "a necessary part of the cycle" for cryptocurrencies.

"There was a need to flush out the people who were in it purely for speculation," he said.

Watson is a firm believer that the value of many cryptocurrencies will eventually rebound, but investors have to understand their volatile nature as an asset class.

"With great risk comes great rewards," he said. "Some people can get completely wrecked. That's what we're dealing with."

Speaker Laura Birrell is the CEO of Parallel, a company that is authorised by the Cayman Islands Monetary Authority to facilitate the sale and purchase of real estate in Cayman using cryptocurrency. She said she believes cryptocurrencies represent "the next generation of wealth ... There are signs of crypto growth all around us," she said. "It is becoming more and more mainstream. It is not a fad. It is not going anywhere, despite the volatility in the market."

Birrell said using cryptocurrencies to buy real estate was a trend that is picking up globally, particularly in places like Miami and Dubai.

"It is a great way for buyers to consolidate their (cryptocurrency) profits," she said, noting that the ability to do real estate transactions with cryptocurrency is "attracting real wealth."

"We would like to see that wealth come to Cayman," she said. "Our view is that Cayman is perfectly positioned to lead in crypto sales in real estate."

Cybersecurity expert Ian Thornton-Trump spoke about some of the threats facing investors who buy cryptocurrencies or non-fungible tokens – usually referred to as NFTs – including those from scammers.

"A lot of the scams out there have targeted investors who didn't really understand what they're doing," he said. "There is the need for a lot of customer-required due diligence, so there's a bit of 'buyer beware' involved."

This article was originally published in the July/August 2022 print edition of Camana Bay Times.

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