After being urged to stay indoors for the better part of two years, the lust for escape is inevitable. Many seem to be finding solace in the idea of a metaverse. It’s not strictly defined — some see it as an extension of the physical world, others as a wholly digital reality — but put simply, it’s a new realm to exist in and explore.
Over the past year, we’ve seen people flock to virtual worlds like Decentraland and Sandbox. Even household brands including Samsung and Nike have set up shop in such spaces. The UFC is also planning virtual fights and K-pop labels are promoting virtual stars; however, that’s not to say that this idea is universally accepted. In fact, there’s quite a long way to go.
As with any new innovation, scepticism is quick to follow. When it comes to the metaverse, this has been especially true among Singaporeans.
Milieu Insight recently conducted a survey across Southeast Asia to gauge the general sentiment around the metaverse. While most countries’ respondents felt largely positive about the development, Singapore stood out as an exception.
56 per cent of Singaporean respondents chose at least one positive emotion — from a given list — when asked to describe their thoughts on the metaverse. The average across other Southeast Asian countries was 72 per cent.
How do S’poreans feel about the metaverse?
Among the countries surveyed, Singaporean respondents felt the least hopeful and most uncertain about the metaverse. Despite being dubbed a ‘crypto hub’, the country also recorded the highest proportion of respondents who had no opinion on the matter.
This ties in with the results of another survey conducted by Finder which ranked countries by cryptocurrency ownership. Out of 27 countries, Singapore ranked 11th — well behind Vietnam, Indonesia, and Philippines, all of which found places in the top five.
Although Singapore has provided immense support to blockchain startups — through initiatives such as the Singapore Blockchain Innovation Programme — the country has been wary of the general public investing in the space.
Most recently, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) issued guidelines to prevent crypto exchanges from advertising to the general public. Investors remain free to purchase cryptocurrency, however, the central bank discourages using it for speculative trading.
Another reason for Singapore’s disinterest in the metaverse could stem from the country’s median income. At around S$4,500 per month, the median monthly salary in Singapore is almost four times that of countries including Vietnam and Philippines.
Therefore, the allure of play-to-earn crypto games — such as Axie Infinity, where active players can earn up to S$20 per day — might not resonate as strongly among Singaporeans, as it does with others around Southeast Asia.
What do S’poreans dislike about the metaverse?
Among those who felt negatively about the metaverse, the most common reason was their concerns over data security and privacy. This response might betray a lack of understanding rather than a genuine concern.
In reality, data security and privacy are two key arguments in support of blockchain technology. Decentralisation ensures that transactions can be made without users having to reveal personal information or have it stored on a company’s servers.
Another reason which sticks out is ‘Companies that are building the metaverse cannot be trusted’. It seems to imply the metaverse is a singular object which is being built by a myriad of companies. That’s certainly not the case.
Once again, it ties back to the idea of decentralisation. By its very nature, there’s no single authority which could control the metaverse.
Then, there’s ‘Developmental issues in teens/children’. This might be a valid concern regarding the use of computers or mobile devices in general, but there’s no reason to believe that the ‘metaverse’ would add any further detriment.
Through these arguments, I don’t mean to say that the concept of the metaverse is without fault — only that the reasons being cited in this survey aren’t all that well-reasoned.
Should children be allowed to participate in the metaverse?
Across the board, the majority of respondents feel that children shouldn’t be allowed to “participate” in the metaverse without parental supervision.
If I were to throw out a guess, this is because people have come to associate the metaverse — and almost anything related to blockchain technology — with speculative investing.
In reality, participating in the metaverse could be as simple as playing a video game, or looking at cool artwork.
The key idea behind the metaverse — even if it is fluid in definition — is for people to share the same virtual spaces and be able to interact with each other.
If you don’t have problems with a 12-year-old playing online games like Minecraft, then there’s no reason to say that they can’t “participate” in the metaverse.
What does this survey prove?
This survey illustrates the misconceptions around the metaverse and blockchain technology, which have become increasingly prevalent ever since these ideas reached mainstream media.
Many people are reading about these terms for the first time through articles about crypto volatility, scams, and rug pulls. While these are all legitimate occurrences, they’ve begun to spin a narrative which doesn’t tell the whole truth.
Blockchain technology has far more to offer than risky trades. It can contribute to more efficient practices in industries ranging from healthcare to hospitality.
Although there are reasons to be sceptical, many of those cited here seem to be fueled by fear and buzzwords rather than evidence.
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Featured Image Credit: Finance Magnates