Column “Creative Destruction”: An avatar doesn’t need a haircut
When there is a need, people find ways to meet it. Whenever the English poet Charles Dickens gave a reading in London in the middle of the 19th century, a lively black market for tickets quickly sprang up. He was the literary hero of his time, in great demand. So middlemen bought the tickets for the readings as quickly as possible and then resold them to his fans many times over. Sometimes prices were obtained that could reach the monthly income of a worker.
Today, this job is done by bots, automated programs that can search the Internet for offers and make purchases. Bots buy up rare sneaker models just as consistently as coveted tickets for Broadway shows. Here, too, the bot operators are concerned with selling the goods on to the actual customers as soon as possible at a considerable profit.
The capitalist economic order always had a few loopholes in which the pure doctrine of appropriate price formation from the interplay of supply and demand could disappear. With this automated middleman, values are tapped as efficiently as possible, but none are created. Digital capitalism, once praised as a reform model for the aged capitalism of the material time, automates everything we have always known – only at an absurd pace and on a multiple scale.
Appearance: the metaverse. The next surge of expectation of the neo-socialist techno evangelists slumbers in it. In this transcendental space for techies everything should really become possible, even the reinvention of capitalism. In other words, what the Internet has so far failed to achieve, despite all the utopian hopes of the early years. The Metavision sounds like this: Everyone can finally participate in the market. In this hybrid consumer world, individual wishes are taken into account in every category, no matter how extraordinary. Distribution forces are set free on a scale that we have never had before. In other words, the supposedly largest platform for democratization of all time, which will also recharge capitalism.
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Anyone who would like to deal with these forecasts more realistically can take a look at who is currently determining the discussion about this new virtual space. Facebook is currently talking the loudest about the Metaverse and has even renamed itself “Meta”. When a giant leads the revolution for the dwarves, it’s always a bit suspicious. But it has long been possible to observe in a very practical way where the economic journey in the virtual world is going.
Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral
In the Metaverse you can buy and trade with cryptocurrencies in real life. In the virtual world Decentraland, a good 40,000 square meters of virtual land were recently sold for more than half a million US dollars. The buyers are probably hoping that the beautiful spot will eventually become a coveted dream destination for the avatars traveling through. They should look good when they drop by the hotspot.
Package solutions for avatar tuning are available from various providers. The company “Avatar SDK” offers 6000 avatars by subscription, which can be given new clothes and a new haircut for a mere 240 dollars a month. That is certainly a nice offer for the playful handling of your own identities. But it also increases a problem of capitalism, which in its previous variants could not be brought under control: It is no longer produced for a real need, but above all for the maximum profit of the manufacturers of products and services that create needs where there was no need at all. That is also a business model.
Technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral. This is how the US historian Melvin Kranzberg once formulated his first law in the history of technology. What Kranzberg says about technology is still true today. Only when it is used by people is technology charged with values and meaning. This is exactly what applies to our economic system, capitalism. What drives capitalism is human, oh, all too human. The way people shape the metaverse, it will serve them – or not.
Incidentally, Charles Dickens once wrote: “All the deceivers in the world are nothing compared to the self-deceivers.” The sentence always has the same meaning, regardless of whether you get it read for two, 20 or 250 dollars. The book it comes from is called “Great Expectations”.
In this column Miriam Meckel writes fortnightly about ideas, innovations and interpretations that make progress and a better life possible. Because what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the rest of the world calls a butterfly. ada-magazin.com
More: The G20 states are powerless to look at a stateless tech world.