By Sylvia Gallusser, Global Futurist, Founder at Silicon Humanism
If Web1 represented the Golden Age of a democratized access to information, and Web2 witnessed the reign of content creation and social media platforms, Web3 will see the realm of the metaverse, connecting people, places, and things in a 3-dimensional, “phygital” (physical and digital), secure, decentralized, and AI-powered environment. All these promises give us hope that a more human-centric and inclusive internet can emerge: Are we heading toward a “betterverse?”
As new business models emerge, a whole economy is being created. While this new internet is a goldmine for artists eager to promote their artwork and make a living out of it in the form of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), some wonder how a student can earn $1 million dollars by selling a series of selfies or how a pair of virtual sneakers (by RTFKT Studios) can reach the amount of $100,000, while there are still 690 million people worldwide who are undernourished. RTFKT Studios was acquired by Nike in December 2021 for an undisclosed amount.
And what about representation and inclusion? Avatar creation and the ensuing market of digital artifacts bring along infinite possibilities of reinventing oneself, therefore opening to more gender equity and gender fluidity. Yet we already notice an underrepresentation of women, disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community. Avatars that are female, or have darker skin tones, tend to sell for less than masculine and white avatars despite being less common. To counterbalance the trend, digital design studio Daz 3D created 8,888 female and non-binary “Non-Fungible People”.
In a decentralized system still led by major business players attempting to achieve interoperability, who is handed down the responsibility? Facebook – rebranded Meta – aims to build the metaverse responsibly, collaboratively, with wellness, safety and diversity at heart. Will these intentions be enough? What governance can we put in place to make the Internet a better place? What ethical futures can we envision and contribute to building as Web3 becomes a reality?
These questions have been at the core of our work these past years. The concept of Silicon Humanism emerged in 2015 as a natural extension of our work as the crossroad of strategy consulting and research in “humanities and future studies.” The investigation field of Silicon Humanism covers the intersection of technology and humanism as well as the potential implications of living in a technology-driven world on our humankind and our social life. Silicon Humanism defines itself as a global and holistic approach.
First, Silicon Humanism is inherently multidisciplinary, based on the conviction that crossing different perspectives and methodologies enriches our thought processes and limits biases. Therefore, Silicon Humanism incorporates a deep understanding of science and technology, historical perspectives, sociological methods, anthropological fieldwork, philosophical examination, psychology and mental health concepts, futures studies, foresight tools, as well as market intelligence, economic analysis, and business strategy.
Secondly, this methodological framework applies to various topics such as the future of work, business, education, health, mental health, well-aging, consumption, retail, home life, social life, earth life, ocean life, the mind, and transhumanism, to name a few. All these areas are dramatically morphing under technological advancements and societal mutations. In all those instances, Silicon Humanism questions our notion of humanity at times where technologies tend to drive more and more of our human life.
Thirdly, Silicon Humanism is a call-to-action to (re)place the human component at the core of our technological advancements. How can we design futures that integrate with our human specificities and value human life, without damaging our environment? How can we nurture and safeguard our human kind without hindering creativity, scientific developments, and technological exploration? Ethics are a continuous underlying element of our effort.
Finally, Silicon Humanism is the name of our Silicon Valley-based initiative to help you build those futures. We aim to explore the contradictions and synergies between technology and humanities and to envision how our future will look like. We believe that despite how technology-advanced our world becomes, being human, social, and connected to our exterior environment is deeply rooted in our mindsets and will continue to translate in our behaviors.
Because the world is now phygital. Web3 only makes sense if it is built in close relationship with our physical reality. We ultimately believe that to create beautiful art and offer meaningful immersive experiences, we will always need to be in touch with our exterior world, the millions of species that exist on Earth, the treasures we discover as we explore space and the deep ocean, as well as the very specificities of real-life human interactions.
Silicon Humanism https://siliconhumanism.home.blog/
“The betterverse: can the metaverse help shape a more inclusive ad industry?” The Drum, January 2022 https://www.thedrum.com/news/2022/01/19/the-betterverse-can-the-metaverse-help-shape-more-inclusive-ad-industry
“A student who accidentally became a millionaire with a cult following after selling his expressionless selfies as NFTs says he feels confused”, Business Insider India, January 20222 https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10415017/Indonesian-student-rich-overnight-selling-thousand-SELFIES-NFTs-1MILLION.html
“Nike just acquired a virtual goods company as it accelerates its metaverse play”, Business Insider, December 2021 https://www.businessinsider.com/nike-acquires-rtfkt-as-it-accelerates-metaverse-play-2021-12
“Representation in the Metaverse”, Wunderman Thompson, January 2022 https://www.wundermanthompson.com/insight/representation-in-the-metaverse
Non-Fungible People, Daz 3D https://nfp.daz3d.com/
“Building the Metaverse Responsibly”, Meta, September 2021