Metaverse is one of the hottest topics around the world since 2021, which sparked wide discussion among the academia, industries, and the public. As a virtual societal form, the metaverse is both a reflection and an extension of the real world. Hence it contains all the elements of the established economic theory, with the potential of bringing breakthroughs to the traditional economic research.
What is metaverse and what is the underlying economic logic? Recently, Guanghua School of Management of Peking University hosted the Metaverse and New Economics seminar with keynote speakers from the academia and industries to discuss their understanding of metaverse, the economics of metaverse and the opportunities and challenges posed by the development of metaverse.
Metaverse from a Digital Economy Perspective
The first speaker is Professor Weng Xi, deputy head of department of applied economics at Guanghua School of Management. He discussed the definition and characteristics of metaverse and outlined the five key elements of metaverse to be virtual identity, immersive experience, open-end development, economic systems, and multi-interface.
Professor Weng emphasized that metaverse is built upon the rapid development of the digital economy. The four components of a digital economy system include web (app) traffic, data, innovation, and personalized services. Metaverse serves to connect the virtual world in games with the real economy. For digital citizens to create value in the virtual world, new data will be created, which consequently transform to value-creation in the real world in multiple settings. The core characteristics of metaverse are closely related to the traffic, data, innovation, and personalized services in the digital economy. Metaverse is hence one of the crucial ways to the digitization of the economy. In metaverse, the most important factor is the digital citizen, which fundamentally resolves the constraint of limited attention and time. We need to explore the differences and the ways of connecting the decision-making processes between the virtual and real worlds.
Professor Weng advocated industry-university-research (IUR) collaborative innovation. Industries are responsible for the development of an open metaverse platform centered on the digital citizen. The academia should assist platform design with research on economics, finance, accounting, marketing, and management science. On the platforms, researchers can explore the economic patterns of metaverse with experiments, theory, simulation, and big data.
Cyber Physical Systems-Digital Twins-Metaverse-Semantic Web?
The next speaker is Mr. Wei Qing, CTO at Microsoft (China), who shared his insights and thoughts on the phenomenon of metaverse. He first pointed out that the industry has yet to reach consensus on the definition of the recent hot word ‘metaverse’, despite the term first appeared in the book Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992. It is not until a consensus of the definition of a new technology is reached, that all participants can move in solidarity towards a mutual goal. Mr. Wei argued that hence in this sense, the technology of metaverse is still in its infancy of conceptional formation. A key distinction to be made is whether the underlying technology and applications of metaverse is confined to the virtual space or is used to complement and reinforce the real space. Mr. Wei pointed out that when a new technology emerges, we should first contemplate whether humans can be strengthened by it, or we might be enslaved by it.
Mr. Wei emphasized that when we discuss metaverse, web 3.0, and NFT, we should instead focus on the changes of the human society, which is the fundamental question to be asked by economists. He advocated first principles thinking, that technology should always be based on humans and welfare-improving for humans.
Development of Responsible Metaverse
Mr. Meng Qingfu, the Blockchain Lead of Accenture Greater China Technology Group, shared his thoughts on how to make metaverse socially responsible. Mr. Meng believes people from the physical (real) world is at the core of metaverse, in other words, the spiritual essence of metaverse should be human based. Survey showed 89% of corporate executives in China believed metaverse will have a positive impact on companies, among which 60% believed it might bring revolutionary breakthroughs. Mr. Meng emphasized that good intentions are required when designing, developing, and deploying metaverse, so that it may have positive impacts on all its users.
He pointed out that a responsible metaverse can be used to solve some of the most pressing issues faced by human species today. For example, moving some real-world activities to metaverse powered by green energy may provide a solution to climate change. He highlighted the concerns of digital inclusion, elder-friendliness, and barrier-freeness in the development of metaverse.
During panel discussion, speakers discussed the moral issues of users and digital citizens, social-economic impacts of technological advancement, the typical applications of metaverse, and the corporate strategies of developing metaverse. International students, including students from Future Leaders Program, attended the seminar online. Along with media, students, and alumni audiences offline, they discussed the impact of metaverse on the labor market, the compatibility of platforms, transformation of traditional economic theory by metaverse, and how to navigate the development of metaverse.