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Economy

Don't Let The Metaverse Become Just Another Club For The Wealthy

Metaverses are introducing ownership and rarity to the internet for the first time in its history. It is already generating billions of dollars in transactions, but the risk is that it becomes a club exclusively for the wealthy.

Photo of a person testing out a virtual reality experience

A virtual reality experience in Munich, Germany

Raphaël Balenieri

-Analysis-

PARIS — Gas, electricity, paper… The prices of everything are soaring. But this is nothing compared with what is happening in the metaverse, a place of a multitude of new, virtual and immersive universes, populated with 3D avatars.

In The Sandbox, a metaverse launched in 2012 by two Frenchmen and backed by the Japanese conglomerate Softbank, the prices of virtual lands (more than 166,000 of them exist on the platform) compete with real estate prices in Paris, London or Hong Kong. A user called “EnzoFar” recently put his land for sale … for 66,666 Ethers (a top cryptocurrency, along with Bitcoin), or more than $227 million at the current exchange rate.

Others have done even better. Since their creation by four friends in 2021, the 10,000 unique virtual apes of the Bored Ape Yacht Club have generated what equates to $1.5 billion in transactions. Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg and Eminem have all succumbed to the craze and bought their own.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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