Why Metaverse Governance Needs to Be Internal
The views expressed below are not necessarily those of the Open Metaverse Research Group, but are the author's alone.
by Mike Lorrey
Today with so many ventures and communities trying to build "the metaverse", we at the Open Metaverse Research Group have stated priorities for what we see as necessary for the next generation metaverse. I am outlining these as a "Declaration of Metaversal Rights":
- To be open to all, ergo, permissionless entry, like the internet itself is. All persons have a Right of Access.
- It must enable users to maintain control over their identities and avatars so that they can represent themselves consistently on all metaverse platforms, by name and visual representation. All Persons have a Right of Avatar Identity
- Users must also be able to control their Right to Privacy, not be subject to identity disclosure by platforms they participate in that exercise lax security protocols and fail to respect the users "Right to Be Forgotten".
- The users virtual assets of all kinds must be portable from platform to platform, empowering individuals to migrate their temporary or long term presence to make a virtual 'home' where they see fit. The Rights of Property and Emigration Is Universal.
- The rights of content creators to the benefits of their IP ownership must be strongly protected, given that content creation will be one of the major economic drivers of the Metaverse economy. The Right of Copyright is Natural Law.
- Users of all types need to be able to choose to participate in the virtual economy using permissionless, trustless, portable digital currencies to transact in ways that do not violate the users rights of privacy and identity, yet which protect their right to be free from fraud or theft. and which they can pay for the cost of their access and use of the metaverse itself, connected servers and networks, and maintain access to their identity and assets. The Right To Contract is Unlimited.
- Users also have a right to enjoy the Metaverse free from harassment, hostility, stalking, and hacking/griefing activity, particularly in the servers the users themselves operate or rent/lease services from and call a "virtual home". The Right to Self Defense Shall Not Be Infringed.
- Persons who violate the rights of others in the Metaverse deserve to be dealt justice and be held accountable for their offenses against others. Causing servers to crash, networks to go down, hacking individuals accounts and assets are crimes that should be punishable according to systems of justice determined by those who use the metaverse, not those who are unfamiliar with it and are ignorant of what practices would work best for the community and stakeholders as a whole. The Right of Justice Is Universal.
- These goals mandate governance that is based on and within the metaverse itself. All Persons and Communities Have a Right to Form a Government By Consent of the Community So Governed.
Therefore, as it is clear that many of these goals can often come into conflict with each other, in an economy where the average transaction tends to be a "microtransaction" of less than US$1 in value, the costs of executing such transactions need to be low, and the cost of arbitrating and adjudicating disputes over these conflicts also need to be low. Claims arising in the Metaverse will usually be so low as to not even be worth filing in small claims courts in the real world, yet they still cause real harms, and are often automated and systematized by hostile actors to accumulate significant value as a whole.
For this reason, relying upon real world legislators and regulators, real world law enforcement, and in particular, real world courts, to resolve such disputes is a fools errand. The cost of exercising real world governance upon a virtual world community and economy would so greatly exceed the total GDP of the virtual economy that it is laughable to even contemplate it. Yet people deserve justice. Crime needs to be deterred, and disputes must be resolved lest the metaverse devolve into chaos and uncivil barbarity.
The average cost even to file a civil lawsuit in the US today is over $10,000, yet the number of people in whole world using the metaverse today who earn that much from their various productive metaverse activities would not fill a single professional sports stadium. The cost to bribe enough senators and congresspersons to pass a law or get a regulation enforced? Astronomical.
This will change over time as more economic activity grows on the metaverse, and as more people become comfortable with using the metaverse for their activities, spending their money (and earning it) there. However, they cannot wait for affordable, reasonable, and responsive community governance to be provided.
The internet was long a free for all with real world law enforcement having no clue whether activities on it could even be considered illegal, or if their law enforcement agency even had the authority to enforce the law there. After all, there are people from all over the world there, and websites can be hosted anywhere in the world as well. It isn't reasonable for one local, state, or even national jurisdiction to enforce its laws against everyone on Earth just because their activities are on the internet. While there are some laws that are considered universal, those laws are rare. Most are subjective to a given nation, state, city, culture, ethnicity or religion.
Today we have international legal conventions like WIPO about intellectual property. GATT and WTO for international trade, various Geneva Conventions, the various Hague legal Conventions, All of these international laws are slow, cumbersome, and expensive, and rarely, if ever, deliver actual justice. If you sue someone in another country, getting them served with the legal papers typically costs over $50,000. Thus, these legal systems are similarly impossible to be used for people in the Metaverse.
The regulatory legislative process takes many years to complete, from writing legislation, finding sponsors and cosponsors, fending off attempts by special interests to sabotage your legislation or create carve outs for themselves, getting committee hearings and a vote, then getting a floor vote, and doing both houses of congress. This costs many millions of dollars of bribe money.. excuse me, "campaign contributions" to make happen. Then if the bill is passed, it goes to the executive branch to be turned into regulations that also must go through public input processes that can be mucked up by special interests, or others who have no experience in virtual worlds or virtual reality, or who have a proprietary interest in monopolizing it. Bureaucrats do not serve the public interest, they serve whoever offers them the cushiest job in the private sector once they retire with their government pension with the most perks to become lobbyists themselves.
Many proprietary companies are hoping to dominate the Metaverse, become the AOL or Compuserve of the next phase of the internet (while ignoring their fates). These companies typically have bad records of their own enforcing terms of service and so-called "community standards" as adhesion contracts that no user ever has real freedom of choice about. If the company unilaterally changes the terms of its agreements, and you disagree, you are cut off from your virtual property and identity without appeal or negotiation. You are not a customer, you are chattel.
Many real world governments want to be come nightmarish surveillance states that writers of previous generations warned us about, from 1984 and Animal Farm, to Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, among many other examples of warning fiction, if one fails to note the totalitarianism that brought the world to devastating wars for most of the last century. The would-be techno-tyrants see control of the Metaverse as the ultimate in complete surveillance: constant logging of the users every behavior and interaction in the virtual world is not just instantly monetizable, it is instantly JUDGEABLE, contributing to the "social credit scores" that some nations are seeking to introduce. There are social justice movements that want to use the power of government to cancel the existence of those who disagree with their political agendas, getting people fired, bank accounts frozen, kicked out of community organizations, losing their homes, and forcing people into punitive political reeducation camps of arbitrary duration. They seek to make those they disagree with bankrupt, unemployed, homeless, brainwashed, beggars in the streets pleading for alms.
The metaverse should not be allowed to become a tool to help achieve that nightmarish future..
The metaverse wants to be free, as in at liberty, not without price. Metaverse users likewise want to be free to enjoy the metaverse, to socialize, learn, and work and earn a living in its environment without manipulation and domination by those who only have a will to power or who wish to steal or destroy the work of others.
For these reasons, we must Declare the Metaverse to be a New World. A tabula rasa upon which its denizens are free to craft a new model of governance, where rules and contracts are software that execute automatically, and dispute resolution systems that are crowd sourced and market driven to deliver justice and equity as efficiently as possible, without manipulation from lobbyists and special interest groups or other corrupt cronies of an obsolete political system.
Creating this new world will require several technologies:
- Strong cryptography, especially in the age of quantum computing, cryptography that is resistant to quantum penetration but fast enough to allow for a global network that handles tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of transactions per second when scaled.
- Crowd-sourced arbitration protocols, like, for example, the juried fact checking system of the Trive blockchain project.
- Smart contracts for every governance and commercial need, eliminating most of the need for lawyers. Lawyers will become smart contract coders and auditor/analysts to examine the contracts of others for their clients.
- A polycentric legal system where principles of laws, aka axioms, and natural rights, inform the bases of allowed smart contract terms, and arbitrate disputes when fraudulent contracts are used to engage in crime, and a free market for people to engage in the smart contracts they want to use, as well as having capital markets to capitalize metaverse ventures, insurance markets to insure one's rights are protected without the need for government officials or monopoly of force powers.
- Zero-knowledge protocols to recover the stolen assets taken by criminals, and to impose penalties for their tortious actions. NFT assets and cryptocurrencies need to be recoverable only with the multi-sig judgement of a jury process that the accuser and accused both are able to participate in to present their evidence.
- A blockchain backbone for the metaverse that functions as the avatar identity, passport, wallet and inventory asset system, which can, today, handle thousands of transactions per second, with scalability to tens of thousands of transactions per second to be able to handle the interactions of a worldwide metaverse. This blockchain will house the smart contracts of content ownership, IP ownership, community group and business ownership and interactivity, as well as jury systems to arbitrate disputes that smart contracts are unable to resolve.
There are several technologies already in the blockchain space that seek to blockchain government in several ways:
Trive blockchain and browser add-on were designed to crowd source the fact checking of online media with juried bounties for fact checking which then demonetizes non-factual media by fading out ads on articles with poor factuality scores.
iNation was a blockchain project to create a non-territorial blockchain government.
Ubitquity is a company that provides services to various state and local governments in various countries to convert land deed registries into Non-Fungible Tokens on blockchain, in order to cut down on corruption and bad record keeping.
Democracy.earth is a company that empowers governments around the world go conduct elections on blockchain to eliminate election fraud.
Consen.sys is developing applications for government on blockchain. https://consensys.net/blockchain-use-cases/government-and-the-public-sector/