by Simon Lee, AnewUK Science Officer
Web 3.0 (web3)
Unless you work in the technology field you probably haven’t heard of Web version 3.0 (web3), but it’s coming very soon and it will drastically alter all of our lives, so it’s time to get up to speed.
The first version of the internet- Web 1.0 (web1) was “read-only” because although it provided information to the public, publishing new content required technical and programming expertise that was beyond the capabilities of most laypeople.
The version of the internet that we use today is Web 2.0 (web2). This allows laypeople to both read and publish content without any programming expertise. This has enabled the internet to become interactive, allowing users to connect and create, and has paved the way for the creation of social networks that many of us find indispensable today.
However, in exchange for the ability to create content we’ve allowed centralised authorities to control, collect, and monetise information. Our personal data, which was once private, is now bought and sold, often to be used against us in the current system of “surveillance capitalism”.
It is envisaged, by some, that Web3 will solve these problems while also providing the infrastructure for new and disruptive technologies.
In theory, Web3 will be decentralised, meaning that no organisations will control our personal data. It will be accessible to everybody unconditionally, in other words it will be permissionless. Content that has been published on web3 cannot be altered or removed making censorship much more difficult. The parasitic middle man can be taken out of the equation so that content creators can monetise any truly valuable content they create.
Personal identity is encrypted making anonymity and privacy optional depending on the circumstances.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But how could this be achieved? The idea is that the internet will be rebuilt so as to restructure it around blockchain and cryptocurrencies.
Up until now, money has been absent as a protocol that forms part of the internet.
Web3 promises to change that by integrating money into the structure of the internet itself, this could do away with invasive advertising that relies on the mass collection of private data as well as disempowering authoritarian, big tech monopolies
Web3 will require a massive restructuring of the internet, and it will be rebuilt on 4 “layers”:
1) The Blockchain (the Base Layer)
Everything on web3 is underpinned by the blockchain: a shared immutable ledger run by a decentralised network of peer-to-peer nodes. This is the same encryption technology that is behind Bitcoin and Ethereum.
This blockchain is not owned or controlled by anyone and it is not stored on a single server. Instead, copies of the blockchain are stored across thousands of users on the network so that it forms a decentralised database of transactions.
In order to maintain consistency, security and objectivity, each node (participant) much reach an agreement about the network’s current state. This agreement is achieved algorithmically using a consensus mechanism, such as proof-of-work or proof-of-stake.
Proof-of-work (PoW) is done by “miners”, who verify new transactions in a competitive process which results in adding new “blocks” to the chain (hence, blockchain). The winner is rewarded with cryptocurrency for sharing the new block with the rest of the network. The computer that solves a mathematical puzzle the fastest produces the cryptographic link between the current block and the previous block and wins the race. Solving this puzzle is the “work” in “proof-of-work”.
Proof-of-stake (PoS) is performed by validators who have staked their own cryptocurrency to participate in the network. Validators are chosen at random to verify transactions and create new blocks. They then share them with the rest of the network and earn rewards. Instead of doing intense computational work, validators put up cryptocurrency as collateral for agreeing to strengthen the chain. This is the incentive to promote good network behaviour.
This makes the system “trust less”, meaning that the cost of manipulating the system would outweigh any benefit gained by doing so. Majority control of the computational power of the entire network would be required to defraud the PoW system, or in the case of the PoS system, majority ownership of the total amount of staked cryptocurrency.
The blockchain is an immutable public ledger which anyone can view in order to see the transaction history of the whole network.
2) Decentralised infrastructure
The blockchain enables the creation of a decentralised infrastructure that sits on top of the blockchain in the second layer of web3. This will form the backbone of web3 including decentralised storage, exchanges, communication systems, social networks and much more.
3) New ways to engage
The Web3 infrastructure could create new ways for people to engage with one another, earn money online and entertain themselves. This includes the creation and selling of “NFTs”, new ways to conduct commerce, decentralised communities, gaming, and the “metaverse”.
NFT stands for “Non-fungible token” (i.e., something that’s one-of-a-kind); which are basically digital collectibles that are stamped onto the blockchain. Importantly they can also represent real-world items. NFTs will form the basis for ownership in the metaverse.
The final “layer” of web3 will be the access layers, which are the means by which users will access the system. Presently, the internet is experienced through applications and websites. Web3, will enable users to access the internet using these same means but also with decentralised apps and crypto wallets.
The Doubled Edged Sword of Web3
Web3 has the potential to drastically transform the global economy in many ways, especially through the adoption of decentralised currencies as an alternative to central bank issued money-as-debt. It has the potential to improve the way society currently functions, with its reliance upon corrupt central banks and infiltrated governments. It could lead to a free internet, ungoverned by authorities, and uncensorable, where everyone can transact freely, without the need for third parties.
However, the other scenario is a nightmare world ruled by centrally issued “digital currencies”, controlled, tracked and programmed by the parasitic bankster class.
Many people that promote web3 as being an un-censorable utopia are the same people promoting “programmable” CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies) and the “metaverse” – two concepts completely opposed to the notion of a free society.
As always with technology, the effect that web3 will have on society will depend on how it is implemented. If implemented in the right way it could free us from the oppression of surveillance capitalism or it could be used by the same parasitic class to construct a digital dictatorship similar to what the CCP have imposed on the Chinese people.
The fact that dubious organisations such as Facebook, Mastercard, and Blackrock are investing in web3 is, of course, pause for concern.
Futurist and science fiction writer Neal Stephenson first coined the term “metaverse” in his book Snow crash which was published in 1992. The book described a “theoretical” 3D virtual reality that ordinary people could inhabit.
Curiously, for a novelist, Stephenson worked for Jeff Bezos’ spaceflight company, Blue Origin for seven years during the early 2000s when the company was focused on developing “alternate” propulsion systems.
Some of the topics covered in Stephenson’s books include climate change, global pandemics, biological warfare, nanotechnology, geoengineering, robotics, cryptography, as well as virtual reality. Curiouser and curiouser.
With close ties to billionaire technocrats like Bezos and Gates perhaps Stephenson isn’t just a novelist with a good imagination and an uncanny knack for predicting the future. Maybe he had inside information.
The metaverse is a virtual world where you can go about many of life’s everyday activities in an avatar form. This form can be a human, animal, or something more abstract with its customizable appearance.
You can then interact with other people’s avatars in this virtual world and you can buy and sell land, attend concerts and go to museums, build a house etc. In the virtual world of the metaverse, cryptocurrency will serve as virtual money, and NFTs will serve as virtual goods.
The concept of the metaverse has been gradually leaked into mainstream culture over the last twenty plus years via video games, films, and TV.
Although the metaverse is being marketed as a “decentralised” universe controlled by its users, that simply isn’t the case. In 2021 Facebook rebranded as “meta”, signalling their intent to play a leading role in the future development of the metaverse.
If the metaverse, or some type of virtual reality, was going to be beneficial to society, it would have to be developed by transparent and accountable organisations with nothing to gain.
Facebook and other untrustworthy companies will almost certainly ensure a continuation of the centralized, monopolistic practices that have allowed unethical behaviour, such as harvesting of private data, to continue unchallenged.
Web3 and the metaverse have the potential to force human consciousness into a digital prison, while the parasitic class rob the world of everything that’s real. Alternatively, it could create a better world made up of decentralised communities working together for the good of society.
Some predict this technology could lead to the creation of network states. A network state is a digital nation launched initially as an online community before materialising physically on land after reaching critical mass.
Due to the decentralised nature of the blockchain, network states could begin as geographically decentralised communities, connected via the internet. These communities would be ordinary people who believe in a common cause and are capable of collective action. These communities would build up their own cryptocurrency based internal economies.
Digital community members could start holding in-person meetings in the real world and eventually crowd-fund apartments, houses and even towns to establish co-living facilities and bring the communities into the real world.
Finally the new community could negotiate diplomatic recognition from pre-existing governments, achieve sovereignty and become a true independent network state.
Decentralized finance could become established, and make centralized banking and fiat currencies obsolete. Web3 could lead to censorship resistant platforms that engender freedom and creativity. Network states could break out and begin declaring independence from existing malign control structures.
“The question is this: will the blockchain allow the creation of a new society, unburdened by monopolistic, centralised authorities, or will it quite literally “chain” us to the corrupt practices of a financial system in which there is no freedom to transact?”
These are relatively new technologies that aren’t yet well understood. Web3, cryptocurrencies, and the blockchain are going to change society, but whether that change will be for the betterment or detriment of humanity is up to us.
The Blockchained Society: Web 3.0, Virtual Reality and the Network State, Ryan Matters, New Brave World https://www.newbraveworld.org/the-blockchained-society/
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