Entropia et Impera – Inefficiency as a Business Model

Artificial Intuition

Divide and rule policy (Latin: divide et impera), or divide and conquer, in politics and sociology is gaining and maintaining power by breaking up larger concentrations of power into pieces that individually have less power than the one implementing the strategy. Historically, this strategy was used in many different ways by empires seeking to expand their territories. This strategy was first introduced in ancient Rome.

A 1615 variation of this policy has been proposed by Francis Bacon – separa et impera. Looks like the first derivative of the original.

A modern adaptation – entropia et impera – is proposed by the author (J. Marczyk, 2022). Where does this concept come from? The ancient Greeks knew that each generation leaves behind more chaos than it had inherited. Today, our society is not only in a state of chaos, it is also decadent and corrupt, morally bankrupt, intentionally wasteful…

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Ask HN: Viability of an anti-AI social movement

Ask HN: Viability of an anti-AI social movement by NO-AI on Hacker News. Andrej Karpathy (director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla) on Twitter today: I am cautiously and slightly unnervingly looking forward to the gradual and inevitable unification of language, images/video and audio in foundation models… They will be endowed with agency […]

Ask HN: Viability of an anti-AI social movement

PSA: Telegram Application on Android

Some people know this, many others do not.

There are two versions of the Telegram application.

The one downloaded from Google Play/Market, this version of Telegram is censored. Via strict censorship policies embedded beneath the Google/Android framework, inspired by their political views, this censorship mechanism exists.

The real Telegram app can be downloaded from here:

https://telegram.org/apps

The APK file is the installation file.

Great Reset: Transhumanism, Metaverse, Lawnmower Man in Real Life…

Transhumanism: The Convergence of Things in Motion Right Now

As suggested in the diagram above, there are philosophies, hardware innovations, prior accomplishments in biological science, the transmogrification of society with its “New Normal” and the melding of physical, augmented and virtual realities.

First off, do you guys and girls remember Lawnmower Man?

These factors at play include:

  • Transhumanist Movement Philosophy from the late 1990s
  • The incredible breakthrough of Cloning (which has since gone dark in the mainstream)
  • The recent announcement of the Metaverse; blending of physical, augmented and virtual realities
  • The Great Reset’s Fourth Industrial Revolution: emphasis on 3-D Printing, Quantum Computers and explicit “Human Enhancement”
  • Neurological Hardware innovations, for instance, Elon Musk’s Neural Link technology
  • Bill Gates

It is the convergence of this motley crew of happenings that point to a strong possibility of one day, a 140 year old Henry Kissinger, resembling a cross between a squid, a Japanese gothic raver chick and a wicked old Jewish Cantor – in attire crossing glam/goth/a weed Sherpa/and a gay diplomat. This could be a completely stereo-immersive type of material – with a self-replicating algorithmically deployed subversive cyber-chutzpah fuel cell/solar/biodiesel life.

TRANSHUMANIST MOVEMENT

The Transhumanist Declaration

The Transhumanist Declaration was originally crafted in 1998 by an international group of authors: Doug Baily, Anders Sandberg, Gustavo Alves, Max More, Holger Wagner, Natasha Vita-More, Eugene Leitl, Bernie Staring, David Pearce, Bill Fantegrossi, den Otter, Ralf Fletcher, Tom Morrow, Alexander Chislenko, Lee Daniel Crocker, Darren Reynolds, Keith Elis, Thom Quinn, Mikhail Sverdlov, Arjen Kamphuis, Shane Spaulding, and Nick Bostrom. This Transhumanist Declaration has been modified over the years by several authors and organizations. It was adopted by the Humanity+ Board in March, 2009.

  1. Humanity stands to be profoundly affected by science and technology in the future. We envision the possibility of broadening human potential by overcoming aging, cognitive shortcomings, involuntary suffering, and our confinement to planet Earth.
  2. We believe that humanity’s potential is still mostly unrealized. There are possible scenarios that lead to wonderful and exceedingly worthwhile enhanced human conditions.
  3. We recognize that humanity faces serious risks, especially from the misuse of new technologies. There are possible realistic scenarios that lead to the loss of most, or even all, of what we hold valuable. Some of these scenarios are drastic, others are subtle. Although all progress is change, not all change is progress.
  4. Research effort needs to be invested into understanding these prospects. We need to carefully deliberate how best to reduce risks and expedite beneficial applications. We also need forums where people can constructively discuss what should be done, and a social order where responsible decisions can be implemented.
  5. Reduction of existential risks, and development of means for the preservation of life and health, the alleviation of grave suffering, and the improvement of human foresight and wisdom should be pursued as urgent priorities, and heavily funded.
  6. Policy making ought to be guided by responsible and inclusive moral vision, taking seriously both opportunities and risks, respecting autonomy and individual rights, and showing solidarity with and concern for the interests and dignity of all people around the globe. We must also consider our moral responsibilities towards generations that will exist in the future.
  7. We advocate the well-being of all sentience, including humans, non-human animals, and any future artificial intellects, modified life forms, or other intelligences to which technological and scientific advance may give rise.
  8. We favour allowing individuals wide personal choice over how they enable their lives. This includes use of techniques that may be developed to assist memory, concentration, and mental energy; life extension therapies; reproductive choice technologies; cryonics procedures; and many other possible human modification and enhancement technologies.

Nick Bostrom is one of the most significant voices in the advocacy for Transhumanism becoming a reality. He still writes essays, appears on podcasts, Youtube videos, etc to this very day.

In an essay written in 1998, “WHAT IS TRANSHUMANISM?
by Nick Bostrom, the author foreshadowing the potential is quite eerie:

Vastly extended life spans. It may prove feasible to use radical gene-therapy and other biological methods to block normal aging processes, and to stimulate rejuvenation and repair mechanisms indefinitely. It is also possible that nothing short of nanotechnology will do the trick. Meanwhile there are unproven and in some cases expensive hormone treatments that seem to have some effect on general vitality in elderly people, although as yet nothing has been shown to be more effective at life-extension than controlled caloric restriction.

The interconnected world. Even in its present form, the Internet has an immense impact on some people’s lives. And its ramifications are just beginning to unfold. This is one area where radical change is quite widely perceived, and where media discussion has been extensive.

Uploading of our consciousness into a virtual reality. If we could scan the synaptic matrix of a human brain and simulate it on a computer then it would be possible for us to migrate from our biological embodiments to a purely digital substrate (given certain philosophical assumptions about the nature of consciousness and personal identity). By making sure we always had back-up copies, we might then enjoy effectively unlimited life-spans. By directing the activation flow in the simulated neural networks, we could engineer totally new types of experience. Uploading, in this sense, would probably require mature nanotechnology. But there are less extreme ways of fusing the human mind with computers. Work is being done today on developing neuro/chip interfaces. The technology is still in its early stages; but it might one day enable us to build neuroprostheses whereby we could “plug in” to cyberspace. Even less speculative are various schemes for immersive virtual reality — for instance, using head-mounted displays that communicate with the brain via our natural sense organs.

What Mr. Bostrom is commenting on here, more than 20 years ago, include:

  • Use of Nanotechnology
  • Genetic modification
  • Uploading one’s consciousness to a “virtual reality”
  • The necessity for an “interconnected world”
    • Physical, Virtual and Augmented worlds meshed into one (Metaverse vision)

So it was speculated upon – literally in the last millennia – the emergence of these seemingly separate radical ideas for technological advancement – then the convergence of such technologies.

Cloning

Cloning is a technique scientists use to make exact genetic copies of living things. Genes, cells, tissues, and even whole animals can all be cloned.

Scientists also make clones in the lab. They often clone genes in order to study and better understand them. To clone a gene, researchers take DNA from a living creature and insert it into a carrier like bacteria or yeast. Every time that carrier reproduces, a new copy of the gene is made.

Researchers can use clones in many ways. An embryo made by cloning can be turned into a stem cell factory. Stem cells are an early form of cells that can grow into many different types of cells and tissues. Scientists can turn them into nerve cells to fix a damaged spinal cord or insulin-making cells to treat diabetes.

Right now, our scientists and engineers are creating very advanced synthetic limbs that can be controlled with our thoughts. Our brain connects to our biological arms. We think and our biological arms move. The patient’s brain connects with these new prototype artificial arms and hands too. The patient thinks and the synthetic arms move.

Takeaway: the stem cell factory – as they can be harvested and grown into many types of cells and tissues, there is without doubt that limbs, internal organs and muscle tissue can be grown. And with the modifications made available by gene therapy and also infused nanotechnology – the creation of a super-human, healthy beast may house the mind of Henry Kissinger.

Imagine that, some 20 years from, a Henry Kissinger existing as a product of stem cell applications, quantum computer-capable nanotechnologies and his Zionist, globalist worldview giving a speech to the oligarchs of earth’s needed resources (water, food, energy, land) – giving a speech to the likes of the shadow government – CIA, BlackRock, DARPA, Exxon Mobil, Goldman Sachs, Apple, Lockheed Martin and John Deere – pressing for them to nuke China, Iran, Russia – for the glory of Jerusalem and to usher in the All-Seeing-Eye God from the Kabbalah…(these discussions are already taking place – only Kissinger is a hunched over merchant looking man – not exactly like Magneto. But Magneto he will wish to become and remain.

Metaverse; blending of physical, augmented and virtual realities

Author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash,” in which he envisioned lifelike avatars who met in realistic 3D buildings and other virtual reality environments.

Since then, various developments have made mileposts on the way toward a real metaverse, an online virtual world which incorporates augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D holographic avatars, video and other means of communication. As the metaverse expands, it will offer a hyper-real alternative world for you to coexist in.

The Metaverse will be a combination of multiple elements of technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality and video where users “live” within a digital universe. Supporters of the metaverse envision its users working, playing and staying connected with friends through everything from concerts and conferences to virtual trips around to the world.

The metaverse promises a joined-up online experience, in which a single avatar can move between spaces – such as an online shop and a lecture theatre. However, many of the individual innovations mentioned in Facebook’s presentation already exist in some forms.

But Zuckerberg and his team are hardly the only tech visionaries with ideas on how the metaverse, which will employ a mix of virtual reality and other technologies, should take shape. And some who’ve been thinking about it for a while have concerns about a new world tied to a social media giant that could get access to even more personal data and is accused of failing to stop the proliferation of dangerous misinformation and other online harms that exacerbate real-world problems.

Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at on a screen. Essentially, it’s a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps or other devices.

It also will incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, according to Victoria Petrock, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.

“It’s the next evolution of connectivity where all of those things start to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, so you’re living your virtual life the same way you’re living your physical life,” she said.

Tech companies still have to figure out how to connect their online platforms to each other. Making it work will require competing technology platforms to agree on a set of standards, so there aren’t “people in the Facebook metaverse and other people in the Microsoft metaverse,” Petrock said.

CRITICAL TAKEAWAY: At current there is no unifying technology that precedes all other company’s various hardware and software – in terms of creating universal access to a Metaverse that will encompass the entirety of the digital space. In terms of tech companies working to “figure out” uniformity in the method to enter the Metaverse – what this really means is that there will be years of work to make this a reality. The work, will most absolutely call for tech companies, the robust Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung – for instance – these are the companies that will be making acquisitions of tons of the smaller tech companies. Acquisitions that continue with the decimation of competition. Competition is the defining feature of a capitalist economy comprised of open markets. This is another stunt (like the pandemic induced shutdown of the millions of small and medium sized businesses that never reopened. The Metaverse is yet another dimension to the beast of globalization, which has worked to consolidate the wealth, resources and power into the hands of fewer and fewer seemingly every single day.

Sneakers in the Metaverse:

Transhumanism and the Fourth Industrial Revolution


Now, one of the three main goals of the Great Reset agenda is “to harness the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution to support the public good…” As the founder of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, explains, the Fourth Industrial Revolution “will lead to a fusion of our physical, digital, and biological identities.”He specifically considers technologies that will change what it means to be human, because they will integrate into the human body and mind in order to overcome (‘transcend’) their limitations. Sound familiar? As Schwab himself admits, these new technologies can also “intrude into the hitherto private space of our minds, reading our thoughts and influencing our behavior…”While these technologies seem like science fiction, they are nearly at our doorstep. In fact, much of the pandemic response effort relies on Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, such as genetic sequencing, vaccine biotechnology (mRNA and vector platforms), and contact tracing (mass surveillance) software. Social distancing measures have also forced people to replace their physical world with a virtual one, including digital versions of school, church, shopping, and even parties. While this has been a terrible loss for most people, this digitalisation of our lives (including COV-id apps and digital currency) is part of the WEF’s vision for our future, and therefore, in their view, quite desirable.

What is transhumanism?
In a nutshell, transhumanism is a philosophical movement which promotes the view that the human species should take control of its own evolution through human-enhancement technologies, such as brain implants and nanotechnology that reverses aging. This will then allow humanity to transcend its physical and mental limitations. The term itself was first coined in 1957 by Julian Huxley; the brother of Aldous Huxley, the famous author of the dystopian novel ‘Brave New World’.

The highly influential members of the World Economic Forum have a plan for what should come next. It is called ‘The Great Reset’, and it envisions a truly ‘transhumanist’ future for us all.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an annual conference where some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world come together for ‘public-private cooperation’. Since mid-2020, the WEF has been promoting its vision for our post-coronavirus future, which they call ‘The Great Reset’. In their view, the pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our old system, and therefore presents a perfect opportunity to ‘reset’ our world and start anew. What is striking about this plan, which the WEF has condensed into a virus-shaped mindmap, is its implicit endorsement of a philosophy called ‘transhumanism’. The term is not used explicitly, but its values and goals can be seen at every level of the plan. Now, according to some, transhumanism is not just a new philosophy, but a new religion that will be the dominant worldview of humanity going forward.

A transhumanist paradise?
While there is a big debate about whether transhumanism should be defined as a religion or not, it definitely functions like a religion, in the sense that it provides a framework of meaning for human life that contains many of the goals of classical world religions. For example, most religions promise the goal of immortality, either in this life or after death. Some traditions (like Christianity and Islam) clearly aim for immortality after death (resurrection or heaven). Other traditions (like some forms of Daoism) have aimed for immortality in this life; usually through alchemical potions or self-cultivation, such as yoga and meditation. Transhumanism also aims for immortality, but through technology rather than through supernatural aid or spiritual transformation. Technologies that will be used for this include nanorobots, genetic engineering, and converting our brain activity into a digital form, and then uploading it into a supercomputer that will last forever (if possible). Secondly, most religions seek a state of permanent happiness, either in this life (nirvana in Buddhism) or after death (paradise in Christianity or Islam). Transhumanists think this can instead be achieved by creating ‘happiness drugs’ and brain-chip interfaces that manipulate the brain’s pleasure centres. Thirdly, most religions aspire for human beings to attain a state of divinity. The transhumanist ideal is likewise for humans to become god-like creators who can manipulate the material world at will (through 3D printing and atom-assembling nano-robots), and even to create new forms of life (through synthetic biology).All of this shows that transhumanism is based on the assumption that suffering (such as aging, sickness, and death) is a technical rather than a metaphysical problem, and can therefore be solved with more and better technology.

Bill Gates patented technology aimed to harvest living humans for cryptocurrency

In early 2020, Microsoft filed patent number ‘WO/2020/060606’

WO2020060606 – CRYPTOCURRENCY SYSTEM USING BODY ACTIVITY DATA

Human body activity associated with a task provided to a user may be used in a mining process of a cryptocurrency system. A server may provide a task to a device of a user which is communicatively coupled to the server. A sensor communicatively coupled to or comprised in the device of the user may sense body activity of the user. Body activity data may be generated based on the sensed body activity of the user. The cryptocurrency system communicatively coupled to the device of the user may verify if the body activity data satisfies one or more conditions set by the cryptocurrency system, and award cryptocurrency to the user whose body activity data is verified.

Blockchain used to commodify human actions?

This video and description is directly from the World Economic Forum YouTube:

Digital currencies built on distributed ledger technologies have emerged as potential gateways to new wealth creation. While still in the early stages of development, the technologies have the potential to transform entire systems, but they also face challenges, including lack of interoperability, security threats, centralization of power and unwillingness to experiment due to recent overhype. Sheila Warren, Head of the Platform for Shaping the Future of Blockchain and Distributed Ledger Technologies at the World Economic Forum, explains how the Forum and its partners work to ensure equity, transparency and trust in the governance of distributed ledger technology – and accelerate the necessary changes for this technology to reach its full potential.

Any one of these artist depictions may very well surround us all, VERY VERY SOON!

The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite • Matthew Ball

Source: matthewball.vc

Published January 13, 2020

Technology frequently produces surprises that nobody predicts. However, the biggest developments are often anticipated decades in advance. In 1945 Vannevar Bush described what he called the “Memex”, a single device that would store all books, records and communications, and mechanically link them together by association. This concept was then used to formulate the idea of “hypertext” (a term coined two decades later), which in turn guided the development of the World Wide Web (developed another two decades later). The “Streaming Wars” have only just begun, yet the first streaming video took place more than 25 years ago. What’s more, many of the attributes of this so-called war have been hypothesized for decades, such as virtually infinite supplies of content, on-demand playback, interactivity, dynamic and personalized ads, and the value of converging content with distribution.

In this sense, the rough outlines of future solutions are often understood and, in a sense, agreed upon well in advance of the technical capacity to produce them. Still, it’s often impossible to predict how they’ll fall into place, which features matter more or less, what sort of governance models or competitive dynamics will drive them, or what new experiences will be produced. By the time Netflix launched its streaming service, much of Hollywood knew that the future of television was online (IP TV had been deployed in the late 1999s). The challenge was timing and how to package such a service (it took another 10 years for Hollywood to accept all of their channels, genres and content needs to be collapsed into a single app/brand). The popularity of video game broadcasting and YouTubers still elude many in the media industry, as does the idea that the best way to monetize content might be to give it away for free and charge for optional $0.99 items of no consequential value. The acquisition of media conglomerate Time Warner by landline internet giant AOL was set in 2000 based on the idea media and tech/distribution needed to converge, but was unwound in 2009 after it failed to produce much benefit. Nine years later, it was then bought by mobile internet giant AT&T under the same premise.

While many technologists imagined some sort of “personal computer”, its attributes and timing were so unpredictable that Microsoft dominated the PC era that began in the 1990s rather than the mainframe domineer IBM. And while Microsoft clearly foresaw mobile, it misread the role of the operating system and of hardware, hence the rise of Android and iOS globally (and Microsoft’s shift from the OS layer to the app/services one). In a similar sense, Steve Jobs’ priorities for computing were always “right”, they were just too early and focused on the wrong device. More broadly, the two most dominant cases of the early Internet were instant messaging and email, and yet the importance of social apps/networks was still unexpected until the late 2000s. And for that matter, all of the prerequisites for building Facebook existed pre-Y2K, but Facebook didn’t come along until 2005 – and even then, it was an accident.

Since the late 1970s and early 1980s, many of those in the technology community have imagined a future state of, if not quasi-successor to, the Internet – called the “Metaverse”. And it would revolutionize not just the infrastructure layer of the digital world, but also much of the physical one, as well as all the services and platforms atop them, how they work, and what they sell. Although the full vision for the Metaverse remains hard to define, seemingly fantastical, and decades away, the pieces have started to feel very real. And as always with this sort of change, its arc is as long and unpredictable as its end state is lucrative.

To this end, the Metaverse has become the newest macro-goal for many of the world’s tech giants. As I outlined in February of 2019, it is the express goal of Epic Games, maker of the Unreal Engine and Fortnite. It is also the driver behind Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR and its newly announced Horizon virtual world/meeting space, among many, many other projects, such as AR glasses and brain-to-machine interfaces and communication. The tens of billions that will be spent on cloud gaming over the next decade, too, is based on the belief that such technologies will underpin our online-offline virtual future.

Ultimately, you’ll find many of the same items in the offices of Big Tech CEOs. However, the most well-worn is likely to be a copy of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, which first described and essentially coined the terms “Metaverse” and “Avatar”. And there are many reasons why.

CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS THE “METAVERSE”?

The most common conceptions of the Metaverse stem from science fiction. Here, the Metaverse is typically portrayed as a sort of digital “jacked-in” internet – a manifestation of actual reality, but one based in a virtual (often theme park-like) world, such those portrayed in Ready Player One and The Matrix. And while these sorts of experiences are likely to be an aspect of the Metaverse, this conception is limited in the same way movies like Tron portrayed the Internet as a literal digital “information superhighway” of bits.

Just as it was hard to envision in 1982 what the Internet of 2020 would be — and harder still to communicate it to those who had never even “logged” onto it at that time — we don’t really know how to describe the Metaverse. However, we can identify core attributes.

The Metaverse, we think, will…

  • Be persistent – which is to say, it never “resets” or “pauses” or “ends”, it just continues indefinitely
  • Be synchronous and live – even though pre-scheduled and self-contained events will happen, just as they do in “real life”, the Metaverse will be a living experience that exists consistently for everyone and in real-time
  • Be without any cap to concurrent users, while also providing each user with an individual sense of “presence” – everyone can be a part of the Metaverse and participate in a specific event/place/activity together, at the same time and with individual agency
  • Be a fully functioning economy – individuals and businesses will be able to create, own, invest, sell, and be rewarded for an incredibly wide range of “work” that produces “value” that is recognized by others
  • Be an experience that spans both the digital and physical worlds, private and public networks/experiences, and open and closed platforms
  • Offer unprecedented interoperability of data, digital items/assets, content, and so on across each of these experiences – your Counter-Strike gun skin, for example, could also be used to decorate a gun in Fortnite, or be gifted to a friend on/through Facebook. Similarly, a car designed for Rocket League (or even for Porsche’s website) could be brought over to work in Roblox. Today, the digital world basically acts as though it were a mall where every store used its own currency, required proprietary ID cards, had proprietary units of measurement for things like shoes or calories, and different dress codes, etc.
  • Be populated by “content” and “experiences” created and operated by an incredibly wide range of contributors, some of whom are independent individuals, while others might be informally organized groups or commercially-focused enterprises

There are a few other ideas that may be core to the Metaverse, but are not widely agreed upon. One of these concerns is whether participants will have a single consistent digital identity (or “avatar”) that they will use across all experiences. This would have practical value but is probably unlikely as each of the leaders in the “Metaverse era” will still want their own identity systems. Today, for example, there are a few dominant account systems – but none have exhaustive coverage of the web and they often stack atop one another with only limited data sharing/access (e.g. your iPhone is based around an iOS account, then you might log into an app using your Facebook ID, which itself is your Gmail account).

There is also disagreement on how much interoperability is required for the Metaverse to really be “the Metaverse”, rather than just an evolution of today’s Internet. Many also debate whether a true Metaverse can have a single operator (as is the case in Ready Player One). Some believe the definition (and success) of a Metaverse requires it to be a heavily decentralized platform built mostly upon community-based standards and protocols (like the open web) and an “open source” Metaverse OS or platform (this doesn’t mean there won’t be dominant closed platforms in the Metaverse).

Another idea relates to the fundamental communications architecture of the Metaverse. This is described in more detail later in the piece, but while today’s Internet is structured around individual servers “talking” to one another on an as-needed basis, some believe the Metaverse needs be “wired” and “operated” around persistent many-to-many connections. But even here, there’s no consensus around exactly how this would work, nor the degree of decentralization required.

It’s also helpful to consider what the Metaverse is often, but incorrectly, likened to. While each of these analogies is likely to be a part of the Metaverse, they aren’t actually the Metaverse. For example, The Metaverse is not…

  • A “virtual world” – Virtual worlds and games with AI-driven characters have existed for decades, as have those populated with “real” humans in real-time. This isn’t a “meta” (Greek for “beyond”) universe, just a synthetic and fictional one designed for a single purpose (a game).
  • A “virtual space” – Digital content experiences like Second Life are often seen as “proto-Metaverses” because they (A) lack game-like goals or skill systems; (B) are virtual hangouts that persist; (C) offer nearly synchronous content updates; and (D) have real humans represented by digital avatars. However, these are not sufficient attributes for the Metaverse.
  • “Virtual reality” – VR is a way to experience a virtual world or space. Sense of presence in a digital world doesn’t make a Metaverse. It is like saying you have a thriving city because you can see and walk around it.
  • A “digital and virtual economy” – These, too, already exist. Individual games such as World of Warcraft have long had functioning economies where real people trade virtual goods for real money, or perform virtual tasks in exchange for real money. In addition, platforms such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, as well as technologies such as Bitcoin, are based around the hiring of individuals/businesses/computational power to perform virtual and digital tasks. We are already transacting at scale for purely digital items for purely digital activities via purely digital marketplaces.
  • A “game” – Fortnite has many elements of the Metaverse. It (A) mashes up IP; (B) has a consistent identity that spans multiple closed platforms; (C) is a gateway to a myriad of experiences, some of which are purely social; (D) compensates creators for creating content, etc. However, as is the case with Ready Player One, it remains too narrow in what it does, how far it extends, and what “work” can occur (at least for now). While the Metaverse may have some game-like goals, include games, and involve gamification, it is not itself a game, nor is it oriented around specific objectives.
  • A “virtual theme park or Disneyland” – Not only will the “attractions” be infinite, they will not be centrally “designed” or programmed like Disneyland, nor will they all be about fun or entertainment. In addition, the distribution of engagement will have a very long tail
  • A “new app store” – No one needs another way to open apps, nor would doing so “in VR” (as an example) unlock/enable the sorts of value supposed by a successor Internet. The Metaverse is substantively different from today’s Internet/mobile models, architecture, and priorities.
  • A “new UGC platform” – The Metaverse is not just another YouTube or Facebook-like platform in which countless individuals can “create”, “share”, and “monetize” content, and where the most popular content represents only the tiniest share of overall consumption. The Metaverse will be a place in which proper empires are invested in and built, and where these richly capitalized businesses can fully own a customer, control APIs/data, unit economics, etc. In addition, it’s likely that, as with the web, a dozen or so platforms hold significant shares of user time, experiences, content, etc.

(If you want a simpler way to think about the Metaverse, you can imagine it as the Nightmare Before Christmas – you can walk into any experience or activity, and potentially address almost any of your needs, from a single starting point or world that’s also populated by everyone else you know. This is why hypertext is such a key example. But what’s important is to recognize the Metaverse isn’t a game, a piece of hardware, or an online experience. This is like saying is World of Warcraft, the iPhone, or Google is the Internet. They are digital worlds, devices, services, websites, etc. The Internet is a wide set of protocols, technology, tubes and languages, plus access devices and content and communication experiences atop them. Metaverse will be too.)

CHAPTER 2: WHY DOES THE METAVERSE MATTER?

Even if the Metaverse falls short of the fantastical visions captured by science fiction authors, it is likely to produce trillions in value as a new computing platform or content medium. But in its full vision, the Metaverse becomes the gateway to most digital experiences, a key component of all physical ones, and the next great labor platform.

The value of being a key participant, if not a driver, of such a system is self-evident – there is no “owner” of the Internet today, but nearly all of the leading Internet companies rank among the 10 most valuable public companies on earth. And if the Metaverse does indeed serve as a functional “successor” to the web — only this time with even greater reach, time spent, and more commercial activity — there’s likely to be even more economic upside. Regardless, the Metaverse should produce the same diversity of opportunity as we saw with the web – new companies, products and services will emerge to manage everything from payment processing to identity verification, hiring, ad delivery, content creation, security, and so forth. This, in turn, will mean many present-day incumbents are likely to fall.

More broadly, the Metaverse stands to alter how we allocate and monetize modern resources. For centuries, developed economies have transformed as the scarcity of labor and real-estate waxed and waned. Under the Metaverse, would-be laborers who choose to live outside cities will be able to participate in the “high value” economy via virtual labor. As more consumer spending shifts to virtual goods, services, and experiences, we’ll also see further shifts in where we live, the infrastructure that’s built, and who performs which tasks. Consider, for example, “Gold Farming”. Not long after in-game trade economies emerged, many “players” – often employed by a larger company and typically in lower-income countries — would spend a workday collecting digital resources for sale inside or outside the game. These sales were typically to higher-income players in the West. And while this “labor” is typically menial, repetitive, and limited to a few applications, the diversity and value of this “work” will grow as the Metaverse itself does.

CHAPTER 3: BUILDING THE METAVERSE

The Metaverse will require countless new technologies, protocols, companies, innovations, and discoveries to work. And it won’t directly come into existence; there will be no clean “Before Metaverse” and “After Metaverse”. Instead, it will slowly emerge over time as different products, services, and capabilities integrate and meld together. However, it’s helpful to think of three core elements that need to come into place.

(One way I try to think about these three areas from a procedural perspective is via the Book of Genesis – first, one must create the underlying universe (“concurrency infrastructure”), then s/he must define its laws of physics and rules (“standards and protocols”), then s/he must fill it with life (“content”) that’s worthwhile, evolves, and iterates against selection pressures. God, in other words, doesn’t create and design the world as though it were a miniature model, but enables one to grow across a mostly blank tableau etc.)

Concurrency Infrastructure

At a foundational level, the technology simply does not yet exist for there to be hundreds, let alone millions of people participating in a shared, synchronous experience. Consider Fortnite’s 2019 Marshmello concert. An astounding 11MM people experienced the event in real time. However, they did not do so together. In truth, there were more than 100,000 instances of the Marshmello concert, all of which were slightly out of sync and capped at 100 players per instance. Epic can probably do more than this today, but not into several hundred, let alone millions.

Not only does the Metaverse require infrastructure that currently does not exist, the Internet was never designed for anything near this experience. After all, it was designed to share files from one computer to another. As a result, most of the Internet’s underlying systems are oriented around one server talking to one other server or an end-user device. This model continues today. There are billions of people on today’s Facebook, for example, but each user shares an individual connection with the Facebook server, not with any other user. Accordingly, when you access content from another user, you’re really just pulling the latest information that Facebook is giving you. The earliest form of pseudo-synchronous programs were text chats, but you’re still just pushing largely static data to a server and pulling the latest information from it when/where/how/as it’s needed. The Internet simply wasn’t designed for persistent (versus continuous) communication, let alone persistent communication that is synchronized in precise real time to countless others.

To operate, the Metaverse requires something more akin to video conferencing and video games. These experiences work because of persistent connections that update each other in real-time and with a degree of accuracy that other programs don’t generally need. However, they tend not to have high levels of concurrency: most video chat programs max out beyond a few people, and once you hit 50, you tend to need to “live stream” a broadcast to your viewers, rather than share a two-way connection. These experiences neither need to be, nor are they, exactly live.

To this end, part of the reason that the battle royale genre is only recently popular in video games now is because it’s only recently possible to play live with so many other users. Although some games with highest concurrencies have existed for more than twenty years, such as Second Life or Warcraft, they essentially spoofed the experience by “sharding” and splitting users into different “worlds” and servers. Eve Online, for example, can technically have more than 100,000 players “in the same game”, but they are split across different galaxies (i.e. server nodes). As a result, a player only really sees or interacts with a small handful of other players at any one time. In addition, traveling to another galaxy means disconnecting from one server and loading another (which the game is able to narratively “hide” by forcing players to jump to light speed in order to cross the vastness of space). And if/when Eve Online did get to battles involving hundreds of users, the system slowed to a crawl. And this still worked because the gameplay dynamic was based on predominantly large-scale, pre-planned ship-based combat. If it was a “fast-twitch” game such as Rocket League or Call of Duty, these slowdowns would have been unplayable.

A number of companies are working hard to solve this problem, such as the aptly named Improbable. But this is an enormous computational challenge and one that fights against the underlying design/intent of the Internet.

Standards, Protocols, and their Adoption

The Internet as we experience it today works because of standards and protocols for visual presentation, file loading, communications, graphics, data, and so forth. These include everything from consumer-recognizable .GIFs filetypes to the websocket protocol that underlies almost every form of real-time communication between a browser and other servers on the internet.

The Metaverse will require an even broader, more complex, and resilient set of S&Ps. What’s more, the importance of interoperability and live synchronous experiences means we’ll need to prune some existing standards and “standardize” around a smaller set per function. Today, for example, there are a multitude of image file formats: .GIF, .JPEG, .PNG, .BMP, .TIFF, .WEBP, etc. And while the web today is built on open standards, much of it is closed and proprietary. Amazon and Facebook and Google use similar technologies, but they aren’t designed to transition into one another — just as Ford’s wheels aren’t designed to fit a GM chassis. In addition, these companies are incredibly resistant to cross-integrating their systems or sharing their data. Such moves might raise the overall value of the “digital economy”, but also weakens their hyper-valuable network effects and makes it easier for a user to move their digital lives elsewhere.

This will be enormously difficult and take decades. And the more valuable and interoperable the Metaverse is, the harder it will be to establish industry-wide consensus around topics such as data security, data persistence, forward compatible code evolution, and transactions. In addition, the Metaverse will need altogether new rules for censorship, control of communications, regulatory enforcement, tax reporting, the prevention of online radicalization, and many more challenges that we’re still struggling with today.

While the establishments of standards usually involve actual meetings, negotiations, and debates, the standards for the Metaverse won’t be established upfront. The standard process is much messier and organic, with meetings and opinions changing on an ad hoc basis.

To use a meta analogy for the Metaverse, consider SimCity. In ideal circumstances, the “Mayor” (i.e. player) would first design their mega-metropolis, then build from day one to this final vision. But in the game, as with real life, you can’t just “build” a 10MM person city. You start with a small town and optimize for it first (e.g. where the roads are, schools are, utility capacity, etc.). As it grows, you build around this town, occasionally but judiciously tearing down and replacing “old” sections, sometimes only if/when a problem (insufficient supply of power) or disaster hits (a fire). But unlike SimCity, there will be many mayors, not one — and their desires and incentives will often conflict.

We don’t know exactly what the Metaverse will need, let alone which existing standards will transfer over, how, to what effects, when, or through which applications and groups. As a result, it’s important to consider how the Metaverse emerges, not just around which technological standard.

The ‘On-Ramp’ Experience

Just as the standards for the Metaverse can’t simply be “declared”, consumers and businesses won’t embrace a would-be proto-Metaverse simply because it’s available.

Consider the real world. Just making a mall capable of fitting a hundred thousand people or a hundred shops doesn’t mean it attracts a single consumer or brand. “Town squares” emerge organically around existing infrastructure and behaviors, to fulfill existing civilian and commercial needs. Ultimately, any place of congregation — be it a bar, basement, park, museum or merry-go-round — is attended because of who or what is already there, not because it’s a place in of itself.

The same is true of digital experiences. Facebook, the world’s largest social network, didn’t work because it announced it would be a “social network”, but because it emerged first as a campus hot-or-not, then became a digital yearbook turned photo-sharing and messaging service. As with Facebook, the Metaverse needs to be “populated”, rather than just “populable”, and this population must then fill in this digital world with things to do and content to consume.

This is why considering Fortnite as a video game or interactive experience is to think too small and too immediately. Fortnite began as a game, but it quickly evolved into a social square. Its players aren’t logging in to “play”, per se, but to be with their virtual and real-world friends. Teenagers in the 1970s to 2010s would come home and spend three hours talking on the phone. Now they talk to their friends on Fortnite, but not about Fortnite. Instead, they talk about school, movies, sports, news, boys, girls and more. After all, Fortnite doesn’t have a story or IP – the plot is what happens on it and who is there.

Furthermore, Fortnite is rapidly becoming a medium through which other brands, IP, and stories express themselves. Most famously, this includes last year’s live Marshmello concert. However, such examples have rapidly expanded since. In December 2019, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker released a clip of the hotly-anticipated film exclusively in Fortnite as part of a larger, in-game audience-interactive event that included a live mocap interview with director J.J. Abrams. What’s more, this event was explicitly referenced in the opening moments of the film. The band Weezer produced a bespoke island where fans could get an exclusive first listen to their new album (while dancing with other “players”. Fortnite has also produced several themed “limited-time modes” involving the likes of Nike’s Air Jordan and Lionsgate’s John Wick film series. In some cases, these “LTMs” transform part of Fortnite’s map into a mini-virtual world that, when entered, changes the aesthetics, items and playstyle of the game to resemble another. This has included the universe of the game Borderlands, Batman’s hometown of Gotham, and the old west.

To this end, Fortnite is one of the few places where the IP of Marvel and DC intersects. You can literally wear a Marvel character’s costume inside Gotham City, while interacting with those wearing legally licensed NFL uniforms. This sort of thing hasn’t really happened before. But it will be critical to the Metaverse.

More broadly, a whole sub-economy on Fortnite has emerged where “players” can build (and monetize) their own content. This can be as small as digital outfits (“skins”) or dances (“emotes”). However, it has rapidly expanded into creating all new games and experiences using Fortnite’s engine, assets, and aesthetics. This includes everything from simple treasure hunts, to immersive mash-ups of the Brothers Grimm with parkour culture, to a 10-hour sci-fi story that spans multiple dimensions and timelines. In fact, Fortnite’s Creative Mode already feels like a proto-Metaverse. Here, a player loads their avatar — one specific to them and which is used in all Fortnite-related experiences — and lands in a game-like lobby and can choose from thousands of “doors” (i.e. space-time rifts) that send them to one of thousands of different worlds with up to 99 other players.

This speaks to the longer term-vision for the game, one that creative director Donald Mustard is increasingly clear about. Fortnite isn’t the Metaverse, but nothing is closer to the Metaverse today in spirit and it is clear how the “game” might eventually underpin one.

Epic Games’ Epic Game Plan

The best example of Fortnite’s potential is demonstrated by its ability to persuade many supposed competitors into cooperation (or early “interoperability”) with one another. Today, Fortnite works across each major entertainment platform – iOS, Android, PlayStation, Nintendo, PC, Xbox — allowing full cross-play that spans multiple identity/account systems, payment methods, social graphs, and typically closed ecosystems. For years, this was heavily resisted by the major gaming platforms as they believed that enabling such an experience would undermine their network effects and reduce the need to buy their proprietary hardware. As a result, a friend with Call of Duty on PlayStation could never play with their friend with Call of Duty on Xbox, even though both Sony and Microsoft knew they wanted to.

Similarly, it’s unusual for IP owners to allow their characters and stories to be intermingled with other IP. This does happen from time to time (e.g. there are several Marvel v DC comic book crossovers and video games). But it’s particularly rare to see it crossed over in an experience they don’t control editorially, let alone one based around unpredictability (not even the creative team behind Fortnite knows what it will do in 2021) and with such a wide range of IP.

This organic evolution can’t be overemphasized. If you “declared” your intent to start a Metaverse, these parties would never embrace interoperability or entrust their IP. But Fortnite has become so popular and so unique that most counterparties have no choice but to participate – in fact, they’re probably desperate to integrate into the “game” – just as P&G can’t say “eh, Facebook isn’t for us”. Fortnite is too valuable a platform.

At the same time, Epic is bringing far more than a plausible on-ramp to its efforts to build the Metaverse. In addition to operating Fortnite — which was in theory a side project — Epic Games also owns the second largest independent gaming engine, Unreal. This means thousands of games already operate on its “stack” of tools and software (to simplify things), making it easier to share assets, integrate experiences, and share user profiles. Over time, the sophistication of Epic’s gaming engine has grown so significant it now powers a variety of traditional media experiences. Disney’s The Mandalorian was shot and fully rendered in Unreal, with director Jon Favreau able to literally enter its digital sets to frame a shot and position characters. If Disney so chooses, audiences could freely investigate much of these sets — most of the environment and assets already exist. And outside film and TV, Unreal is increasingly being used for live events, too: Unreal powers Fox Sports’s NASCAR set, for example.

Still, the Metaverse requires everyone to be able to create and contribute ‘content’ and ‘experiences,’ not just well-staffed corporations and technically skilled individuals trying to make games or movies. To this end, Epic acquired the company Twinmotion in April of last year. The company was/is focused not on VFX engineers or game designers, but on offering intuitive, icon-based software that enables “architecture, construction, urban planning and landscaping professionals” to produce realistic, immersive digital environments based in Unreal “in seconds”. According to Epic Games Founder/CEO Tim Sweeney, this means that there are now three ways to create in Unreal: the standard “coding” engine itself, the more simplified and “visual” Twinmotion, and Fortnite Creative Mode for those with no experience in programming and design. Over time, each option is likely to become more capable, easier to use and integrated.

Another increasingly important part of Epic’s offering is its “Online Services” suite, which allows developers to immediately support cross-play across Sony + Microsoft + Nintendo + PC + iOS + Android and leverage Epic’s account systems/social graph (which has 1.6B player connections). This itself isn’t that unique — Microsoft spent $400MM acquiring PlayFab and millions more to support Xbox Live, while Amazon has bought both GameSparks and GameLift in order to sell services to game developers that need lots of servers and tools for their online games to work. Valve doesn’t offer server infrastructure, but its Steamworks solution gives developers match-making and account services for free — but only for the Steam Store, Valve’s core business. This reveals Epic’s play with Online Services. Unlike today’s market leaders, Epic doesn’t charge. It’s also available free to any engine, any platform, and any game. And it operates at the scale of Fortnite’s player network, allowing any title to leverage the world’s largest player graph to kickstart their userbases. There is obviously value in such an offering, but to Epic, it is “more valuable if free” as it extends the company’s already enormous social graph, makes it much easier for more games to “talk to” one another, and enables players to more seamlessly jump from experience to experience. All of this, too, diminishes Epic’s reliance upon Fortnite when it comes to building the Metaverse. And while Epic Online Services are still in private beta, the company has suggested it will be publicly available in Q2 2020 and should support “hundreds or thousands of games in 2020”. Note, too, that this all reduces Epic’s reliance on Fortnite in its long-term efforts to build the Metaverse.

Epic also operates one of the largest (albeit a still small) digital game store – which means players already access a wide variety of digital content and experiences through Epic. Few consumers were clamoring for greater fragmentation of digital content, and most were reasonably happy with market leader Steam. However, Epic Games Founder/CEO Tim Sweeney has been vocal about the fact that today’s standard 30% commissions for digital content sales (e.g. iOS or Amazon or Google Play) are not just usurious, they prevent the creation of a real digital world economy. Just imagine, for example, if credit card fees weren’t 0.5-2.5% but up to 60-20x as much; whole sectors of the physical economy wouldn’t be able to operate (such as a coffee shop or grocery store). To this end, Epic charges only 12% (which includes the 5% Unreal licensing fee, too, making it only 7% for many customers). Notably, rumors persist that Sweeney had fought for even lower fees but settled with his board at 12% – a sum he himself admits doesn’t always cover operating costs. This doesn’t mean there isn’t an overall business here – and operating a storefront will doubtlessly help build the Metaverse – but Sweeney’s efforts seem much broader. He openly implores Google and Apple, which generate several thousand times the revenue of Epic’s fledgling store, to match Epic’s rates.

CHAPTER 4: WHO ELSE CAN BUILD THE METAVERSE?

Although the Metaverse has the potential to succeed the Internet as a computing platform, its underlying development process is likely to share little in common with its antecedent. The Internet came from public research universities and US government programs. This was in part because few in private business understood the commercial potential of a World Wide Web, but it was also true that these groups were essentially the only entities with the computational talent, resources, and ambitions to build it. None of this is true when it comes to the Metaverse.

Not only is private industry fully aware of the potential of the Metaverse, it probably has the most aggressive conviction in this future, not to mention the most cash (at least when it comes from a willingness to fund Metaverse R&D), the best engineering talent, and greatest desire for conquest. The major tech companies don’t just want to lead the Metaverse, they want to own and define it. There will still be a large role for open-source projects with non-corporate ethos — and they will attract some of the most interesting creative talent in the Metaverse — but there are only a few likely leaders in the early Metaverse. And you’ll recognize each one.

Microsoft is a good example. The company has hundreds of millions of federated user identities via Office 365 and LinkedIn, is the second largest cloud vendor in the world, has an extensive suite of work-related software and services that span all systems/platforms/infrastructure, clear technical experience in massive shared online content/operations, and a set of potential gateway experiences via Minecraft, Xbox + Xbox Live, and HoloLens. To this end, the Metaverse offers Microsoft the opportunity to reclaim the OS/hardware leadership it ceded during the handoff from PC to mobile. But more importantly, CEO Satya Nadella understands Microsoft, at a minimum, needs to be wherever work happens. Having successfully adapted from enterprise to consumer, PC to mobile, and offline to online, all while maintaining a dominant role in the “work” economy, it’s hard to envision Microsoft won’t be a primary driver in the virtualized future of labor and information processing.

Although Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not explicitly declared his intent to develop and own the Metaverse, his obsession with it seems fairly clear. And this is smart. More than any other company, Facebook has the most to lose from the Metaverse as it will build an even larger and more capable social graph and represent both a new computing platform and a new engagement platform. At the same time, the Metaverse also allows Facebook to extend its reach up and down the stack. Despite several efforts to build a smartphone OS and deploy consumer hardware, Facebook remains the one FAAMG company stuck purely at the app/service layer. Through the Metaverse, Facebook could become the next Android or iOS/iPhone (hence Oculus), not to mention a virtual goods version of Amazon.

Facebook’s Metaverse advantages are immense. It has more users, daily usage and user-generated content created each day than any other platform on earth, as well as the second largest share of digital ad spend, billions in cash, thousands of world-class engineers, and conviction from a founder with majority voting rights. Its Metaverse-oriented assets are also growing rapidly and now include patents for semiconductor and brain-to-machine computing interfaces. At the same time, Facebook has a very troubled track record as a platform for where third-party developers/companies can build sustainable businesses, as a ringleader in a consortium (e.g. Libra), and in managing user data/trust.

Amazon is interesting in a few regards. Most obviously, it will always want to be the primary place in which we buy ‘stuff.’ Whether that’s bought inside a game engine, a virtual world, or web browser is irrelevant (it already sells inside Twitch). In addition, the company already has hundreds of millions of credit cards, the largest share of ecommerce globally (ex-China), is the world’s largest cloud vendor, operates numerous different consumer media experiences (video, music, ebooks, audiobooks, video game broadcasting, etc.) and third-party commerce platforms (e.g. Fulfilled by Amazon, Amazon Channels), is building what they hope will be the first major gaming/rendering engine purpose-designed for the cloud computing era, reportedly working on AR glasses, and is the leader in in-home/office digital assistants.

More importantly, Founder/CEO Jeff Bezos feels very strongly about underlying infrastructure plays. The web, for example, runs on AWS (Amazon’s best business). 80% of its revenue is actually via “Fulfilled by Amazon,” where the company sells, packages, and delivers products sold by other businesses, instead of Amazon buying and then selling the inventory directly (like most retailers). And while the goal of Elon Musk’s private aerospace company, SpaceX, is to colonize mars, Bezos has been clear his goal with Blue Origin is to facilitate the buildout of space infrastructure similar to early web protocols and his AWS, so that “we could build gigantic chip factories in space and just send little bits down.” To this end, Amazon is likely to be more supportive of a truly “open” Metaverse than any other FAAMG company — it doesn’t need to control the UX or ID because it benefits from enormous increases in back-end infrastructure usage and digital transactions.

The Internet is a mine of data and the Metaverse will have both more data and perhaps greater returns on it than today’s web. And no one monetizes this data better at global scale than Google. In addition, the company is not just the market leader in indexing both the digital and physical world (nearly 10,000 employees contribute to its mapping initiatives), but it is also the most successful digital software and services company outside of China. It also operates the most used operating system on earth (Android), as well as the most open of the major consumer computing platforms. Though unsuccessful, Google was first to really run after the wearable computing opportunity via Google Glass, and is making an aggressive move into digitizing the home via Google Assistant, its Nest suite of products and FitBit. Accordingly, the Metaverse is likely the only initiative that can unite all of Google’s sprawling investments to date, from edge computing on Stadia, to Project Fi, Google Street View, its extensive purchases of dark fiber, wearables, virtual assistants and more.

Apple is unlikely to drive or operate the underlying Metaverse. True, it operates the second largest computing platform of the modern era (and by far the most valuable one), as well as the largest game stores on the planet (which also means it pays more to developers than anyone else on earth). In addition, the company is investing heavily into AR devices and “connective tissue” that will aid the Metaverse (e.g. beacons, Apple Watch, Apple AirPods). However, building an open platform for creation — where everyone can access the full range of user data and device APIs — is antithetical to Apple’s ethos and business strategy. All of which is to say, Apple is more likely to be the dominant way the Western world engages with Metaverse rather than the operator/driver. As with the Internet, this will probably work out pretty well for everyone.

If the Metaverse requires a broad interplay of assets, experiences, and common APIs, Unity will have a foundational role. This engine is used by more than half of mobile games and is even more widely deployed in real-world rendering/simulation use cases (e.g. architecture, design, engineering) than Unreal. And while director Jon Favreau produced Disney’s The Mandalorian in Unreal, he also produced and shot the photo realistic Lion King in Unity. It also operates one of the largest digital ad networks (a nice side effect of powering 10B daily minutes of mobile entertainment). However, it’s not yet clear what role Unity will have in driving the Metaverse. It doesn’t have a store, a user account system, or a real direct-to-consumer experience. Most of its ancillary (i.e. non-engine or advertising) services have not been widely adopted. In addition, most (though not all) Unity-powered games are relatively simple mobile titles rather than those likely to serve as gateways to the Metaverse. However, its inevitable influence over standards, playtime, and content creation are so large that it’s difficult to imagine it won’t be acquired by and integrated into a major technology player with a wider range of assets and advantages.

In the past, an acquisition of Unity was hard to justify. Even though the company is enormously valuable, any would-be acquirer has to keep Unity fully platform-agnostic in order to preserve its market share, developer support, and influence (e.g. Google couldn’t make Unity exclusive to or best on Android/Chrome exclusive without losing hordes of developers). This doesn’t mean turning Unity into a proprietary engine can’t be strategically smart. The value destroyed by such a decision and the premium required to buy Unity is likely to make such a move prohibitive. But if the goal of a Unity acquisition is to ensure a foundational role in the new Internet, an acquirer instead has an incentive to keep the engine open/available across platforms, and the price can easily become irrelevant.

If Epic has a viable path to the Metaverse, Valve must too. Valve’s Steam is orders larger than the Epic Games Store in terms of users, revenue, and playtime. It owns several of the most popular, long-running multiplayer games (Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, DotA). The company also has a lengthy history in content and monetization innovation (it was the first to experiment at scale with AAA free-to-play games and with player-to-player marketplaces). Valve has also spent years developing and releasing VR hardware, generates billions in profits each year, and is privately owned by a team of technologists focused on open-source technologies with a disdain for closed ecosystems. At the same time, Valve’s engine, Source, has seen limited adoption, and unlike Epic, it does not seem to be corralled around uniting its capabilities and assets to create the Metaverse.

Others

While it’s convenient to think of a single lead company or experience ushering in the Metaverse, the process itself will really be led through a Cambrian explosion of different “things” coming together (not that there can’t be a leader or big winner). To this end, there is also a myriad of start-ups trying to build early, proto-Metaverse styled experiences. Ubiquity6, as an example, hopes to use millions of individual content creators to “map” the real world then build smartphone/AR/VR-accessible digital experiences atop these maps. The similarly named Singularity6 is building a virtual world that, unlike Fortnite, is intended to develop into a Metaverse from day one. Other companies, such as Genvid (a portfolio company), are building SDKs that allow anyone to build server-rendered experiences that millions can participate in together using livestreams with light client-side interactivity. While this lacks several of the key attributes of the Metaverse today, such as individual “presence”, it begins amassing enormous volumes of “players” into fully shared virtual environments that aren’t currently possible via cloud or locally-rendered gaming.

Magic Leap seems to believe that by owning the hardware layer, it can be the core driver of the Metaverse (Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson is the company’s Chief Futurist). In fact, most of the FAAMG companies seem to believe that glasses will be a key gateway into our digital future and are collectively investing billions into the form factor. With this in mind, Snapchat, which boasts a large and heavily-engaged social graph and has strongly anchored itself around cameras, glasses, location-based experiences, and digital avatars, could have a key role in the Metaverse (especially if acquired).And for all of its uniqueness, Fortnite isn’t even the only Fortnite — there are several other online “games” that share many of the same attributes, behaviors, and potential. Minecraft and Roblox, for example, both boast more than 100MM monthly users (Fortnite probably has fewer) and have also been able to mash up various intellectual properties (such as Marvel and DC). What’s more, these “games” are even more reliant on user-generated content and user-led experiences — there is no underlying game-like goal such as “winning” or “surviving” in Minecraft, the “game” is creation (which isn’t to say that users haven’t created many “games” with game-like goals). In 2019, Roblox says it will have paid out more than $100MM to its game creators around the world (a group that ranges from single “developers” to studios of “10 or 20 people”). The company also notes that it doesn’t even pay these developers directly — unlike the iOS app store — they receive direct payment from users. And in the fall of 2019, Roblox launched its “Developer Marketplace”, which allows developers to monetize not just their games, but also the assets, plug-ins, vehicles, 3D models, terrains, and other items they produce for these games. Meanwhile, many other games, such as Grand Theft Auto Online (which has an estimated 50MM+ monthly active players), has added socializing-oriented modes (such as a casino) where users can create, operate, or participate in activities purely for the sake of “hanging out”.

Building Together

Ultimately, too much of the Metaverse remains unclear for us to have strong convictions on who will lead it or how they’ll get us there. And in truth, it’s most likely the Metaverse emerges from a network of different platforms, bodies, and technologies working together (however reluctantly) and embracing interoperability. The Internet today is a product of a relatively messy process in which the open (mostly academic) internet developed in parallel with closed (mostly consumer-oriented) services that often looked to “rebuild” or “reset” open standards and protocols.

To this end, it’s hard to imagine any of the major technology companies being “pushed out” by the Metaverse and/or lacking a major role. Not only will the Metaverse grow the pie by too much, big transitions tend to disrupt when they’re hard to see and incumbents are slow to respond or capital constrained. None of this is true today (which doesn’t mean market share won’t shift, or that some companies, such as Epic, won’t surge to the forefront).

At the same time, it’s likely that China’s forked Metaverse will be even more different from (and centrally controlled compared to) the Western one. And here, the tech/media conglomerate Tencent (which also publishes most of the Western games released in China, as well as those of Japan’s Nintendo and Square Enix), is an obvious anchor. The company also owns a reported 40% of Epic Games.

1v1v1v1v1v1…

The visions, technologies, and capabilities I’ve described above still feel like science fiction – even if they come to be, they’re decades away. At the same time, many of the pieces are starting to come together. Thus, the questions are ones of who and why and to which ends. And so, it’s helpful to return to the (lengthy) creation of the World Wide Web. Imagine if instead of being designed by nonprofits and technologists looking to share research files and messages, it was designed to sell ads or collect user data for profits.

This is why it’s so important to Sweeney for his company to lead early efforts to establish the Metaverse — he fears who might instead. “As we build up these platforms toward the Metaverse, if these platforms are locked down and controlled by these proprietary companies, they are going to have far more power over our lives, our private data, and our private interactions with other people than any platform in previous history,” Sweeney said in May 2017. Two months later, he was even more explicit: “The amount of power possessed by Google and Facebook. President Eisenhower said it about the military-industrial complex. They pose a grave threat to our democracy.” As “founder and controlling shareholder of Epic”, Sweeney “would never allow” Epic to “share user data…with any other company. We [won’t] share it, sell it, or broker access to it for advertising like so many other companies do.”

There may not be 100 players, but it’s still a battle royale.

Matthew Ball (@ballmatthew).

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The EU’s Rise as a Defense Technological Power: From Strategic Autonomy to Technological Sovereignty – from Frontier Post

Source: Original Article

RALUCA CSERNATONI

STRATEGIC AUTONOMY ISN’T JUST DEFENSE, IT’S ALSO TECHNOLOGY

Over the past two decades, the impact of new and emerging technologies and increased digitalization have become the prime drivers of globalization and international competition. States around the world are making digital autonomy, technological supremacy, and innovation the cornerstones of their diplomatic, security, and economic efforts. The European Union (EU) is no exception.

The coronavirus pandemic and its broader implications have further highlighted the importance of digital transformation in all aspects of society, as well as the need to reduce strategic dependencies in key, high-end technology areas, value and supply chains, and critical infrastructures. Against the backdrop of a deteriorating geopolitical and security environment, it comes as no surprise that European digital and technological sovereignty are at the center of current EU policy discussions.

There are indeed signs of a new and yet conceptually ambiguous narrative taking shape around building the EU’s technological innovation power. What exactly are the practical and policy implications of a new “technological sovereignty” narrative? And more importantly, what EU tech sovereignty efforts have been made in line with broader European strategic autonomy objectives?

The concept of European strategic autonomy is certainly not new. It initially emerged in discussions related to the EU’s space and security and defense policy strategies, as well as in terms of upping the EU’s game in military capability building. Political discussions about European strategic autonomy indeed have a long and controversial history.

The term has deep historical roots in French strategic culture and thinking, and since the 1990s, it has typically referred to the notion that the EU should be able to carry out modest-size, out-of-area, and militarily well-equipped crisis management operations, especially in its own neighborhood, and independently of the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

While the publication of the EU’s Global Strategy (EUGS) in June 2016 is credited for putting the concept of strategic autonomy on the EU’s foreign and security policy agendas, the reality is that various EU institutions and member states have long been discussing the need to upgrade the EU’s defense technological and industrial portfolio and crisis management capabilities. Key to such debates was the preservation of a competitive European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.

In the words of Josep Borrell, the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy and vice president of the European Commission, the concept of strategic autonomy is indeed not new, as it has been extensively used in the military realm and for a long time was limited to issues related to European security and defense. According to Borrell, strategic autonomy is also a “process of political survival” for the EU, and its logic should be expanded to other sectors.

This narrow security and defense focus has been recently expanded by the geopolitically focused European Commission under President Ursula von der Leyen and under the stated ambition to revamp the European power agenda in various strategic sectors. The underlying logic behind strategic autonomy has started to increasingly encompass discussions about technological protectionism and capacity building in new domains related to digitalization, data, space, energy, and new and emerging technologies.

The new technological sovereignty narrative is meant to build EU-wide consensus around the need to preserve European leadership and autonomy in various key technological areas. It is the EU’s attempt to put forward a pragmatic and autonomous approach to avoid dependencies and geopolitical coercion in critical technological sectors.

The stakes could not be higher. Indeed, the incumbent commission has started to actively circulate various notions of sovereignty derived from discussions on strategic autonomy and defense sovereignty by populating the discursive landscape with related concepts such as technological, digital, and data sovereignty.

This expansion is revealing increasing fears that more protective autonomy in other policy areas than security and defense is needed to safeguard the EU’s economic and strategic interests and European values. Hence, the impact of terms such as sovereignty, power, and strategic autonomy floating around the technology, digitalization, and data spheres should not be easily disregarded.

These terms give strategic meaning to EU action and institutionalize different sectoral approaches to sovereignty building. They are also indicative of recent EU-led policy, regulatory, and funding efforts in the industrial, technological, and digital domains. But which are the most significant initiatives designed to consolidate the EU’s quest for various sovereignties, and do they amount to a coherent and integrated approach?

EU TECHNOLOGICAL SOVEREIGNTY IS IN THE MAKING

Behind the EU’s recent multiple sovereignty agendas is the need to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation. The very label of a geopolitical European Commission implies a new level of engagement for the EU in the global balance of power. Technological and digital sovereignty are at the heart of such ambitions.

The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated the urgency to shore up technological, digital, and regulatory responses to preserve the EU’s economic clout, industrial competitiveness, and geopolitical influence, as well as to reduce dependencies in critical technology areas. What has the EU done so far, and what must it still do to meet that goal of technological sovereignty?

Four cross-cutting dimensions can help unpack the concept of technological sovereignty and better structure the discussion about EU initiatives, programs, and instruments:

DEFENSE CAPABILITY DEVELOPMENT

According to Arnout Molenaar, the head of division in the European External Action Service, dealing with security and defense policy is also related to “a learning curve for the Union to develop a ‘hard power’ mentality.” Technology plays a fundamental role in terms of making possible the EU’s hard military power ambitions—not only to act in a tense geopolitical setting but also to defend the EU’s interests in areas related to technology, security, and defense matters.

In this regard, collaborative EU defense research and development (R&D) initiatives have been prioritized at the EU level for some time now to support the competitiveness of the European Defence Technological and Industrial Base.

EU institutions and agencies have made considerable efforts to preserve Europe’s edge in key areas, including emerging and disruptive security technologies and infrastructures such as cybersecurity, drones, secure networks, space technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), and quantum technology.

Indeed, recent EU initiatives such as the European Commission’s European Defence Fund (EDF) as part of the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), 2021–2027—as well as its precursor programs, the Preparatory Action on Defence Research and the European Defence Industrial Development Programme—are intended to financially empower the EU’s autonomy in defense technology and industry and its research and innovation capacity in future-oriented and disruptive defense technologies.

Such initiatives have been framed as timely catalysts and potential game changers for increasing collective European action and for fostering cutting-edge defense research and innovation in Europe. The commission funded the Preparatory Action on Defence Research as a test case of defense-related research and technology projects, pulling directly from the EU budget line rather than from member states’ joint initiatives. This scheme was a concrete step designed to demonstrate the added value of EU-supported defense technology research and innovation.

If successfully implemented, the EDF is expected to bolster more lucrative and joint research and capability-driven investment schemes in defense technologies across Europe and to increase the EU’s global leadership position in strategic tech sectors. The commission has already pledged a relatively small percentage of up to 8 percent of the EDF funding to disruptive technology actions.

However, with the initially proposed amount of 13 billion euros ($15.4 billion) now reduced to about 8 billion euros ($9.5 billion), the EDF’s real potential to create value added and to incentivize technological and industrial cooperation and competitiveness in Europe is unclear.

Indeed, this reduction could be accounted for by the fact that some member states either took a budget-restrictive approach to the entire 2021–2027 MFF or judged that on balance, they would benefit less from the EDF than their contribution to it and thus opted for reducing the overall funding.

What is certain is that the EDF marks an important paradigm shift in consolidating the EU’s increased supranational activism in the field of defense technology and industry as a basis for building the EU’s military hard power and defense portfolio. The fund also consolidates the European Commission’s increasing role and strong interventionism in the EU security and defense policy fields that have traditionally been the exclusive preserve of member states’ decisionmaking.

There is also a clear message that developing the defense industry and technology base in Europe is key to strategic autonomy. Hence, logic dictates that defense-related technological sovereignty is central to the EU’s strategic autonomy. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether the reduced funding dedicated to the EDF and the small percentage of it that is flagged for disruptive military technologies are sufficient to foster high-risk, high-reward technological innovation in the European defense sector.

CROSS-DOMAIN APPROACH TO INNOVATION

The swift operationalization of the EDF, coupled by fostering synergies with other EU initiatives in terms of civil-military R&D cross-fertilization, might very well be what Europe needs to maintain its innovational and technological edge.

To this end, the commission’s Action Plan on Synergies Between Civil, Defence and Space Industries from February 2021—the so-called Three-Point Belt Plan—is one way ahead to propose a more horizontal and cross-domain approach for boosting research, technology development, and the EU’s overall innovation power.

Announced in the Industrial Strategy for Europe from March 2020, the commission’s 2021 Three-Point Belt Plan aims to establish a structured approach and create new opportunities for innovation synergies among relevant EU-funded programs and instruments, especially in the case of emerging and disruptive technologies. It defines critical technologies as relevant across the defense, space, and related civil industries and as essential to Europe’s technological sovereignty by reducing risks of overdependence on external players.

To make this happen, the commission will set up within its services an EU Observatory of Critical Technologies, which will be in charge of regular monitoring and analysis of key technology areas with a view to closing existing gaps and dependencies. It will also use technology road maps and forecasting to identify emerging technologies.

This undertaking will ostensibly facilitate spin-off from EU funding for space and defense R&D and spin-in from civil-driven innovation. The seventeen-page-long action plan mentions the term “technological sovereignty” no less than eight times, while the word “synergies” appears thirty-one times.

This is significant as the document puts forward a more comprehensive civil-military approach to innovation, especially in the case of critical technologies, with a view to scaling up the existing EU toolbox by streamlining various initiatives such as the EDF, the EU Space program, and other EU instruments.

The real challenge is how to foster innovation and facilitate coordinated action between programs and sectoral instruments such as the Digital Europe Programme, which is focused on building the strategic digital capacities of the EU and on facilitating the wide deployment of digital technologies; the Horizon Europe program for research and innovation; the Connecting Europe Facility; the European Innovation Council; InvestEU; and NextGenerationEU, the temporary instrument designed to boost Europe’s post-pandemic recovery.

Yet the relatively low numbers allocated for research and innovation in the EU’s key funding programs for research and innovation, such as Horizon Europe, might suggest the contrary. There is also the question of differing and sometimes conflicting research and innovation cultures in Europe’s unevenly distributed civil, defense, and space industries.

Another related issue is that of digital sovereignty, a term sometimes used interchangeably with technological sovereignty. Without going into theoretical debates about the two concepts, by and large digital sovereignty is yet another iteration of technological sovereignty from external players in cyberspace. It rests, according to EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, on three inseparable pillars: “computing power, control over our data and secure connectivity.” This means that, in the case of digital sovereignty, Europe wants to free itself from its hardware and software dependencies either from third countries or Big Tech players.

In doing so, Europe aims to foster its growing digital infrastructure and economy, while making sure the union’s core democratic values also apply in the digital era. Furthermore, according to the European Commission, a secure and sovereign, European-based, resilient, and sustainable digital infrastructure is vital to this transformation.

In this respect, the Digital Europe Programme also aims to boost the EU’s innovation power. It is meant to up the investment stakes in supercomputing, AI, and cybersecurity, including via a network of Digital Innovation Hubs across Europe.

Complementarity with other EU programs and strategic plans is yet again key to achieving digital sovereignty, especially in high technology areas such as AI. For instance, the European Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence identified the need to develop a comprehensive policy and governance approach to AI for the EU to “become a global leader in innovation in the data economy and its applications.”

According to the document, one of the main building blocks to achieve this goal is an “ecosystem of excellence” as well as public-private partnerships that will leverage up to 20 billion euros of private and public sector resources along the entire value chain, from research and innovation to accelerating the deployment and uptake of AI-based solutions benefitting public services and businesses.

First published in 2018, the new and updated 2021 Coordinated Plan on Artificial Intelligence further consolidates collaboration between the commission and member states to enable joint actions, public-private partnerships, and research and innovation networks. Funding will be allocated via the Digital Europe Programme and Horizon Europe program, the Recovery and Resilience Facility that foresees a target goal of 20 percent of expenditure on digital goals, and the Cohesion Policy program.

The overall goal is to improve Europe’s competitiveness in the global digital economy, support digitalization, and build innovation capacity in new digital technologies. It also comes as no surprise that the EU’s new Cybersecurity Strategy in the Digital Decade from December 2020 identifies key technologies like AI, quantum computing, and future generation networks as essential to Europe’s digital future and cybersecurity.

DIGITALIZATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE RESILIENCE

Several initiatives have also been aimed at strengthening and rationalizing the EU’s resilience in the case of critical infrastructure, including in terms of digital infrastructure connectivity. The EU’s Critical Information Infrastructure Protection from as early as 2009 aimed to strengthen the security and resilience of vital information and communication technology infrastructures.

There are growing risks associated with the increased digitalization of societies, critical infrastructure resilience, and the security of supply chains, especially in terms of managing critical dependencies. Related to this, the European Commission’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF2) Digital program aims to support investments in digital connectivity infrastructures during the period of the 2021­–2027 MFF. Among foreseen actions are the deployment of and access to very high-capacity networks, including 5G systems, and the significant upgrade of existing backbone networks including submarine cables.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the issue of European sovereignty over supply chains has also received a renewed sense of urgency. The 5G joint toolbox endorsed by the commission in January 2020 plays an important role as a major enabler for critical infrastructure resilience that will help mitigate the main cybersecurity risks of future generations’ mobile networks and leverage a robust set of cybersecurity measures in Europe.

Thanks to the new toolbox, the EU and member states can now more effectively protect critical infrastructure connectivity. At the heart of EU and member states’ concerns around 5G is the interference by foreign states, in particular China, providing 5G equipment via state-controlled companies and high-risk vendors that present immediate security threats against increasingly digitalized economies and societies in Europe.

This may indeed jeopardize Europe’s critical infrastructure resilience. Similar concerns have been expressed regarding the need to promote and protect sensitive technologies with the potential for dual-use applications. These concerns also come up in relation to the common framework for screening foreign direct investments and the EU regulation on such screening that became operational in October 2020.

Similarly, the commission’s approach to modernize the EU’s export controls on sensitive dual-use technologies is intended to strengthen the EU’s response to evolving security risks and to the impact of new and emerging technologies by better addressing the risks of human rights violations associated with trade in sensitive cyber surveillance technologies.

Other challenges could impact the EU’s innovation resilience, such as potential geopolitical disruptions to critical supply chains like in the case of critical raw materials or semiconductors. This has already been played out in the technological war between the United States and China and the growing weaponization of trade policies.

Accordingly, Europe risks becoming exposed to global tech wars if it does not promote homegrown solutions and address geopolitically risky dependencies in critical technology domains. This has been made clear in the case of the global semiconductor value chain on design, materials, and advanced manufacturing.

The design and production of processor semiconductors are one key area where coordinated plans from twenty-one member states are encouraged under the NextGenerationEU funding scheme. Yet the expense and level of technological sophistication required in creating a chip design ecosystem in Europe imply that it will take years before Europe can develop cutting-edge capabilities.

The European Commission has also taken steps to address risks related to critical raw materials and supply chains, having released in September 2020 an Action Plan on Critical Raw Materials accompanied by an updated List of Critical Raw Materials and a foresight study examining dependent sectors and strategic technology areas for the 2030 to 2050 horizon.

TECH-RELATED REGULATORY ACTIVISM

Equally, the rush to regulate and set technological standards brings about new geopolitical tensions. Considering that new and emerging technologies are becoming a crucial element in great power competition, their regulation is becoming increasingly politicized. Consequently, the EU has taken a global lead concerning the creation of a regime of international norms and standards governing emerging disruptive technologies.

As shown by the General Data Protection Regulation, the EU’s strategic edge primarily resides in its market, normative, and regulatory power—what has been described as the Brussels effect. Yet in the current international climate of a so-called technological war being waged by the United States and China, there is still a long way to go for Europe to become a leader in socially responsible and sustainable high-tech industries.

For this to happen, the EU should reinforce the ethical development and deployment of new and emerging technologies, as well as strengthen its strategic autonomy in critical technology areas. In a nutshell, for the EU to become a global leader in regulation and standards setting, it should also invest heavily in research and innovation so that it becomes a source of cutting-edge technology, not just regulation.

EU leaders have argued that technological sovereignty is also about protecting European culture and values, in which human-centered autonomy is prioritized by emphasizing individual citizens’ sovereign rights to their own data and in their interactions with AI.

With the new strategy for a Europe fit for the digital age, the European Commission wants to deliver on the promise of human-centered and risk-based new tech regulation, together with a comprehensive regulatory packaging including the European Digital Strategy, the European Data Strategy, the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act, as well as the White Paper on Artificial Intelligence and the EU’s latest AI regulation package.

Now more than ever, the devil is in the details. The Commission’s White Paper on Artificial Intelligence already proposed creating an “ecosystem of trust” in Europe by putting forward a legal framework that addresses the risks for fundamental rights and safety under the label of a secure, human-centered, and trustworthy AI.

In the European Commission Proposal for AI regulation on Laying Down Harmonised Rules on Artificial Intelligence (Artificial Intelligence Act) and Amending Certain Union Legislative Acts (April 21, 2021), the EU is proposing a legal framework that does not look at AI technology itself but at how AI is used and for what purposes. It also differentiates between four different categories of uses that have no or minimal risk or limited, high, or unacceptable risk.

The high-risk uses of AI are the main focus of the framework due to their huge impact on citizens’ lives and public interest. In particular, all remote biometric identification systems are considered high risk and subjected to strict requirements. If the proposed legal framework were to be adopted, it would position the EU as potentially taking a strong stance on high-risk AI systems, which would be subjected to a new set of strict obligations.

Some limited uses—for instance, the use of AI in social scoring systems or AI applications that manipulate human behavior—are prohibited outright because they are considered unacceptable. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that the enforcement of these rules falls within the responsibility of national authorities to assess whether AI systems meet their obligations.

The EU has also underscored the importance of global rules, international regulatory convergence, proactive agenda setting in technological standardization, and a commitment to fundamental rights protections when it comes to new (digital) technologies in collaboration with key like-minded partners.

The draft EU AI regulation, in a sweeping stroke, associates the EU’s technological leadership with the stated ambition to become a “global leader in the development of secure, trustworthy and ethical” AI. From this perspective, only “common action at [the] Union level can also protect the Union’s digital sovereignty and leverage its tools and regulatory powers to shape global rules and standards.”

The union’s great expectations are understandable, yet they should be tempered. The EU may have a harder time in setting global rules and red lines. Also, the international influence of the EU’s AI rule book might actually be decided in a transatlantic context and under the recently announced EU-U.S. Trade and Technology Council. What is more, the EU and member states need to actively engage in the ongoing international discussions on the creation of a global AI norms regime, especially in relevant bilateral, multilateral, regional, and UN fora.

CONCLUSION

The above tour d’horizon aims to address key building blocks in what potentially constitutes Europe’s quest for defense technological power. Without a doubt, in an era of global digitalization and geostrategic rivalry, technology is creating new sources of power and security in international affairs. That is why European competitiveness in innovation, research, and technology is so important for achieving strategic autonomy.

Technology has been and remains a key ingredient for global power projection. Breton stated that Europe must now lay the foundations or find the keys to its multiple sovereignties for the next twenty years. Given increasing global technological competition, the rallying call of the day in Brussels is for the EU to learn the language of power and secure its digital and economic future.

The four interconnected dimensions outlined above—cursorily mapping the EU’s various programs, strategies, and initiatives—represent key analytical entry points in understanding the EU’s recent activism toward building a more coherent European sovereignty agenda with technology at its core.

By following this reasoning, European technological sovereignty is manifested across military capacity building, innovation capacity, infrastructure resilience, or regulatory prowess. It is also a prerequisite for European strategic autonomy and the EU’s ability to act as an independent global actor.

Yet recent efforts for Europe to become more technologically sovereign can only be successful when they are coordinated and comprehensive, especially because the impact of emerging disruptive technologies is pervasive and cuts across many sectors. The challenge is to bring together and operationalize the different initiatives and instruments that comprise a complex governance structure reuniting EU institutions and agencies, EU member states, and commercial actors and industrial sectors.

In reality, most of the above initiatives are quite recent, and the EU has just begun to connect all of its financial resources and bridge its strategic and policy thinking across the four dimensions. For this to happen, there needs to be more willingness from EU institutions and member states to cooperate across interlinked political, strategic, economic, and technical matters.

While the EU is advancing in the regulation and governance of new and emerging technologies, it is not yet clear how recent and rather limited research funding initiatives will actually shore up the EU’s critical infrastructure resilience and innovation power in strategic technological domains. Only a persistent and substantial investment policy in future and emerging technologies can ensure the EU’s technological competitiveness, coupled with efforts to create a human rights–centric international norms regime for its ethical and responsible research and development.

If the EU can streamline its goals, interests, and values in such a plethora of defense and tech-related programs, harness the current transformative wave of innovation, and mitigate potential disruptions and human rights harms, it might well become more technologically sovereign in the decades to come. However, the jury is still out on what the future may hold.

$611 Million Stolen in Poly Network Cross-chain Hack – from Security Affairs

August 10, 2021 By Pierluigi Paganini

The cross-chain protocol Poly Network has been hacked, threat actors stole $611 million making this hack the largest DeFi hack to date.

The cross-chain protocol Poly Network disclose a security breach, threat actors have stolen over $611 million in cryptocurrencies.

The attackers have transferred hundreds of million dollars worth of Binance Chain, Ethereum, and Polygon assets into their wallets.

The Poly Network protocol allows swapping tokens across multiple blockchains, including Bitcoin and Ethereum and Ontology.

The attackers

The assets has stolen $273 million worth of Ethereum tokens, $253 million in tokens on Binance Smart Chain and $85 million in USDC on the Polygon network.

“Since the theft, Tether has blacklisted the USDT on Ethereum that was stolen in the attack, roughly $33 million in tokens. That means they can no longer be moved. (USDT is a centralized stablecoin that can be frozen at will by the company behind it, similar to other stablecoins like USDC.)” states TheBlockCrypto website.

Researcher Igor Igamberdiev from the The Block speculates that the root cause of the hack was a cryptographic issue, in the cryptocurrency protocol, what is a rare case.

Blockchain security firm SlowMist issued an alert announcing that they have already determined the attacker’s ID. The experts claim to have discovered the attackers email address, IP information and device fingerprint.

The threat actors have employed the following wallets:

ETH: 0xC8a65Fadf0e0dDAf421F28FEAb69Bf6E2E589963
BSC: 0x0D6e286A7cfD25E0c01fEe9756765D8033B32C71
Polygon: 0x5dc3603C9D42Ff184153a8a9094a73d461663214
Some cryptocurrency exchanges announced they are aware of the hack and will do all the best to identity and block illegal transactions associated with the hack.

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Common Types of Social Engineering Attacks – by Kaiti Norton July 29, 2021

Original Article: Here

Social engineering is a common technique that cybercriminals use to lure their victims into a false sense of security. Usually, social engineering involves impersonation, deception, and psychological manipulation that ultimately creates an environment where a victim feels either comfortable or pressured to share sensitive information or perform a specific action. As social engineering tactics become more advanced, it’s important to know how to identify them in the context of cybersecurity.

Social engineering in cybersecurity attacks:


Social engineering can manifest itself across a wide range of cybersecurity attacks:

  • Phishing
  • Smishing
  • Vishing
  • Whaling
  • Pharming
  • Baiting
  • Pretexting
  • Scareware
  • Deepfakes

Phishing
Phishing is a broad category of social engineering attacks that specifically target most businesses’ primary mode of communication: email. These types of attacks usually involve spoofed emails that attempt to impersonate a legitimate sender and convince the recipient to divulge confidential information or click a link or attachment that’s laced with malware.

The social engineering tactics involved with phishing aren’t very sophisticated, but they are effective. Most phishing attacks use only the name and sometimes the contact information of a trusted source. When combined with a feigned sense of urgency and fear, these details are often enough to convince the targeted victim to take the desired action.

Smishing
Smishing attacks are similar to phishing except they target victims via SMS rather than email. Smished messages usually contain links that launch a malicious site or download when tapped. Because it’s difficult to preview links that are in a text message, the hyperlinked text may be disguised as an email address, phone number, or other unassuming content a user might tap without hesitation. Smishing attackers typically use social engineering to deceive their victims by impersonating a mobile service provider or other “official” source.

Vishing
Vishing attacks are also similar to phishing and smishing, but these attacks target VoIP and telecommunications services rather than text-based mediums. Voice-based social engineering doesn’t usually attempt to impersonate someone the victim knows personally; instead, attackers try to convince their victims that they are calling from a larger, better known entity like the IRS or a debt collector. Then, the attacker asks the target to provide sensitive information, like their date of birth, Social Security number, or credit card information. In more aggressive cases, the attacker may try to convince the victim to send money via wire transfer.

Whaling
Whaling attacks are among the most successful cybersecurity attacks because they target a narrow pool of C-level executives. Instead of casting a wide net, whaling attackers identify the top staffers at an organization and collect as much information as they can about them. This may include a victim’s professional history and current job information as well as details about their personal life. Then, the attackers try to convince their targets to reveal information about themselves or their business so they might be able to gain access to broader business systems.

Pharming
Pharming attacks involve creating a redirect from a legitimate website to a malicious one. Usually this is accomplished either by deploying malware that changes the target computer’s host files, or by using a technique known as DNS cache poisoning. In the latter approach, attackers target the website hosting server and change the DNS table so that users are redirected to a fake website.

Pharming attackers use social engineering to make the fake website mimic the legitimate website as closely as possible so the visitor doesn’t realize they’re not in the right place. The longer a user is on the malicious website, the longer the attacker has to collect data or launch malicious software.

Baiting
Baiting attacks use physical input and output devices to compromise the victim’s security measures. For example, a baiting attack might involve a USB storage device that’s left on the ground or sent in the mail under the pretense of a giveaway. When the target connects the device to a computer to discover what’s on it, the device automatically launches a computer virus or other type of malware. A baiting scheme might use social engineering to attract victims by advertising something that’s free, or they might simply appeal to a target’s instinctual curiosity.

Pretexting
Unlike other attacks on this list, pretexting attacks require the attacker to gain a victim’s trust with an elaborate backstory. Technology is usually a catalyst for these attacks; for example, attackers might use social media bots to establish a convincing internet presence that supports the story they’re trying to tell. Pretexting attacks are usually played out over a period of time and typically use intricate social engineering strategies to convince the victim to send money or information.

Scareware
Scareware attacks use fear tactics to manipulate the target into believing their device or software is at risk. This is an emotion-based form of social engineering, as the attacker preys on the victim’s lack of confidence in their IT infrastructure. Scareware attacks may come in the form of a pop up that urges the victim to download a critical software “update” or an alert that their device may be compromised. Any action that the user takes in response usually results in a malware launch or a similar kind of attack.

Deepfakes
Deepfake attacks represent a sophisticated emerging trend in social engineering. Deepfakes leverage artificial intelligence and deep learning to make photos, videos, and voice recordings of the attacker impersonating someone important look and sound more convincing. In fact, well executed deepfakes are nearly impossible to correctly identify. Deepfakes are often used in conjunction with other social engineering strategies to deceive victims more effectively. This might look like fraudulent advertising, video calling, or more advanced attack mediums.

How to prevent social engineering attacks
There are many technologies that can help protect you and your business from social engineering attacks. If an employee mistakenly clicks a malicious link or downloads something they shouldn’t have, you should have measures in place to prevent an attacker from reaching your business-critical systems. These security tools include the DMARC protocol, zero-trust products, and next-generation firewalls.

However, the most effective way to prevent these kinds of attacks is to train your employees to spot social engineering tactics. Share examples of an attacker’s attempt to manipulate a target’s reaction to fear, greed, or altruism and highlight the indicators that it’s something more nefarious. Teach them how to be proactive about detecting an attack by hovering over links to verify the domain or scrutinizing a sender’s information before engaging with an email. Then, test their reactions to simulated attacks so you can address any vulnerabilities before a real attack happens.