Thoughts on the Davos 2022 World Economic Forum: From a Decentraland co-founder

Dear All,

As some of you might know, the Foundation was invited to participate in the World Economic Forum this year, in the lovely town of Davos, Switzerland. I wrote this short memo to share some thoughts with you all, hoping to convey what I felt the perception of Decentraland was on the world stage and the place it has in this historical time.

Decentraland is at the intersection of many buzzwords, but it’s the real thing. NFTs, Metaverse, DAOs, Blockchain, VR, digital rights, and digital ownership in general are a part of our project’s history—and we’re part of their history as well.

We were the first ERC721-compliant smart contract in production. We started signing our newsletter with “See you in the metaverse” back in 2017. Our DAO is one of the most active ones out there, and while we see lots of room for improvement, it’s evolving to become more open and a great tool for determining Decentraland’s protocol and product changes. We have also spearheaded the development of many technologies in the blockchain space, for example in how early we were in adopting tools such as Polygon and TheGraph. As for VR, I’m super proud, seeing that an external team is tackling the VR project. A beautiful example of how we can continue decentralizing Decentraland’s protocol and product. Lastly, digital rights and ownership (as embodied by NFTs) are a critical conversation in today’s society as well as how we perceive and deal with the relationship between our personal data, our digital goods, and the information superhighway.

When discussing Decentraland with people for the first time, the reaction was almost always binary: either they didn’t know about the project, or they did and were very intrigued and curious to learn more about it. “A game”, or a “virtual world” is sometimes not in the area of interest of most people; specially the extremely busy kind that tend to attend an event like the World Economic Forum. But everyone who had kids mentioned Roblox—I’ll come back to this point later. Among the ones who knew about Decentraland, I even found a few MANA and/or LAND holders. But everyone, both those that didn’t know about the project and those who did, were ultimately curious and wanted to learn more about Decentraland.

The first meeting Decentraland was invited to was with the World Economic Forum Metaverse Initiative, a  group working to develop and push the conversation forward on what’s needed to make the Metaverse better. The group is made up of two branches: a Governance branch, and a Creator Economy initiative. As you might have heard, I’m not a huge fan of the word metaverse, and I was quite intrigued by why people use that word nowadays when it has lost a lot of its meaning. Now, I think I get it: it’s an opportunity to bring back some technological optimism (same as with Web3) in an age where everything in tech is seen through ‘dystopian lenses.

Besides my ‘Metaverse revelation, I connected very deeply with people having conversations about data privacy and social network regulations. I think this is not really an opportunity for Decentraland unless we get more serious about pursuing the idea of Decentraland being a social network. Indeed, I became somewhat obsessed with letting everyone know that “ZK Proofs’’ are the future.

A major realization was that there was a lot of deadlock amongst participants, countries, and companies. Davos left me with a sensation of understanding a little better how complex our reality is, and how everyone is trying to push in their own direction, with good intentions, but causing some coordination problems. I have also felt that personal relationships have a lot more impact than I thought in how constellations of groups, companies, governments, and people align to ideate and execute on new ideas. The most scarce resource seemed to be holistic ideas to fix these coordination problems, because most attendants would have the resources to act (if they had the ideas). I was a little heartbroken by that, but this might have been a very particular year due to the passing pandemic and the war in Ukraine, which clouded all conversations.

Other than that, the energy of the event was optimistic in general. Decentraland was a lot more well received than I expected. Topics and conversations flowed very enthusiastically, and a message got stuck in my head: Decentraland is a lot more unique than I thought, thanks to the Foundation’s work to keep it open, decentralized, and more importantly, humane. Now more than ever I believe in our mission to find new, sustainable economic models for our social networks and information systems, because it feels like the world needs it.

See you in the metaverse physical world, in a future that we’re contributing to make better!


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