How Web3 internet design could lead to a more sustainable world

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Eyal Ben Dror, Documentary Photographer, Minting a Glacier NFT

  • Web3 technologies and non-fungible tokens have already reshaped the art world as proponents seek to democratize access to digital assets.
  • There are concerns about crypto’s sustainability but the Ethereum ‘merge’ showed that it was possible to cut the network’s energy usage by 99.5%.
  • Lessons from the art world show that Web3 technology could be used to transform our consumption habits and stop excessive production.

On May 15, 2015, controversial artist Richard Prince exhibited screenshots of random people’s Instagram posts as sizeable fine art prints, selling each at the sum of $100,000 at the Frieze art fair in New York.

Just a year earlier, Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood coined the term Web3 to represent emerging bundles of ideas and technologies to decentralize the internet.

Prince and Wood understood the same essential truth – that we own nothing inside today’s internet and social media platforms.

Incidentally, 2015 was also the first year among the five warmest sequential years ever to be reported by the World Metereological Organization (WMO). These unrelated events have a tremendous effect on both our digital future as well as our metaphysical one.

Here we highlight some of the emerging opportunities in today’s Web3 ecosystem and reflect on their importance to our digital future.

NFTs have already reshaped the world of art

Witnessing how artists, collectors, and communities are using non-fungible tokens (NFT) – unique digital tokens that exist on the blockchain and cannot be replicated – are reshaping the art world has sparked visionary NFT projects spanning the entire crypto realm.

From an NFT art project to aid fighting wildfires in California (Fire Watch), to a fine-art glacier photo series to raise awareness about the importance of glaciers as world water storage (Minting A Glacier), these initiatives find a home in Web3 platforms.

Diverse crypto communities support these initiatives and artists as they represent Web3 founders and enthusiasts’ goals to democratize our access to digital assets and goods while driving our consumerism habits to become more conscious and independent.

NFT technology offers photographers and collectors a decentralized way to sell and purchase art. Specifically, it creates an accessible way for artists to directly engage with their focal audience, while offering consumers unique access to exceptional art projects.

However, NFT art is not yet wholly accepted, both by the artists themselves as well as their audience. Some leading causes for the ambivalent harnessing of NFT are:

  • Blockchain technologies polluting reputation
  • An overall detachment from the early NFT famous sales (such as the Bored Ape Yacht Club and its buyers)
  • Lack of digital savviness and understanding of Web3 and NFT technology’s benefits
  • Traditional art galleries maintain a foothold in the art industry

A move towards more sustainable blockchain

The carbon emissions of crypto transactions have been a significant drawback for many environmentalists and artists.

However, the past years have been a beacon of hope for those who envision blockchain becoming a sustainable method for digital transactions.

The most groundbreaking news for environmentally-minded crypto supporters occurred in September when the Ethereum organization successfully deployed a new upgrade for its transaction technology, making it 99.5% less polluting.

‘The merge’ can be accentuated by metaphorically comparing the Ethereum organization to an imaginary transportation conglomerate with a worldwide 25% overall market share. Imagine it replacing all its fuel engines with zero-emissions engines overnight.

Furthermore, the Ethereum NFT market share is about three-quarters of the entire NFT market. Hence, artists and individuals who refrained from engaging with blockchain technologies in the past may easily find crypto platforms and NFT marketplaces that are committed to sustainable solutions.

NFTs lead move towards ideology-driven art

Unlike the classical way of valuing art, with NFTs the art’s value comes from external forces such as independent digital communities.

By minting art in the blockchain to promote a purposeful cause, infamous artists may engage with communities that appreciate their work and motivation and wish to purchase it to champion the mutual cause.

Furthermore, NFT and smart contract technology can ensure the transparency of both artists and companies to commit their sales income to involved parties, mitigating the possible exploitation of disadvantaged groups and nature.

To emphasize, with blockchain technology, we can seamlessly understand how an artist or company distributes their NFT sales between the involved parties. By purchasing art that corresponds with a narrative we believe necessary, we become part of a community that can positively impact our world.

NFT and its smart contracts allow us to engage with intelligent consumerism from the buyer side, while increasing transparency and accountability from the seller.

How Web3 can lead to conscious consumerism

Consumerism is an addiction that exhausts our natural resources while fuelling our modern economy. Yet, we can lessen its effect on our environment by sublimating it to the digital realm.

The designer Regina Turbina is one of the first to understand the potential of a Web3 fashion marketplace for the metaverse. On her Replicant marketplace landing page, it says: “An opportunity to express yourself without harming the planet. One of the cornerstone functions of clothing is the social one.”

Currently, her marketplace hosts 65 designers with limitless artistic freedom to fabric creative digital clothing. Furthermore, its digital fashion community proliferates fast as many designers and customers share Turbina’s vision for sustainable digital fashion.

By transforming our consumption habits toward the digital world, we can keep our economic growth while stopping excessive production and transport of goods. However, this must occur in a decentralized and democratized internet infrastructure that gives consumers full autonomy over their digital assets.

Web3 can optimize our consumption economy

To conclude, Web3 and NFTs can reshape our symbiosis between the physical and the digital realms to optimize our polluting consumption economy while improving end users’ ownership over their digital assets.

We should strive for conscious consumerism and endow impactful digital and NFT initiatives.


What is the World Economic Forum doing about the metaverse?

Experts believe that the metaverse will come to represent the next major computing platform, transforming consumer experience and business models across industries.

Fashion brands are one example. Over years, apparel companies have perfected the design, manufacture, and distribution of clothing to anticipate consumers’ wants and needs in line with seasonal changes. But today, most of their revenue is surpassed by the $3bn worth of sales of digital cosmetic items in Fortnite, which have a cultural significance that extends far into the physical world.

This is one of the economic opportunities of the metaverse – the possibility to “assetize” digital content, creating a framework of digital ownership for users. If it is replicated at scale and across sectors, then entire industries will be reshaped by changes to their traditional value chains.

However, the promise relies on the advancement of several key technologies, including augmented, virtual and mixed reality (collectively known as XR), as well as blockchain, connected devices and artificial intelligence. How should these be governed in a way that promotes their economic upsides while protecting individuals’ safety, security and privacy?

The World Economic Forum is bringing together leading voices from the private sector, civil society, academia and government to address this precise question. Over the next year, it will curate a multistakeholder community focusing on metaverse governance and economic and social value creation.

It will recommend regulatory frameworks for good governance of the metaverse and study how innovation and value creation can be strengthened for the benefit of society. Updates will be published on the World Economic Forum website on a regular basis.

We can use Bill Gates’s cynical remark earlier this year that “expensive digital images of monkeys” would “improve the world immensely” as a driver toward meaningful exploration of Web3 possibilities.

Not for the sake of short-term benefits reap, but as a powerful conduit between communities, artists and computer engineers to support ideas that can improve our physical and digital well-being.

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