4 things you need to know about the metaverse this week

Five Meta avatars. Meta is cutting more than 11,000 jobs but is not backing away from the metaverse.

Meta is cutting more than 11,000 jobs but is not backing away from the metaverse. Image: Meta

Cathy Li
Head, AI, Data and Metaverse; Member of the Executive Committee, World Economic Forum Geneva
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  • This regular roundup brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the development of the metaverse.
  • Below you'll find insights and opinions on how this emerging technology could transform the way we work, make purchases and spend our leisure time.

1. Meta cuts 11,000 jobs but keeps pouring money into the metaverse

Meta is cutting more than 11,000 jobs as it doubles down on its metaverse bet amid declining advertising and decades-high inflation. The layoffs represent 13% of its workforce and are the first in the company’s 18-year history. They follow thousands of job cuts at other tech companies.

Meta hired aggressively during the early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic to meet a surge in social media usage by people under lockdown. But its business has suffered this year as advertisers and consumers reduce spending in the face of soaring costs and rapidly rising interest rates.

The reduced headcount will lower the expenses bill of a company that has been investing large amounts in the metaverse – investments that CEO Mark Zuckerberg says will take a decade to produce returns.

What affected Meta? metaverse
Meta is cutting more than 11,000 jobs as it doubles down on its metaverse bet amid declining advertising and decades-high inflation. Image: Reuters Graphics

But Meta will not back away from the metaverse, and will in fact put a greater share of its resources into its Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for its metaverse investments. Reality Labs made a loss of $9.44 billion in January-September, and its losses are expected to grow significantly in 2023. Analysts have also questioned how long Meta can pour money into the metaverse given the weak economy.

Half of Meta’s job cuts are in its technology divisions, with the firm planning to stop developing smart displays and smartwatches. Zuckerberg says WhatsApp and Messenger will drive Meta’s next wave of sales growth.

2. Tuvalu to preserve itself in the metaverse as rising sea levels threaten existence

Tuvalu plans to build a digital version of itself to preserve its history and culture as rising sea levels threaten to submerge the tiny Pacific island nation.

“As our land disappears, we have no choice but to become the world’s first digital nation,” Foreign Minister Simon Kofe told the COP27 climate summit. “Our land, our ocean, our culture are the most precious assets of our people and to keep them safe from harm, no matter what happens in the physical world, we will move them to the cloud.”

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Tuvalu will be the first country to replicate itself in the metaverse, although the South Korean city of Seoul and the island nation of Barbados last year said they would enter the metaverse to provide administrative and consular services, respectively. Abu Dhabi is working to launch a metaverse version of its entertainment capital Yas Island next year.

Tuvalu is a group of nine islands located halfway between Australia and Hawaii. Up to 40% of the capital district is under water at high tide, and the entire country is forecast to be under water by the end of the century.

“Only concerted global effort can ensure that Tuvalu does not move permanently online and disappear forever from the global plane,” Kofe said. “Without a global conscience and a global commitment to our shared well-being, we may soon find the rest of the world joining us online, as their lands disappear.”

3. A self-declared European country is using the metaverse to stake its claim to statehood

The Free Republic of Liberland is going a step further than recreating itself in the metaverse. It’s creating the first version of itself there.

The self-declared Balkan micronation in Southeast Europe plans to further its ambitions of statehood by developing itself in digital form. “Liberland will be the first country to be built and inhabited in the virtual world first in anticipation of its realization in real life,” Euronews reports.

The Free Republic of Liberland is going a step further than recreating itself in the metaverse.
The Free Republic of Liberland is going a step further than recreating itself in the metaverse. Image: Free Republic of Liberland

Liberland’s website describes the republic as “a sovereign state located between Croatia and Serbia on the west bank of the Danube River. On some maps, this area is referred to as ‘Gornja Siga’ ... This parcel of land came into existence due to a border dispute between Croatia and Serbia ... It remained unclaimed since the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991”.

Liberland was declared a free republic by the Czech politician and activist Vít Jedlička in 2015. He says it covers 7 square kilometres, making it larger than the Vatican and Monaco. It also has 7,000 approved residents and is handling 700,000 applications for citizenship, according to Euronews. However, as things stand, it is not recognized by any other country.

4. Metaverse could add $1.4 trillion a year to Asia’s GDP

The metaverse could boost Asia's GDP by $800 billion-1.4 trillion a year by 2035, according to a new report from Deloitte. This would equate to 1.3-2.4% of the continent's total GDP.

“Asia's favourable demographics, supply chain market share, and growing influence on socio-cultural trends underline its potential role in shaping the metaverse,” the report says. “This is bolstered by the high level of awareness and support its populations have for the metaverse.”

The Metaverse in Asia: Strategies for Accelerating Economic Impact, covers 12 economies and points out that as well as Asia having more mobile gamers than any other region (1.3 billion), over 60% of the world’s 15-24 year olds live in Asia and Oceania.

The metaverse could boost Asia's GDP by $800 billion-1.4 trillion a year by 2035
The metaverse could boost Asia's GDP by $800 billion-1.4 trillion a year by 2035 Image: Statista

“In Asia, millions of people are spending their time and money on gaming, socializing, attending concerts, and purchasing items in virtual platforms such as Roblox, Decentraland, and Fortnite,” the report adds.

An Ipsos survey from earlier this year showed that awareness of the term metaverse exceeded the global average in India, China, South Korea and Singapore, and that these economies have an overwhelmingly positive view of the potential impact of augmented and virtual reality on their daily lives.

More on the metaverse from Agenda

What is real estate in the metaverse? The Forum spoke with Mark E. Rose, Chairman and CEO of Avison Young, about the future of property buying in the virtual world.

What will the metaverse mean for cybersecurity? The three-dimensional environment of the space means people will need to be more empowered and informed than ever to identify and respond to new threats, says Banco Santander’s Global Head of Cyber Secure User Experience, Lisette Guittard.

The metaverse and Web3 technology could be used to transform our consumption habits and stop excessive production, according to documentary photographer Eyal Ben Dror.

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