“The metaverse is expected as a wave of digital transition even more powerful than those of the Web, e-commerce and uberization combined”

LPresident Macron’s program includes “an investment to build European metaverses and offer experiences in virtual reality, around our museums, our heritage and new creations, while protecting copyright”. The metaverse is a concept that resembles that of multimedia in its time. It is a portmanteau word whose definition is imprecise, which will perhaps become outdated in twenty years, but which has, for the moment, the evocative force to raise mountains of investments. It suggests the convergence and proliferation of independent innovations: videoconferencing, 3D models, virtual reality glasses, artificial intelligence, social networks, platforms, blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Despite the probable flops of some of them, their whole is expected to be a wave of digital transition even more powerful than those of the Web, e-commerce and uberization combined.

Preparing a European metaverse early on so as not to miss this wave, as we missed the previous ones, is a good idea. It is still necessary to anticipate the usual pitfalls that threaten the best plans and write a roadmap to meet these challenges.

Read the analysis: Article reserved for our subscribers The metaverse, the next generation of the Internet, could reshuffle the digital cards

The first pitfall is the one on which the “start-up nation” has run aground, which, too little inclusive, has contributed to the resentment of the “yellow vests”. The following two oppose each other: technophile hubris and technophobic arrogance. It must be remembered that, with its mouse and drop-down menus, the Mac of 1984 enthused some, but, with its only new use for Gothic fonts, it appeared like a toy for others. The fourth pitfall is that of intellectual intoxication. While we could have spoken of statistical computing, the term artificial intelligence (AI) has contrasted it with human intelligence, even transhumanist delusions. The sharing economy, fueled by the seductive but false theses of the end of capitalism, has paralyzed our immune defenses in the face of the looting of our data by the GAFA.

Regime change

Each wave of the digital transition has impacted entire economic sectors. We have seen the Web reinvent the media, e-commerce reinvent distribution, and uberisation reinvent taxis and hotels. But the metaverse wave is of a different nature, because it changes the economy itself.

Read Philippe Escande’s column: Article reserved for our subscribers “Facebook is an aging network in need of a makeover. He thinks he found it in a parallel universe”

Each innovative offer tries to conquer a global monopoly on its market niche, before being in turn surpassed by a competing innovation, as illustrated by BlackBerry. The smartphone pioneer had a meteoric rise, followed by an equally dramatic fall for not believing in touchscreens. Big Tech owes its durability to a constant flow of innovations, supported by abundant capital, which explains most of the difference in growth rates between the United States and Europe. Digitization, innovation and investment being all accelerated by the metaverse, the economy will change regime to be characterized by successions of temporary niche monopolies: the regime of perfect competition, dominant for two centuries, will give way to that of competitive monopolistic. To avoid pitfalls and channel this wave in a desirable direction, a method must be defined.

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