Job creation is traditionally engineered by politicians desperate to get the country back to work and to be seen as stimulating the economy. From the job creation programs of the Great Depression to United States President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act, employment schemes have a long, checkered history. Today, fostering meaningful employment for the masses remains as popular as ever with policymakers, and yet, the next great job creation scheme is unlikely to be issued as a top-down order.
Rather, it will emanate from a realm that most politicians have little dominion over and few powers to control: the Metaverse. That virtual world running parallel to our physical one is not constrained by national borders, nor is it the fiefdom of social media companies cynically commandeering its name.
The Metaverse comprises an interconnected series of virtual worlds in which humankind can recreate, interact and transact. As avatars, its users are free to flit between games, meeting spaces and markets, reenacting many of the tasks once constrained to meatspace.
The greatest promise the Metaverse holds, however, is not the ability for humans to don lurid skins and twerk as one in virtual concert halls. Rather, it is for these same people to obtain meaningful employment in worlds, realms and spaces across the Metaverse that will form the beating heart of Web3.
Making bank in the Metaverse
Given the amorphous nature of the Metaverse, it can be hard to envisage what a virtual world in which millions clock in and out to earn their crust might resemble. As it happens, though, there is already work being performed in fledgling metaverses the (virtual) world over.
In the play-to-earn — or “GameFi” — sector, virtual pets roam freely, with their human owners petting, dressing and training them. But it’s not just about recreation: With their respective metaverses, players can collect tokens and other in-game assets that spawn and trade them for real money.
Workers from developing countries such as the Philippines earn around $30 per day for performing these tasks on behalf of owners, using the creatures to collect tokens. Owners, in turn, earn money from lending out their stable of virtual pets — without needing to concern themselves with the drudgery of collecting tokens all day.
It’s a simple economy in which all participants benefit commensurate with their interests and financial expectations. How might this earning model work for Metaverse participants higher up the chain?
Well, for celebrities and creators, specialist platforms enable virtual experiences to be entertained in the Metaverse. Fans can pay to interact with their favorite creators within a virtual world, whether they’re playing golf with a YouTube influencer or learning new skills through a one-on-one with a thought leader. It’s yet another example of the vast potential the Metaverse holds.
Meta-work for the masses
Not all of the work centered around the Metaverse will occur within it. Much of it will involve connecting the nuts and bolts that keep it turning — coders, designers, testers and developers. For the millions currently employed in offices and on shop floors around the globe, however, the ascendancy of the Metaverse will see their work transition to a virtual world not so dissimilar to that to which they are accustomed.
Real estate: Virtual land is already selling for millions of dollars in metaverse worlds such as The Sandbox and Decentraland. The battle for desirable virtual real estate is fierce — flipping pixels for profit is a specialist role that will create a slew of jobs for those with an eye for a prime plot. At the same time, real-world property will also transition to the metaverse, enabling prospective buyers to “walk around” a beachfront condo on the other side of the world or ogle one that is still in spec. In a virtual world where anything is possible, “try before you buy” is the norm.
Fashion: From Louis Vuitton to Nike and Gucci, fashion brands are clamoring to catch a slice of the Metaverse action, and it’s easy to see why. A world in which millions mingle while represented as avatars provides endless opportunities for sartorial splendor. No longer are people constrained by gender, body type and, indeed, imagination when dressing. In the Metaverse, you can assume any identity you want, with the accessories to match. Models will strut their stuff on virtual catwalks, and fashionistas will pay top dollar to dress their avatars in limited-edition threads from the hippest brands.
Music: As much a boon to independent artists as it is to major labels, the Metaverse showed its worth during global lockdowns, with over 27 million fans tuning in to Travis Scott’s Fortnite concert in 2020. Enterprising artists have already experimented with Web3 technology such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs), using them to release limited-edition and exclusive albums and foster intimate experiences. The emergence of a fully immersive Metaverse will elevate this capability to a new level, providing endless ways to monetize and engage with fans.
Movies: Technology is a double-edged sword, creating new opportunities while destroying others. Actors who’ve found their likeness being assumed by artificial intelligence and their intellectual property infringed know this only too well. But the very same tech that threatens their livelihoods can be utilized to enrich them within the Metaverse. Just imagine the capabilities presented by a world in which voice, television and movie actors can use their digitized doppelgangers to interact with fans and sell experiences that incorporate one-on-one time — without the celeb needing to leave the comfort of their Malibu mansion.
As the Metaverse materializes and its promise becomes a reality, the employment opportunities it offers will lift everyone from the mechanical turk, toiling for $2 per hour, to the rich and famous. Already, there are Metaverse stores you can visit with your avatar to order everything from fast food to medical marijuana — and then have it delivered to your real-world front door. In the near future, many of those earning from the Metaverse — such as delivery drivers and food producers — may have no inkling that they owe their livelihood to a world they have yet to discover.
Not all of us will play and interact in the Metaverse, but just like the internet itself, we will be more prosperous because of its existence. The sooner the Metaverse becomes a mass reality, the better we will all be.