Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [Part 3]

This is third and final installation of a 3-part blog series on a Futurist’s perspectives on some buzzy terms and technology trends.

Annie Hardy, Senior Visioneer

I’m responsible for looking at the future of human-machine interaction, where many buzzy terms and trends are being bandied about. In this blog series’s first and second installations, I defined some key concepts and shared my first three unpopular opinions about Web3, the Metaverse, and decentralization.

TL;DR on my first three opinions:

  • The Metaverse will be more potent as an augmented experience than a virtual one.
  • There are two types of Metaverses: Open and Closed.
  • The entire internet will not be decentralized.

So let’s move right into my last three unpopular opinions…

Most people won’t care about the ethics of a decentralized Internet.

Web3 is, in part, a movement to democratize the internet, but the desire for decentralization isn’t just about removing centralized control over data, money, and more. Supporters of the Web3 movement have been strongly motivated by a lack of trust.

  • Trust in institutions has fractured — especially in the United States.
  • Decentralized currency appeals to international investors who do business in certain volatile, unpredictable economies.
  • Many believe Wall Street has gated wealth. As such, non-traditional investors often seek alternative paths to generate wealth.

A fierce, vocal, passionate group of people are the ones leading the decentralization movement. They highly value its autonomy and advocate for decentralization on behalf of the Greater Good.

Today, the number of purists who care about the ethics of decentralization is relatively small, yet it represents a critical component in seeing the future of decentralization. Early adopters are more likely to care about transparency and the value of a democratized Wall Street than the average user. The middle of the bell curve will need persuading that Web3’s incentives — like lower transaction fees vs. a central bank (someday) or getting paid to allow a company to use your personal data — validate engaging in something new and unknown. Even some early adopters are getting hit by thieves who are faster to take advantage of security loopholes in today’s burgeoning Web3. 

Overcoming the ambivalence of the many will be critical to Web3’s adoption, and that’s not only related to why Web2 isn’t trustworthy. It’s also critical because for Web3 to succeed, we may have to change how we pay to use the Internet, leading to my next unpopular opinion. 

Convincing users to pay for Web3’s Creator Economy remains a challenge.

The Creator Economy is the movement of individuals creating internet content and media that is consumed, and it plays a significant role in driving Web3 forward. This Creator Economy is driving engagement, but millions of creators also seek to monetize their creativity. Increasingly, we are seeing creators charging for their experiences, sometimes in novel ways. It’s easier than ever to do that on Web3, where your crypto wallet can easily tap into the sites you visit, and cryptocurrency micropayments should be easy to make. 

But consumers aren’t used to paying for engagement. We get tons of the internet for free today, but it comes at a cost: our personal data. This harkens back to Redditor blue beetle’s famous quote in an August 2010 thread:

“If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.”

– Andrew Lewis, aka blue beetle on Reddit

With the centralized Web2 economy, the questionable use of personal data has been widely publicized and criticized, evidenced by the backlash against Google and Facebook over the past few years. That said, user data collection has long been the currency companies use in exchange for free experiences. Consider social media platforms like TikTok. Or collaboration tools like Google Docs. Or news sites like

User data collection drives the effective ad targeting these companies use to drive their advertising revenue. This is what allows them to forego subscription costs. Thus, to build Web3 business models, decentralized applications (dapps) will likely do one of the following:

  • Require users to opt-in to data collection (like we see in Web2), but with transparent user data on the blockchain. This would allow users to verify what is happening with their data. Given that some understand what happens with their data, it will be interesting to see whether consumers are interested in having control of their data on the blockchain. This is also given the collaborative nature of the community.
  • Reward users who opt-in to data collection with reduced or free site usage, charging higher fees to users who do not share their data.
  • Reward users who opt-in to data collection with public-or-proprietary cryptocurrency or tokens they can use to pay for experiences or products.
  • Create a business model that doesn’t rely on customer data, with enough substantial value that their site validates subscription usage fees, or uses publicly available data from the blockchain.

Selling, gamifying, tokenizing engagement

Selling within this new value model, and gamifying and tokenizing engagement is a critical step in bringing Web3 from the margins into the center of Internet interactions. Younger demographics have shown to be keener on expecting rewards for engaging with a brand. In fact, 78 percent of Millennials are more likely to select a brand with a loyalty/rewards program.* By the time Web3 truly emerges as a prominent aspect of the web, tokenized engagement might already be a larger portion of the actual economy.

However, Big Tech Web2 will still retain control of a portion of user data from those using their services. As long as they provide exceptional value, users will continue to pay by allowing them to retain their data on centralized servers.

This is why I believe Web2 will continue to have a strong presence in the Metaverse, among other consumer applications, even with the rise of Web3. Web2 represents the ability for companies to have more control over information. Information is money. And they will continue to build solutions that validate the value consumers get in exchange for the data they provide.

Now let’s look at how those companies engage in Web3, driving my next opinion…

The Internet of the Future isn’t as decentralized as many might hope.

The Metaverse’s democratic (or debatably, anarchic) roots have led many to characterize the Metaverse as “the Wild West.” That terminology has extended to Web3, crypto, and, more recently, NFTs, as they lack formal governance. But going back to the ethics of decentralization, that’s the point.

Decentralization offers freedom from central entities controlling the Internet. However, the tide is shifting toward a formal, transparent, democratized governance through establishing Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs).

Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs)

In DAOs, users partner in groups formally connected through blockchain-based contracts. They pool their crypto and vote on investments. Think of it as small, coordinated groups of people voting on rules and actions based on their own personal beliefs and preferences. It represents pockets of unified ethics developing around the type of experiences Web3 believers want to see. This collaborative DAO approach has extended into the Metaverse – and it is as close as we get to governance in both Web3 and the Metaverse.

Here is what is especially interesting to me, though. Although DAO investments are substantial enough to replace traditional VC investments in some areas, some see DAOs as a necessary evolution of VCs. But within that shift, entities — instead of individuals — will begin to insert themselves into Metaverse investments and experiences. It’s similar to how large shareholders can exert more pressure on publicly-traded companies than individual stakeholders. For instance, investors in the PleasrDAO include Andressen-Horowitz, a notable VC.

“There are a lot of people who have money to invest. They need some vision to throw money at.”
– James Grimmelmann, Cornell University Professor, Law and Technology

A DAO is at the mercy of its investors. Only if investors are willing to take risks and if their investment strategies align, can DAOs experiment dynamically and collaboratively, thus building Web3 and, by design, the open Metaverse. DAOs function just like stocks because investors purchase crypto tokens – like shares. The more crypto token investors own, the more power they have in their vote.

With an increasing presence of companies participating in DAOs, I expect well-resourced companies and VCs to exert more control than individuals in some decentralized investor pools. But when that happens, it will be interesting to see how they balance their interests without alienating or damaging the connected communities they are a part of.

“If we stay in the current paradigm, we will move further and further into a realm where a small handful of companies run by a small number of people run our experiences in cyberspace. And in that world, the problems of Big Tech are exacerbated.”
– Sam Williams, Founder of Arweave

Promises of human-machine interactions in the future

Let’s recap all six of my unpopular opinions.

  • Metaverse will be more potent as an augmented experience than a virtual one.
  • There are two types of Metaverses: Open and Closed.
  • The entire internet will not be fully decentralized.
  • Most people won’t care about the ethics of a decentralized Internet.
  • There is still work to do in persuading users to pay for the Creator Economy that is constructing Web3.
  • The Internet of the Future isn’t as much of a movement away from centralized control as many might hope.

These are my opinions as of now. However, in the next couple of months, I could learn new information that persuades me otherwise. That’s the beauty of learning. Our knowledge and opinions remain malleable as new developments evolve to impact them. I delight in keeping tabs on trends and watching them evolve, giving us runway to influence decisions. This leads to actionable outcomes, as my team and I are talking about adapting our customer experiences for this future, from tokenizing engagements to interacting virtually in the Internet of the Future.

Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ]


Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [Part 2]

If you haven’t read the first installation of this series on human-machine interactions of the future, I highly recommend digging into the definitions of some of the concepts I’m going to share here. With that foundation, let’s move to my first unpopular opinion about the Metaverse.

The Metaverse will be more powerful as an augmented experience than a virtual one.

Gartner announced that by 2026, 25 percent of people would spend at least an hour a day in the Metaverse.* But how we define the Metaverse stands to reason. Many individuals associate the Metaverse with Virtual Realities and Worlds, commercialized by the Facebook rebrand to Meta. This immersive virtual reality is critical and core to the embodied web concept – but even with Apple’s announcement of their long-awaited VR headset, I don’t foresee us living our real lives largely in virtual worlds.

However, Augmented Reality is also rising as a valuable asset in creating the Metaverse. Webex Hologram is a great example of that physical-digital hybrid through Augmented Reality collaboration. Although Webex Hologram leverages AR headsets, other AR applications like Google Maps and Pokémon Go! show us that even a mobile phone can unlock meaningful, powerful extended reality experiences.

Unlike VR, AR is more accessible to devices across the socio-economic spectrum. It has more use cases. It takes less bandwidth. It generally makes more logical sense. I believe the most powerful Metaverse will be accessible by all, via mobile devices that aren’t just reflecting virtual worlds, but devices that add a digital layer to augment the physical world.

That said, my next unpopular opinion reflects my belief that these interactions won’t all live on the blockchain.

There are two types of Metaverses: Open and Closed.

In my opinion, are two Metaverses: the Open Metaverse and the Closed Metaverse. I’ll explain the difference, but their core concept is how each relates to Web3.

In mass media, the Metaverse has been characterized as this collection of virtual worlds, where digital versions of themselves represent people – typically with avatars or in volumetric video. However, I consider the Metaverse as consisting of immersive and extended reality experiences – which encompass fully virtual reality worlds, but also augmented reality experiences that include a digital overlay on the physical world, haptics, voice assistants, gesture control, and more.

“The Open Metaverse is an interoperable world where users can carry
with them their proverbial blockchain-based baggage like NFTs.
The Closed Metaverse is where it gets stopped by customs.”

When engaging in the Metaverse, your experiences are often tokenized and require digital payment. Today, your purchases can be made by buying tokens in a world – just like in Fortnite today, or even the Chuck-E Cheeses out there – and then using those tokens to pay for experiences or digital assets. However, in open Metaverse worlds that run on Web3, the currency is a cryptocurrency built on blockchains with multiple connecting smart contracts.

These two backends, a blockchain backend (likely Ethereum) for Web3 and a Web2 backend, will support the development of Extended Reality Metaverse spaces. Both will contribute to it – not just the decentralized web. But that difference in the backend creates an issue that although the vision for our Extended Reality experience is unified, I don’t foresee an easy route to evolving a Web2 backend to include persistent assets on the blockchain.

Thus, I’ve been using “open metaverse-closed metaverse” terminology to represent the XR experiences that will be interoperable (open) and those which will be separate (closed) based on whether or not they will be blockchain-based.

The decentralized Web3 paradigm requires a blockchain backend. But I, and others like me, see the future of the Internet as being less like Web3 and more like what I’ve been referring to as “Web2+.” That concept was also cited in the Exponential View podcast episode, albeit referred to as a “centralized Metaverse” and a “decentralized Metaverse.”

I like open-closed nomenclature because it strongly correlates to the experience I foresee users having. The Open Metaverse is an interoperable world where users can carry their proverbial blockchain-based baggage like NFTs. The Closed Metaverse is where it gets stopped by customs.

I even foresee Closed Metaverse applications with select integrations with blockchain – but not built fully on the blockchain itself. There will be myriad iterations of centralized-decentralized, open-closed experiences, leading to my next unpopular opinion.

The entire internet will not be fully decentralized.

The movement towards Web3 has gotten so much press and has a tremendous amount of investment and support. But many aren’t talking about how today’s Web3 is mainly running on the backbone of Web2. Right now, even cryptocurrency trading has high costs, and many of the platforms are built on Web2 infrastructure. Although many wish it weren’t so, Web2 is woven into the fabric of Web3.

This perspective was also discussed in the podcast, and at SXSW this year, I spoke with some Web3 investors who confirmed their perspective on the same. Other developers are saying the same. In addition, many large enterprises have spent considerable time investigating Web3, and they too see the value of Web3 in certain areas and contexts – assuming that we can solve the interoperability problem, which analysts estimate will take another 8-10 years.

According to Ghose in the podcast episode, the ideal he foresaw was that on a person’s mobile phone or personal device, you could seamlessly switch from Web2 to Web3 applications. The user experience of Web3 should mirror that in Web2, and they use the same front-end technologies (Java, CSS, HTML, etc.), but the backend shifts from the cloud to the blockchain. Web3 developers have some of the same tools in their toolkit, but then they add a few new ones depending on what they’re building and where. For example, Web3 SDKs like, and ethers.js are essential for building any decentralized application, and programming languages like Solidity and Vyper are also key skills a Web3 developer needs.

To be sure, some purists are focused on a complete reinvention of the Internet, but that isn’t my perspective. In the future, I believe that consumers and companies will toggle between Web2 and Web3 experiences, focusing less on the ideology and more on the value.

Whereas many Web3 advocates predict it as the future of the Internet, others believe that Web3 will exist alongside Web2, but not replace it. I tend to agree with this concept of coexistence, a movement I’ve referred to as Web2+. Web 2+ has proven to be an unpopular opinion, but I stand by it based on what I’ve read and heard.

In the next installment, I’ll dig deeper into decentralization, Web3, and the Internet of the Future, so stay tuned!

Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ]


Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [Part 1]

I’m responsible for looking at the future of human-machine interaction — from the future of trust and higher education to the future of quantum internet and IoT. And when looking at, and projecting out likely futures, there is no lack of differing perspectives, conflicting information, and challenges to the groupthink driving our companies and cultures in certain directions.

I recently listened to the Money in the Metaverse episode of Azeem Azhar’s Exponential View podcast, which addresses blockchain, cryptocurrency, and the Metaverse. The podcast’s two speakers, Azhar and Citi’s Rohit Ghose, discussed a couple of perspectives that I’ve also expressed and advocated for within my circle – opinions that have been considered unpopular.

In this series, I’d like to share my perspectives and opinions on Web3, the Metaverse, and the future of human-machine interaction. Perhaps together, we can challenge and grow and ultimately all end up better prepared for the Internet that will develop in the next decade.

I’m unintimidated in holding well-informed but counter-cultural opinions about certain things concerning the future of human-machine interaction. About the Metaverse. About Web3 and NFTs. About the Future of the Internet (and how we will interact with it). After all, the only weakness in holding an unpopular opinion is the unwillingness to change if new information invalidates it. I’m always willing to change my perspective with new information.

Defining terms for the future of human-machine interactions

A natural part of my role and responsibility has revolved around the Metaverse, which we’ve been actively engaged in exploring and building the infrastructure for over the past several years. For many, the Metaverse is a mysterious concept that brings to mind virtual reality gaming and blocky Roblox avatars. Some identify Second Life as the original Metaverse, with a robust GDP worth a shocking $500MM.

It makes sense for me to share a few definitions here to set the stage for the next installments in this blog series on human-machine interactions in the future.

What is the Metaverse?

Definitions of the Metaverse vary, but these are some of my favorite interpretations:

“The metaverse is the moment in time where our digital life is worth more to us than our physical life.”

— Shaan Puri, former Twitch Manager

“The ‘Metaverse Continuum…’ is a spectrum of digitally enhanced worlds, realities, andbusiness models poised to revolutionize life and enterprise in the next decade.”

— Accenture

“First coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 Sci-Fi novel Snowcrash, I see the Metaverse as the gradual convergence of the digital world with the physical world.
A world where we no longer notice a distinction between our digital avatars and our physical selves. A world where smart lenses and BCI devices enable us to be surrounded by information – interactive information for work, entertainment, education, and more. This is the next iteration of the internet.
And as dystopian it may sound, this is the next iteration of life.”

— Ryan Gill, Cofounder & CEO of Crucible

“Metaverse” isn’t the only term cited when discussing this new paradigm. Omniverse and Multiverse are others bandied about, and those concepts touch on a critical factor in defining the embodied internet. And there is also some debate about how the Metaverse will interact with the concept of Web3.

What is Web3?

Since Web3 is another buzzy term, I’ll also share my definition of Web3, which some people see as the next version of the Internet. However, a Web3 experience is different than our web experience today (Web2) in a few ways:

How Web3 differs from Web2, today’s web experience:

  • Instead of living on centralized servers, Web3 is hosted on a decentralized platform outside the control of large tech companies, making it a more neutral, democratic place.
  • Instead of content being created largely by companies, Web3 is creator-driven and collaborative, leveraging cryptocurrency as payment for creations and assets designed by anyone creative, sometimes minted as NFTs.
  • Instead of a place where Big Tech can collect user data, Web3 is a place where data is publicly verifiable. Users can see what happens with their data through the transparent ledgers innate on the blockchain, controlling and protecting personal data from being unethically used or abused.
  • Web3 is secure, allowing people to log in using blockchain-based authentication (such as “SIWE” & “EIP-4361”) and blockchain-based identity (such as “ENS”) instead of using human-generated passwords, or centralized password managers, which can be stolen from hacked sites.

The Web3 concept has been lauded by cryptocurrency investors, innovators, startups, and venture capitalists investing heavily in decentralization. Now that we’ve defined the Metaverse and Web3, we can move on to the six unpopular opinions I will share. Stay tuned for the next blog in this series!

Human-Machine Interactions of the Future: Unpopular Opinions [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ]