The New Virtual World

January 21, 2022

One wonders what is fueling cryptocurrency, which continues to go up and up in value. There are multiple explanations. Some of them are familiar, such as the fact that some people are losing trust in money issued by the government. The perception is that the central bank is printing more and more and more currency, which can lead to a tremendous inflation. So, some try to escape to a safe bay, such as real estate or cryptocurrency. They are more willing to trust a decentralized system than the powerful center of the Federal Reserve System. I‘ve come across another possible explanation.

  It all started when my son gave me a surprise present. He took me to a horse ranch. There was one horse with whom I was supposed to communicate. You talk to the horse about what is troubling you, and somehow you get insights back from the horse. Crazy, right? Well, it is called “an experience.”

  Activities that supply an “experience” are coming more into demand as materialistic ownership loses its luster in a developed economy.  The emotional rewards one gets from possessing “Things” is being replaced with  the joy and pleasure of having “Experiences.”

  I was recently invited to a young couple’s wedding. When I looked at their registration requests, they weren’t asking me to buy them a mixer, or some furniture, or a set of dinnerware. No, they were asking for experiences: a night in a hotel in the Maldives; a sumptuous dinner at the best restaurant in town.

 As we move from a society of scarcity to a society of abundance, physical possessions are losing their value. What people really want is that unique something called an experience. Take NFTs, which are springing up like mushrooms after the rain. When you buy them, what do you really own? There are no dividends. There's no income. The value is not their present value, or their future flow of income. What you really own is an experience.  Here is an extreme example: There is an app with a parallel planet Earth. Within the app, parcels are sold on that fantasy world that exists only in the imagination of the users. And people are buying. It is called a metaverse.

The search for experiences has given birth, in my opinion, to the success of virtual realities which has impacted our attitudes, our perceptions of values, and our understanding of what is real. With an experience, what is right and what is wrong is totally subjective.

What is Real?
  Here is a joke from the Soviet Union era: a guy goes to a medical clinic and asks to see an ear and eye doctor. The nurse is surprised. “ We have an ear, throat and nose doctor or an eye doctor but not ear and eye doctor. Why do you need it?” “Because what I see and what I hear is not the same thing“ he answers.

  I increasingly feel that I don't know what is real anymore. I sit and work on Zoom with a virtual background that makes me appear to be in a beautiful office or on the beach somewhere. In reality, I could be sitting on the toilet.

  What is real?

  We have Beyond Meat. It tastes like meat, but it's not meat. In Israel they can produce cow’s milk in a laboratory, without a cow. We have fake eyelashes. And we have dental implants that are not real teeth. And what’s beyond that? Futurists tell us that if we live for twenty more years, we may be able to live forever because the medical profession is going to be able to replace all parts of our bodies. Artificial heart, artificial kidney, artificial bladder, artificial lungs, even an artificial brain replacement—a chip that's connected to the cloud. You won't need to use your brain anymore. You won’t need to die.

  What is real?

  I believe that gives birth to fake news. It also begets deceptive and unethical advertising, and people exaggerating their achievements. Everything is the best, the greatest, the most incredible.

  Where is the truth?

  In developed countries even the people there do not seem real. They're not genuine. The more sophisticated the city, the more plastic are its occupants. If you want to find real people—the ones that laugh sincerely and not just to make you feel good, go to countries where the economically poorest of the poor live. They've not "developed" yet. A friend of mine travelled to the African bush. He said he has never seen such happy people—folks who laugh and give you the feeling and sense they are real. No facades. No pretentions.

The Opportunity
 I have consulted with some developing countries and my advice to them has been to stop building monstrous Las Vegas-like hotels with casinos. Stop building large highways and expansive shopping malls. That is how Acapulco—a jewel of a place, not too long ago—became a destination that people don’t go to anymore. The same will happen soon to Cancun and Montenegro. Stop copying America. You have an asset that is becoming more and more scarce, and thus very valuable: genuine small cities, nature, and real food.  Before long, people are going to pay a fortune—in hard cash—to experience what is real.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes