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Blockleaders Columnist - Alex Kim

Blockleaders Columnist - Alex Kim

Web 3.0 speculates a future of a decentralized internet that runs on the blockchain fueled entirely by token-economics. Even if you may have never heard of this term before, at one point or another, the word has probably shown up on LinkedIn profiles, NFT and cryptocurrency Discord servers, and possibly some Telegram groups as well. Most people in those servers and chats promise that it is the future of the world and how we will finally be able to break free from the control of big data from Web 2.0. But are we really going to be able to accomplish these speculative fleets?

To provide a brief recap of our current model of the internet, Web 2.0, large companies such as Facebook and Google host information on centralized servers spread across the world. This allows users to upload their personal profile pictures, videos, and other media on these servers so they can access them from wherever they are in the world. Placing a big trust in these centralized companies poses increased risk, as we’ve seen with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, that used user data to create personalized target ads on Facebook’s social media platform.

However, web 2.0 also resulted in amazing innovations such as e-commerce, interaction through social media sites, and even allowed people to publish their own content. In combination with the rise of other technologies such as smartphones, laptops, and cloud services, web 2.0 allowed people to share, collaborate, and express themselves online to other people and different groups of communities.

Web3 proponents argue that we will live in a future that does not allow the users to enter in personal information to use the services of the companies mentioned above. Rather, we would use the public ledger of the blockchain in combination with artificial intelligence to have everything verified by the network before it is approved into the blockchain. Theoretically, like cryptocurrencies, this information flow would happen directly without a middleman, and in turn become permissionless since there are no direct providers. This process would also prevent bad actors from misusing data since the blockchain network would establish a very transparent record of the movement of data.

Although these promises and outlooks of web3 sound great, there are a concerning issues that do arise if we do continue to adopt these new technologies and concepts. First, most evidently, there will be an enormous educational barrier to how these processes would work from the creator and end user perspectives. Right now, web3 is currently all speculative and theoretical. For those who want to better understand what web3 is, they will inevitably have to develop a “willingness to learn” about blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies. 

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Jae Park, Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Comparative Education Development, says “The slow rate of adoption of blockchain technology in education reflects the rate in the fields of finance and management but, at the same time, it poses a few critical challenges such as lacking tangible incentives for technology maintenance or ‘blockchain mining’ (inward sustainability) coupled with a rather feeble orientation to collective development of education (outward sustainability).”

Right now, an ongoing topic I’m learning about in my philosophy class titled “Liberty, Morality, and Law” highlights the potential implications of anarcho-capitalism, the view that we should eliminate all states in favor of a system where private agencies competing in a free market provide all the necessary services for society. One of the several implications of this anarcho-capitalistic society, as said by Nicole Hassoun, “Anarchy, in the real world, is usually horrifying… some would do well in anarchical states. Rich warlords often do well, at least for a while. But [poorer people] who cannot afford to hire decent protective services, often do poorly.”

Web3 promises is exactly what I just said – distributed, permissionless, and decentralized. We’ve proved multiple times in the courses of history that anarchy doesn’t work. In the end, people need some sort of a governmental or centralized structure in their lives, not to prevent them from acting on their wills, but to protect them from the potential downfalls that arise because of these alluring promises.

According to Pitchbook, a market data provider, during the first three quarters of 2021, venture capital firms invested over $21.4 billion into cryptocurrency and blockchain-related companies. Silicon Valley venture capital firms such as a16z, who currently has over 42 different crypto projects as a part of their crypto portfolio, with several being web3 focused startup companies. 

As famously said by Jack Dorsey, "You don't own 'web3.' The VCs and their LPs do.” Following up on a comment from a16z partner Chris Dixon, Dorsey also famously responded, “It's critical we focus our energy on truly secure and resilient technologies owned by the mass of people, not individuals or institutions. Only that foundation will provide for the applications you allude to."

More people are starting to utilize private browsers, virtual private networks (VPNs), and pseudonym profiles online. Web3 doesn’t provide a concrete solution to data privacy concerns that arose because of web2. Rather, web3 brings more questions than it does answers right now.