In the beginning, there was web 1.0. They were static pages, with little interactivity, represented only by hyperlinks that led to other addresses. Some time later, web 2.0 appeared. The designs became more sophisticated, allowing users to interact more. Then social media was created, virtual businesses were established, and the collection — and eventually the sale — of our personal data began. It is in this environment that we navigate the world wide web today. On the horizon, a new dawn is looming with web 3.0, a supposedly more democratic and decentralized ecosystem, with the undisguised objective of taking power away from the so-called large technological corporations, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter. In short, it is about promoting business without intermediaries.
The foundation of this new world, the third generation, is on the blockchain, a system that allows tracking the sending and receiving of information virtually from a unique key. It is the means by which cryptocurrency transactions and non-fungible tokens, the NFTs, are currently carried out. Cryptocurrencies are encrypted, they do not presuppose a central issuing authority — a Central Bank, a Mint — or any other regulation. NFTs are virtual files, be it a tweet, a photo, an art, a meme, or any other digital object, guaranteed by a unique proprietary code.
In Silicon Valley, the technological heartland of the United States, analysts describe Web 3.0 as a way to make everything a huge business. The high values achieved by some cryptocurrencies, which now appear to be in an endless decline, and by some NFTs, such as the avatar CryptoPunk 7523, a digital art that was sold for 11.7 million dollars, partially confirmed this hypothesis and left many people excited. There are, however, those who view the generous offer of facilities with caution and a certain amount of mistrust.
There is hope in web 3.0 with the window open for everyday people to make money online. However, limitations arise. “There will not be enough economic niches, because algorithms and robots will do much of the work,” said American computer scientist Jaron Lanier, who recently participated in the Brazil at Silicon Valley conference in Mountain View, to VEJA. “It may not be a viable path.” Lanier, known for coining the expression “virtual reality”, points out another risk: the roller coaster, glued to sudden devaluations, in addition to the risk of forming financial pyramids. It is quicksand terrain, as it is linked to economic tools that increase in value as demand increases. “It facilitates the action of criminals, who will be able to use the free environment to practice all kinds of crimes,” said Brazilian data engineer Mat Velloso, technical consultant to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, to VEJA.
Recently, Brazilians and Argentines wanted to maintain parity with the dollar artificially, hanging on to virtual bets, and they failed. “I can create a cryptocurrency pegged to the American currency, but I won’t have any backing to show it,” Velloso said. The lessons learned in the recent past, as in this episode of artificial exchange control, are already part of the short history of the third wave of the internet. It is worth paying attention, but it is worth reflecting: obstacles cannot cancel out the evident progress fueled by technology. The web 3.0 can, indeed, cause crashes — but it is a fundamental instrument in the defense of democracy, by facilitating and promoting the circulation of ideas.
Published in VEJA of July 13, 2022, issue no. 2797