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The Tao of the Metaverse
Highvibe Network deep dive | Part II
It’s easy to forget the woeful necessity of market cycles.
The ecstatic ascent in price intoxicates us with noise and hype; a requirement to attract attention, capital, and talent.
And then, at the height of our stupor, enter the bear market: natures defense against the negative side effects. Projects riddled with the contagion of greed, get rich quick schemes, and scams are surfaced and quickly dissolved.
Sure, downward price swings bring clouds of despair. But projects that truly serve Web3’s long term purpose become anti-fragile. These teams are sharpening their focus, clarifying their mission, and preparing to seize the moment.
Said another way… Crypto/Web3 needed this. It’s a cleansing. The much-needed, preventative forest fire that burns away the dangerous dead wood and brush. Or more technically speaking… the crap, that if left to fester, would have had much more catastrophic effects down the road.
On an individual level, this is a time to reflect on why we came to this frontier in the first place.
It’s an opportunity to sift through the ashes and pull out the use cases that aren’t motivated by pure financial gain, buying/selling, and speculation. Ideally, the use cases that will have a meaningful impact on the world and the individual’s pursuit of a better life.
Highvibe Network is one of those builders pursuing one of those use cases.
This essay is Part II of a ‘deep dive trilogy’ on Highvibe Network (HVN): a web3 + metaverse platform focused on wellness, mindfulness, and personal development.
For me, the gravitas of HVNs strategy and mission lies in the fact that wellness/personal development content is some of the most popular and sought after on the flat, 2D internet today.
If we can agree that a more immersive, experiential, 3D-first internet is inevitable (which I believe it most certainly is), than it’s safe to assume this content category will become even more powerful and effective, as it’s uniquely suited for fully immersive/spatial interaction and consumption (which we’ll cover further in Part III of this trilogy).
I also believe this type of content will become increasingly sought after and valuable over time. As AI-based automation accelerates, and jobs/careers evaporate, a heighted search for purpose/meaning will ensue. We’ll also see sudden demand for a new sets of skills, both hard and soft.
If we hope to catch the wave, we’ll all need better ways to level up and keep pace with a rapidly changing world. But before we can realize the value/impact of immersive personal development, we’ll first need the right set of tools to create and sustain it.
HVN is building such tools, and seeking to create a metaverse very different from the dystopian vision most hold today.
If you’re feeling optimistic, and want to imagine a more promising version than the one painted by mainstream media… great! Read on and enjoy.
Highvibe Network Part II
Welcome to Part II of our deep dive on Highvibe Network (HVN).
If you haven't read Part I, I highly recommend doing so for complete context and appreciation.
Here’s the link: A conscious approach to Web 3.
But I get it. Life’s busy. If you don't have time, here’s a quick recap. Part I set the background for HVN and covered the following:
It's mission: helping users harness the power of our attention online, with experiences that provide 'functional entertainment' and help us to tap into our 'inner tech' (e.g. the breath for mindfulness, the microbiome for our emotions, the default mode network for mental health, the nervous system’s response to nature, play/wonder to increase wellbeing and connection, etc).
The problem they're seeking to solve: business models based on an attention-based economy that creates stakeholder misalignment, yielding an unconscious user experience and unhealthy user behavior (at both the individual and societal level), aka: an 'adversarial web' vs. an 'aligned web' (see John Stokes article).
Why Web3 is the right approach: using tokens to create a unified, common interest and alignment amongst stakeholders, while also enabling new business models to improve monetization, community engagement, and resource organization/allocation (DAOs).
The 'so what?': We closed with a summary of why this is so important to get right, pointing out the dangers of the internet's current trajectory; rife with echo chambers, a lack of empathy, and 'perception gaps'.
Here in Part II, we'll get into the details of the HVN platform, providing an overview of the product, its target customer, and how they'll benefit.
Part III of this trilogy will address the common misconceptions about Highvibe’s vision, and general skepticism around the idea of using Web3/the metaverse for wellness and mindfulness.
If you're compelled by HVN's mission, and want to become an HVN creator or gain early access as a user, you can join their wait list here.
The Tao of the Metaverse: Web3’s Middle Way
An old idea is undergoing a renaissance; resurrected by the ethos of Web3 and the increasingly apparent glitches in modern society's DNA.
The idea begs a simple question, with complex answers and considerations-- Are we better off in a world fueled by self-interest? Or one fueled by common interest?
Such questions usually spark a philosophical and economic debate about socialism vs. capitalism. Yanked one way by the failed experiments of communism, and the other by the widening wealth gap per modern day capitalism.
Web3 enthusiasts believe there is a middle ground. A way to have our cake and eat it too.
They believe our world consists of two different game boards, each with a different set of rules. The rules of the first game board ensure middlemen emerge the clear winner, holding most of the power and extracting most of the value.
On the second game board, there's not one clear winner. Its rules yield an array of winners, with more participants amassing more of the value. Sure, there will be ‘winners’ of varying degrees, based upon differing levels of contribution, foresight, and a little bit of luck. But the rules of this game board are such that the winners have an incentive to help others win as well, far more so than they ever could on our first game board.
This contrast in 'life games' has been captured in many forms. The most popular are the notions of 'Game A vs. Game B' and/or 'Finite vs. Infinite Games'.
In general, each presents a philosophy for how to upgrade society's DNA/operating system to create a more fair and just world. One that maximizes human flourishing, on both an individual and societal scale, via all new forms of collaboration and coordination.
In Game A, aka: 'finite' games, there is always a winner and a loser. These are 'us vs. them' scenarios with rivalrous dynamics, in which the game eventually comes to an end with a clear victor.
Conversely, Game B, aka: the 'infinite' game, is the anti-rivalrous approach. Its goal is to design win-win scenarios, and ultimately, conditions by which we can all keep playing the game and jointly prosper along the way. This game has no end and no declared winner.
Don't let the word 'game' and my simple summary fool you. This is a deeply sophisticated school of thought. The Game B idea has spawned an entire sub-culture, complete with deep and brilliant academic thinkers, scientific rigor, and all types of blue prints for how to build and embed such an operating system into the world. (See this Game B wiki for a deep dive).
There are varying beliefs as to which blueprint and strategy would actually yield such a grand (r)evolution. Especially at the societal level. But at the individual level, most people agree on what changes need to occur.
The individual, especially those with influence and power, must go through a dramatic shift in mindset/perspective; one that first requires an intense reprogramming. A reprogramming towards valuing the interests of the whole. Not in a way that diminishes self-interest and personal needs. But rather, a way that better aligns self-interest with common interest.
The Game A mindset is one of scarcity and greed, producing selfish and extractionary behavior. It’s a mindset held hostage by the symptoms of comparison, of ego, and of fears. Fear of not fitting in, of not being admired, and of not accomplishing anything that ‘matters’. Which begs the age-old question: what actually matters? Utmost productivity? Growth for the sake of growth within bank balances and GDP?
Conversely, the Game B mindset is one of abundance and compassion. It requires a core set of skills, such as mindfulness, to recognize and separate from the thoughts that fuel Game A; the monkey mind of criticism, the competitive fuel of comparison, the necessity of quid pro quo. En masse, such a mindset (at least in theory) would produce a society that gives more than it takes.
This mindset also benefits from a realization of core truths; that we are but one tiny piece within a greater, entirely mysterious whole; that our experience on this earth is but a blip, and that its contents are completely transitory. This includes your problems, your pleasures, and your existence at large. The ego is diminished and we can awaken to things that really matter.
Sounds easy, right? If only there were some how-to books on the topic… ;-)
We could conflate these things with seemingly impossible achievements such as ‘enlightenment’ or Maslow’s tier of self-actualization. States in which we rise entirely above ‘the self’, relegating our own needs, ambitions, and dreams. I just don’t think this is realistic. We should recognize human nature, the fun and joy of winning, and the importance of satisfying one’s own needs and ambitions. These things shouldn’t be diminished. Our pursuits need incentive in the form of upside, and the right mechanisms to capture it.
But similar to the over used example of putting your oxygen mask on first, there are certain ways to win and bring others along for the ride. Ways that allow the fruits of one’s labor to better trickle down, raising the tide and all ships along with it. The Web3 version of this idea is best captured by Balaji Srinivasan, who has popularized the term 'win and help win'.
Does winning in this case include money? Sure. It’s necessary for a functioning society. We need money to buy things like a house, a bed, food, and medicine. But money can’t buy a home, it can’t buy sleep, it can’t buy nutrition, and it can’t buy health.
We’ve all heard similar platitudes countless times before. But it rarely sticks. At least not in the soul stirring way required for lasting change. And certainly not at the scale required for a universal Game B.
So how do create a lasting shift in mindset, priorities, and purpose? How do we mass produce the lenses that shift the way we see the world and ourselves?
This, in essence, is Highvibe Network’s mission.
Their core customer are not speculators or ‘degens’. Their core customers are creators who are the ultimate facilitators of this shift in mindset and perspective. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll call them ‘Game B Creators’.
These creators include entrepreneurs, investors, and leaders within the realms of yoga and mindfulness, spirituality and mysticism, psychedelics and shamanism, nutrition and holistic living. Many of whom double as world class thinkers, writers, artists, and musicians on a mission to facilitate human wellbeing and purpose.
This creator is driven by the 'win and help win' mentality in its purest sense. They help people tame the ego and win the internal battles, such that they may emerge more whole and capable of winning the external battles, in the right way; with more thoughtful outcomes.
Many of these creators are masters of what HVN calls our 'inner tech'; which we defined in Part I as things like the breath for mindfulness, the microbiome for our emotions, the default mode network for mental health, the nervous systems response to nature, and play/wonder to increase well-being and connection.
HVN cheekily calls these folks 'elevated degens'. And to date, many of these creators haven't exactly been empowered to grow and scale their message/art/creations. Such Game B type pursuits just haven't been profitable enough. As a result, it hasn't been the most scalable and practical for those that need to feed a family and put a roof over their head.
Web3 holds the promise to change this, and HVN is building the Web3 tools to onboard and empower Game B focused creators, with the ultimate intention of bringing the promise of this new societal operating system to life.
Let’s now explore how.
HVN is pursuing a classic blue ocean product strategy amidst a litany of wildly underwhelming metaverse worlds, none of which exactly encourage self-improvement.
I’ve yet to see a single ‘metaverse’ that leaves me feeling inspired and wanting to return. They are rife with low-quality aesthetics and lackluster use cases. Mostly meager games, actual casinos, social signaling, real-estate speculation, and aimless wandering (with quite literally nothing to do).
The HVN ecosystem is addressing this conundrum with a set of Web3 tools via a next-gen creator platform. This platform will expose composable ‘metaverse building blocks’ that can be used in multiple metaverse worlds; the fabric of which are Web3 primitives such as tokens, NFTs, DAOs, and virtual assets (aka: 3D content/models of various sorts).
These building blocks are designed to produce elevating experiences and interactive story worlds that will help users harness their 'inner tech'. Story will be the most important element, producing useful fictions to better shape our reality and calibrate us to what matters.
These experiences and stories will be accessible in both the metaverse and 'IRL' (in real life), with a focus on environments conducive to content for wellness and personal development. And while this is the target market, these tools can be used by any type of creator with a positive message for the world.
Let’s explore HVN’s tool set through the eyes of a first-time user:
Simple On-boarding via Single Sign On
When you arrive at HVN for the first time, logging in is strangely simple. No need to worry about already having a crypto wallet. You just provide an email and voila, an account and wallet is spun up on your behalf. Users will also be able to use their existing wallets as a single sign on mechanism for HVN, or any other Web3 platform for that matter. As digital wallets become ubiquitous, they'll be treated as universal passports, making on-boarding a much easier and more personalized experienced than today’s Web2 experience.
$VIBES | From play-to-earn, to play-to-elevate
The next thing you'll notice is the $VIBES token. This is the ecosystem’s fuel and medium of exchange. Most metaverse worlds and games use tokens for ‘play-to-earn’ mechanics, paying users when they win a battle, beat a level, etc. HVN uses tokens for what they call ‘play-to-elevate’, rewarding users for behavior that reflects the ‘win and help win’ mindset. This includes consuming/creating healthy content, adding value to the network (e.g. staking tokens or sharing/promoting content), and incentivizing behavior deemed good for both the growth/well-being of the individual and the network at large (e.g. organizing an event, casting a DAO vote).
The primary use case for $VIBES is as an incentive mechanism to improve our information diets and strengthen our diminishing attention spans. Upon first glance, this article may seem too long for your liking. But what if you could earn 100 $VIBES for finishing. And what if those tokens could then be used to participate in an HVN NFT marketplace, allowing you to invest in your favorite creator's project. In doing so, you could earn a percentage of that creator’s income stream for, say, an upcoming meditation retreat, a music album, or a concert series. Not a bad way to parlay 20 mins of reading effort.
Over time, you'll find yourself consuming increasing amounts of healthy content that you might otherwise have glossed over. And along the way, perhaps your attention span is strengthened. You could rediscover the joy of going deeper into higher quality content versus perusing surface level quick hits, all while accruing useful knowledge and some financial upside to boot.
NFTs | The future of community engagement, expression, and culture
Next, your attention is captured by an NFT marketplace. Within this interface you see a minting portal to create your own NFTs. As you go further into the creator portal, a bevy of features appears:
You see 'Splits' to facilitate creator partnerships and 'smart royalties', allowing numerous contributors to capture a percentage of the income streams. There's a 'Blog' tool to mint writing content as NFTs. There's an area to create 'Rewards & Bounties', allowing creators to offer rewards (like the example above for finishing a blog) or quests (e.g. 'come to this in-real-life retreat or concert and earn an NFT for staying until the end). There's also a tool for 'Generative Collections', allowing users to create a collection of NFTs generated by code, based upon various inputs that are randomized (e.g. various audio files, image configurations, video clips, etc.). This is similar to how collections like Bored Apes or CryptoPunks are created.
Continuing our HVN platform journey… You’ll next see tools to build such a community, labeled 'Gated Content & Memberships'. For example, own a certain NFT and get access to a Discord, the next live show, or special stages at a festival. This could also be used to gain exclusive membership to a DAO by earning a certain amount of the DAOs tokens or by completing an educational course/curriculum. Which brings us to the next tool, 'Community Token', for creating DAOs and launching a DAO token.
DAOs - The future of human coordination
If you're unfamiliar, DAOs are effectively an internet native corporation/organization, powered by the blockchain'. DAOs act as a digitally native form of resource accrual, management, and allocation, allowing anyone to organize a community with a sense of purpose, backed by a treasury to fund said purpose. This could be something philanthropic like wildlife conservation, something social like festival curation, something opportunistic like investing in other creators, or something educational like an online school or course.
Within these DAOs, Discord and Twitter are the new board rooms, smart contracts the means of execution, and blockchains the rails and engines for value transfer and accrual. All of which can be brought to life with an internet connection and a few clicks, in an entirely permissionless way. It doesn't matter if you're a 14-year-old learning to program, or a 70-year-old looking for a new hobby. There's no boss granting you permission. No one judging your potential skills. Anyone can jump in, start rowing, and earn tokens for whatever output they can muster. While challenges remain with governance and true decentralization, DAOs are showcasing meritocracy at its finest, and a compelling case study in the potential future of remote/gig work and capital formation.
As you continue on, more tools appear at your disposal: a 'Vesting Schedules' feature for DAO or token creators to ensure the right levels of commitment and behavior, 'Token Airdrop' to send NFTs or tokens into wallets of fans or DAO members.
One of HVN's more exciting upcoming drops is with the Allan Watts foundation, who will be minting and airdropping NFT audio recordings of Watt's most iconic philosophical musings. These talks could be curated with the final tool in the HVN toolbelt, the 'Playlist'. Think of this as a discovery mechanism within this new 'experience economy, allowing anyone to curate a 'playlist' of their favorite music, blogs, or immersive experiences. Playlist curators will also benefit by earning reputation point for adding value to the network.
A virtual Zen den of your own
Upon emerging from this quick tutorial of tools, your avatar materializes into a virtual, 3D environment. You have your own plot of land, minted as an NFT and complete with unique, procedurally generated architecture, rooms, and plant life. A place to call home in the digital world. Your personal digital Zen sanctuary, if you will.
There is a pyramid meant for hosting events, a dome for 'receptive experiences' (e.g. sound healings and meditations), a stadium for hosting talks or music shows, and a gallery to showcase art & immersive experiences. All of this is customizable as you deem fit. Many of the things you are able to do and experience here are beyond the limits of distance, physics, and cost prohibitive (premium) physical spaces.
I’ve seen initial concept art for these virtual places, and its breathtaking. The design, photorealism, and richness look/feel like a AAA game title.
And while aesthetics certainly matter, the most important element within this immersive ‘experience layer’ will be the stories HVNs creators are empowered to tell. HVN already has exciting partners with compelling IP in the works, complete with characters, narrative, and their own sprawling universe.
Guiding this effort is HVNs belief that the stories we tell make a profound impact on our lives; how we view ourselves, each other, our problems, and the potential solutions. With this as a core tenet, HVN is striving to curate stories that are thought provoking, motivational, and educational.
If they succeed, the metaverse just might become the ultimate place for personal growth, empathy, and societal reform.
Web3 for Game B Creators
To wrap this essay, I’d be remiss to not answer the popular question de jour - “Does this use case really need Web3 (aka: crypto, blockchains, NFTs, etc)?”
Web3 brings many benefits, but we’ll focus on the three that I believe are the most fundamental.
(1) Permissionless access and control: The first breakthrough here is permissionless access and complete control of your data, content, identity, and personal IP, with the freedom to transport between any and all platforms.
This is in contrast to today’s bifurcation of your user data within private, siloed databases (e.g. Twitter, FB, YouTube, TikTok, Snap). These databases also lead to bifurcation and lock-in of the creator's data; their audience, content, revenue streams, etc. As a result, despite users/economic actors within Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube creating much of the value, they have no recourse if/when Web2 entities change the rules. e.g. charging too much, inserting ads and algorithmic garbage, throttling their traffic, or mistreating in other ways. (As discussed in this essay Web 2 vs Web 3).
Practically speaking, creators can’t just up and leave their current Web2 platforms. They spend years upon years building an audience and a portfolio of content that is locked within that particular platform. Switching costs to leave are just too high.
With Web3, this user/creator data will live on an open/permissionless database, allowing users/creators to flow across ecosystems and build a business on numerous platforms with flexibility and ease.
(2) Better monetization: Top creators in these domains amass some of the most loyal followings. They produce content with life changing effects and lead their audience towards transformation. But the value exchange along the way is hindered, and the tools to do so at scale are limited.
In managing their community and running a business, most creators get by with an email list, a basic website, PayPal, and perhaps a WhatsApp group. But in my conversation with these creators and their followers, there is a yearning for so much more; more connection, more engagement, and more participation & interaction amongst their community.
These creators are also often sitting on archives of amazing but (relatively) unheard music, written content, meditation recordings, curriculum, art, you name it. But they struggle to distribute and monetize this content in a meaningful way.
Of course, for most creators of this ilk, money is the lowest thing on the totem pole. But for those who want to create economic freedom and scale their message, the lack of economic means is a barrier.
This is especially the case for creators with a smaller practice/audience, who often require a side hustle to pay the bills. Fortunately, as Li Jin discusses in her article '100 True Fans’, Web3 is allowing people to earn outsized revenue from the smallest pockets of their most loyal audience.
As an anecdote, musicians who’ve embraced Web3 have started to publicly compare their earnings on Spotify to selling NFTs. The data is staggering. Today, it takes around 200k streams for an artist to make $1,000.
Conversely, an unsigned musician named Iman Europe recently made $60k selling just 5 singles and 1 music video as an NFT. Imran has over 4 million followers across Spotify and Apple Music, earning her only around $300/month…. Another study compares the Spotify earnings of five musicians to their NFT revenue. Their NFTs earnings are on average 7.5x higher.
Despite some people’s skepticism, these results are hard to ignore. The data suggest Web3 might indeed hold better mechanisms for patronage and monetization.
Now, creators with a smaller practice can thrive, and those with global ambitions are empowered with an upgraded economic engine to scale.
I've met inner tech experts within the top 1% of their craft. Their respective messages/content reaches a few hundred people per year, maybe a few thousand if they sprinkle in some larger scale events or gatherings, or if they've created an online course/podcast.
Imagine if we could empower just a fraction of that top 1% to better scale their wonderfully powerful and enlightening services. Perhaps that's enough to have an impact on millions, if not billions of lives, and perhaps ultimately, reprogramming the mindset of an entire world. A mindset that might need it most in the face of extreme societal shifts, for which Game B and ‘win and help win’ might be our only way out.
(3) Richer & deeper audience engagement: I recently met a Web3 creator who likened buying NFTs as an upgraded version of 'the like button'.
On current social platforms, this creator’s following is riddled with bots and random people spewing spam. They don't really know who their audience is or if these people actually own/like their art. They’re also constrained to a one-way dialogue.
NFT-based communities produce a much more curated audience, with whom they’re able to connect more directly and deeply in places like NFT gated Discord servers. This yields a two-way dialogue with people who definitively own and appreciate their work, while shrinking the distance between the creator and their followers.
This creator admitted today’s social media allows him to reach more people, but at a much lower quality. Most of these relationships, when they do exist, are shallow. But in his NFT Discord, he said people treat each other like family and long-lost friends. They’re more eager/willing to organize meetups or events, or even lend a hand to someone in need.
In short, the social fabric in Web3 seems to be stronger, woven by a tighter alignment in shared interest, values, and world views.
As promising as this all sounds, most people can’t fathom the idea of a metaverse being used in this way.
While most people love Highvibe’s vision, they often have a common set of objections and concerns; ranging from the tech’s usability, adoption from this type of creator, and the practicality of a 'metaverse' for things like mindfulness and wellness.
Considering the mainstream media's portrayal of this space, who can blame them.
But people seem to forget we have a choice. We can either look out at this horizon, wallow in despair, and succumb to techs proclivity to embolden humanity’s most negative traits.
Or, we can learn from past mistakes, plan for negative externalities, and better shape this tech’s trajectory from the outset.
The beauty of tech is that it’s an emergent property of our imagination. If all we ever do is imagine a dystopian outcome, that’s likely what we’ll manifest.
In Part III, we’ll address these concerns and imagine the best possible outcomes, in hopes that they act as a lighthouse for future builders to come.
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