Is It Physical Versus Digital or Both … and What Role Does Money Have in This Space?

I’ve realised that my thoughts these days seem to focus mainly on artificial intelligence (AI), cryptocurrencies, the metaverse and space travel. That’s not surprising as that’s where Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg are focused. These are the future technologies and capabilities that are inspiring our next generation. The question is: what if we put all of these together? What will tomorrow’s world look like if all of these developments converge?

I was thinking about it, and came up with an idea. How about a virtual world in space where you could spend cryptocurrencies, but it is managed by AI …

The idea would be that you enter the metaverse and travel to anywhere you want in the universe. Obviously, travel costs money so you have to pay for your virtual trip to Mars, but that’s fine as it’s paid for by your chosen currency. Marscoins, Spacecoins, bitcoins and most other cryptocurrencies accepted. The thing is that you do not have to make that payment. Your intelligent agent does it for you. You don’t have to think or do anything yourself. The system does it for you.

This means that you move seamlessly through space with no thought about money, transactions or payments. Until the day when you can’t. The day when the computer says no. The day that digital stops supporting you and you have to sort it out yourself.

It is this balance between dependency on the network and automation versus having something in your hand that is physical. I feel this fight regularly. By way of example, owning an NFT (non-fungible token) versus having a work of art on the wall; having dollars and pounds in my bank account versus physically holding a carefully designed banknote; playing a game like Halo or Minecraft versus being outside ziplining or enjoying a live concert.

This balance and friction is the nature of how we live today. Some would say it is the war between digital and physical, whereas I would conted it is how do we integrate digital and physical? As time goes forward, we will see that yes, of course, digitality is a mainstream force in our lives but we will always remember that we live in real life. Yes, some humans have died due to being so immersed in games that they forget to eat …

Man dies in Taiwan after 3-day online gaming binge

… but that’s the point. We have to eat. We have to go to the toilet and breathe. These are the things that you cannot do digitally. You can experience a virtual world or you can experience a real world, but these are not mutually exclusive. They are inclusive. You have to do both and, as you do, you need to have a bank account.

A physical world bank account is easy and obvious. Whether you choose a challenger or traditional provider, you need a way to pay for things. So, who do you choose in the metaverse virtual reality of cryptocurrencies and worlds that never existed before?

Answer: a real bank.

This answer is based upon the fact that if you do not have a guarantee of protection of your money, then you cannot trust the provider of financial service. This has been proven over and over again, but my favourite example came from Second Life, where a large amount of money was lost to Ginko Bank, and the users demonstrated outside the provider of Second Life, Linden Labs, until they eventually made a statement:

To be a bank in the virtual world, you need to be a bank in the real world


Because banks have the responsibility to manage risk, whether that risk be physical or digital.

This is what banks do. It’s their job. Feel free to give this job to someone else but just ask one question: do you have a guarantee they won’t lose your money and, more importantly, what is that guarantee and what is it worth?

This is where banks win, every time, and why banks won’t disappear tomorrow. In fact, they will be around for another millennia.

Related: How Much Energy Should a Monetary System Consume?