One of the greatest hopes in the Metaverse economy is that everybody from everywhere in the planet will be able to partake in value-creation, as long as he has access to an internet connection. This means that talented programmers or designers from rural (and web-enabled) areas of Kenya will be able to provide their services for companies in the US or anywhere else.

This may appear as a wonderful utopia of workers’ liberation. The place where one resides will be not defining anymore the chances to succeed in life.

But maybe the future is not as bright as we imagine. We are talking here of a digital system that will create competition between workers from the most diverse surroundings, including those where the cost of living (and the cost of labor) is dramatically low. If certain services become some sort of commodity, a worker from a developing country will be preferred. Less-skilled workers from developed countries will necessary bear all the impact of the change.

In the end, there will be an effect of wealth redistribution from the “centers” of capitalism to the periphery, but also the wealth map in the US will be redesigned. People that will enjoy the benefits of a revamped global competition will stay in higher-end cities, and the rest of the country will become a wasteland of low salaries and higher unemployment. This is more or less what has been already going on in cities such as San Francisco, New York, Paris and London – and the tendency will be reinforced. 

Without proper guidance, there is the risk that the Metaverse economy might extremize some less-positive globalization tendencies even further. The US trade deficit with China exerted strong pressure on US wages and resulted also into the loss of some 3.7 million US jobs in the first twenty years of this century, and this was due exactly to labor competition. With the Metaverse, the competition will be extremized and will involve basically everyone. Moreover, there is a wider effect exerted by the general structure of the digital economy. Globalization means also that a company can scale up its business to planetary scale and accumulate wealth: not by chance, US inequality has “returned to gilded age levels”.

Imagine now a situation where the process of value creation is completely separated by the territory. Creating a full-digital workplace means that there will be no government or union truly capable of protecting the rights of laborers. Even further, a full-digital system where transactions are regulated by stateless crypto would mean that the creation of digital citizens without real rights. 

Every passage of age – from the agriculture to the first industrialization, and then to the second industrialization, and then to the digital era – has been characterized by always a wider degree of internationalization; and the “nation-state” needed some time to recover and intervene to recreate sustainable social conditions. Just think about the creation of workers’ slums in Victorian England: it was assumed that market forces would then reestablish diffused wealth, but that was of course not the case. Unions had to intervene, together with overarching democratic reforms. Until this happened, the factories employing these masses of people kept on accumulating profits from international trade. 

If one leaves the Metaverse to anarchy, it will be taken over by the strongest and the wealthiest. It will not be a land of dreams, but rather an impalpable form of digital dictatorship. Metaverse capitalists could be free to take advantage of low-paid workers with no need for social responsibility. Although it lives in the digital sphere, the Metaverse is not better than the people that make it, and social values will still be relevant.