Marieke Flament, CEO, NEAR Foundation
Whenever I think about the development of new technologies, I always come back to a foundational question: are we creating technology that is in the service of humanity, or are we putting humanity further in the service of technology, and the large corporations and financial institutions that control it? The move to Web3, offers all of us the chance to create a change in how we interact with technology, and each other.
When I say all of us, I truly mean everyone. Too often technology has only benefited the few: those who have money, those who have power, or those of a certain gender, ethnicity, or skin color. But this doesn’t need to be the case. Technology can and should be in the service of all people. But to achieve this, we will need a change in perspective, something that Web3 can help us achieve.
Going beyond the headlines
Claiming that Web3 can lead to a more fair, open, and inclusive world that puts technology in the service of humanity is not easy after the collapse of FTX and the recent filings by the SEC against Binance and Coinbase. I can understand why this could lead people to question the viability of the Web3 space as a whole. But as troubling as these events are, what they really do is call us to understand the real place and value of Web3, not to give up on it.
All new technologies go through complicated and challenging periods of growth and development. These turbulent early days can draw bad actors into a space that has tremendous potential, leaving the technology with a kind of stigma that can be difficult to remove. In the Web3 space we have seen this time and again, particularly when crypto is treated as only an asset or investment, rather than as a tool to solve real world problems. Web3 has the potential to revolutionize how we use technology. However without meaningful use, crypto tokens themselves may have financial worth, but will never hold real value.
The real value of Web3
The future of Web3 is usage, not market cap, TVL, or any other measure that looks at economic value alone. As we saw with FTX, $51 billion of economic value can disappear in a matter of days when it rests on speculation. It’s a bit like trying to build a house without a strong foundation. The first storm that comes along can easily blow it over. But if the foundation is strong, the house will be able to weather any storm. In the case of Web3, the only foundation strong enough to ensure it is resilient over time is real usage.
The success of Web3 will ultimately be based on what the technology can do, and how it can help change the unfair and unequal power dynamics that are built into much of Web2. With Web2, power is concentrated in the hands of a few people, a problem that is dramatically increasing under the influence of centralized AI. End users, that is you, me, and everyone we know, end up being in the service of that technology, giving away our data, privacy, money, and voice for the ability to use “free” platforms. To put this another way, Web2 platforms have turned us into the product. In this model, those in power have every incentive to try to keep their power, giving diverse voices, voices of women, POC, those from developing nations, and those with dissenting perspectives little to no representation. Web3 turns that on its head.
Realizing Web3’s potential
The true potential of Web3 is to create a more inclusive, fair, and open world. It is a chance to regain ownership of data and privacy rather than having to surrender them to gain access to a platform. It is a chance to protect the free flow of ideas and information, so that people anywhere in the world can interact openly. And it is a chance to participate in a more fair economic system, based around direct exchange instead of corporate control.
The need for Web3 is as great as its potential, and greater now than it has ever been. That’s why it is so important for everyone to understand what Web3 really is, and not just the negative headlines which often occupy the popular imagination. To see what Web3 can be, I invite you to explore the NEAR ecosystem of dApps, DAOs, and our larger community to see Web3 in action, and what can happen when you begin to put technology in the service of humanity, rather than the other way around.