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Pandemic, metaverse & other demons: 2022 resolutions

By Chiara Lamacchia.


It is the end of the year. Time to re-think, evaluate and propose. I would like to end this 2021 by letting some steam off with an exceptionally provocative piece, including more than a pinch of positivity for possible 2022 resolutions. This might result as a tough article as there are many opinions shared over delicate topics – but when looking back at the year that is ending there is no other way than to come clean, to start the new year in the right direction. After sourcing my own experiences, I identified seven 2021 discoveries and I have tried to transform them into seven 2022 resolutions.

  1. The suddenness of law > Be more pragmatic.

  2. The inconceivable complexity of our realities > Remember the complexity

  3. Our captive “freedom” > Embrace limitations

  4. The misplaced innovation > Test your opinions

  5. Extremisms > Do not overdo

  6. The pandemic > Go forward to the way it will be

  7. The … metaverse > Be open-minded

The suddenness of law

Very little has been said about one of the aspects of the pandemic: the sudden emergency laws and policies that impacted so unexpectedly our life and business.


From one day to the other, we all experienced the same: social distancing, lockdowns, shortage in resources (yes, I might be referring also to toilet paper), remote working, shops closed, restaurants closed, mask obligations, no travels…


The pandemic was not foreseeable. We might all agree that a better response to a case as such could have been better modelled anyway – but this is far not the point of this article.


If we would like to draw a moral from the Covid19 event, we could say that whenever emergencies occur, laws, policies and regulations come suddenly and harshly.

We have now ahead of us (more than) a couple of major challenges that are

totally foreseeable, definitely actionable, and vastly discussed at least for the past 50 years. I could name, for instance, global warming, climate change, resource scarcity, climate migration, totalitarianism…..


When considering the future and the pressuring conversations we have, I always ask myself – would something really happen? I am not being negative here. I am rather trying to manage expectations by looking at the entire world, its people and its dynamics and. We live in a world where we do everything and its contrary. We live in an era where we need all right now and at the same time willing to get a clean Planet A. We are “copping” about climate change, but COPs are organised in a physical event where people are actually flying to. At the same time, we applaud the era of space tourism.


What might happen may be as simple as the following: we drag this situation on and on till the point of no return (that for some is already here). Then, we enter in a state of emergency (that, again, for someone we are already living). Finally, we all experience again emergency legislation that focuses on the roots of the problem, disrupting our life and businesses.


These legislations might be inevitable. There might be a moment when, for instance, it will not be about “in 2019 the Parliament seals ban on throwaway plastics by 2021” – but rather “all business producing plastics are closed down tomorrow”. Not “Sustainable Development Goals set in 2015 to ensure a better world in 2030” – but rather "laws, policies and regulations that become effective in the next month”.


> Resolution: Let’s be more pragmatic. We know we have in front of us some major hot topics that will all call for emergencies and legislative interventions. These will inevitably affect our personal and professional life. Let's think about how to change and what we could do. When possible, let's start to implement the change so that it will pay off. In the likely event that we thought a wrong prediction, we would learn anyway to be more flexible and responsive.


The inconceivable complexity of our realities

We are just experiencing the most improbable event impacting nothing less than our health. This offers a unique occasion to observe the intricacy of the situation: politics, media, science, people, religion, businesses, conflicts of interests.


I hear people saying that we are finally becoming aware of the importance of recycling. That makes me shiver. Not only because that “we” does not consider the actual rest of the world, but also because we are still talking about recycling when we should focus a bit more on “reducing” (both in production and consuming). Do you also see the stale vicious cycle in dresses made out of recycled plastic?


Many times, when hearing people talking about solutions to a certain problem, I feel there is a lack of perspectives.


Quoting Cicero, “pares cum paribus facillime congregantu” [1]. The English equivalent would be “birds of a feather flock together”. In other words, people of similar character, background, ideas, beliefs or tastes tend to associate with one another. We are inclined to surround ourselves with like-minded people, and this makes us perceive a very partial reality, characterised by a strong asymmetry of information. We tend to look at a problem in our enclosed bubble. We think that there is a lot of attention on this or that issue when in fact the numbers are extremely small if compared to the size of the entire world population. Our realities are way more complex than we can conceive. As much as the concept of the infinite, it is that type of complexity that the human mind can only caress. Each and every one of us conceives this complex reality in its little safe sphere made of people that are thinking alike, who then are also capable anyway of behaving inconsistently and incoherently.

Furthermore, or probably because of it, we tend to “reckon without the host”. Countless times we simplify the solutions, without considering the complications that will inevitably derive from the intervention of any other interested parties. We do not take into account the complexity of points of view and nuances of the same point of view.


> Resolution: Let’s always remember that any opinion has many nuances. Let’s look at the uncomfortable complexity of the world and ask the opinion of the people we are not going to agree with. We should start spreading our views not only to the safe sphere of people who will agree with us. We should talk to the ones who are more likely to be against us. This will tremendously enrich our perspectives and preparedness.


Our captive “freedom”

Let’s say it out loud: if this virus would have been just a little bit more deadly, we would have never made it. Films about zombies do not taste the same – you can really feel the absurdity (not of zombies, but of the people surviving to it).


In the fight against Covid19, there are many interesting topics to discuss, in particular related to the no-movements (no mask, no vax, no pass).


I have to admit I feel a bit lost at the “health dictatorship” and “vaccine-Shoah” arguments. Of course, as we live in a democracy, I will refrain from commenting on the merit – we all agree that we can all express our opinions and support our thesis. There are two small elements I would like to put on the table for the sake of spicing up the conversation.


Freedom – Part of the global population is now fully accustomed to a level of comfort and lifestyle that is conceived as normal and taken for granted – this made us all slightly insolent, weak, thoughtless and unreasonable. When then I see the “no mask, no vax, no pass” protests, I wonder – are they portrait a concept of freedom that is incompatible with our life in a society? Some people see the compulsory vaccination or the introduction of a Covid19 pass as a limitation of their freedom. Nonetheless, isn’t then the murder law limiting their freedom as well? I guess beyond any religious and ethical reasons, a law against murder has a fundamental justification: we need a law to prevent people from killing each other to allow ourselves to live in a society. There is a collective interest overriding any individual interest, would not even exist otherwise. I believe our own freedom is limited in the precise moment we decide to live together: my freedom ends as soon as it overlaps with the one of another individual. ‘Freedom’ in its letteral meaning cannot exist as we cannot have the right to act as we want. We are de facto limited in our freedom as this, it is conceived in concert with a system of freedoms. This is the only way we could function as a society. The only possible freedom of the individual is a captive one.


Individualism – When I say that there is a collective interest overriding any individual interest, I refer to the fact that the interest of preserving the entire group should prevail – this should not be seen as an antithesis to individual freedom: it should be seen as something that the individual would benefit from. This bring me to the next point: I’ve heard people saying that the “no mask, no vax, no pass” protests were the sign of an increasingly individualistic society. I would not necessarily agree with that. Individualism per se involves the right of an individual to freedom and self-realisation. However, in these protests there is a bit of a paradox: the individual puts itself at risk, completely losing its freedom and self-realization to fight for freedom and self-realisation. Partially citing the third law of Cipolla, “there are people that cause losses to others while themselves deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses” [2].


> Resolution: From personal to business life, let’s embrace limitations. Limits are powerful spaces for creativity and innovation. A limitation is simply the biggest opportunity to disrupt and find new solutions.


The misplaced innovation

When we just think about the best brands at the current moment, we can easily find companies that are still heavily relying on plastic productions, CO2 emissions, unsustainable practices…

One small focus should be given to slavery as a service – I cannot use the word SaaS, but maybe SaaS might do the job.


We praise all these great examples of innovation, yet these seem to be extremely old-fashioned. I am not hereby saying that entrepreneurs should not be required to be ethical. Of course, if a business finds a legal way to make money and bases its revenue model based on loopholes, it would not be advisable to do otherwise from a strictly entrepreneurial point of view. Furthermore, if no legislation is punishing you, then you are technically free to do it as it makes a lot of sense to decrease costs and increase profits. The only point I would argue is that there is nothing so special about these companies: if you provide anyone with slaves, he/she would be able to make any business function and thrive. These are not really showing the most outmost genii capable of stepping up their game to a whole new level. Also, from an innovation and legal point of view, this opens up to a persistent and ubiquitous risk of not being capable to respond fast to a sudden change in legislation. When you are just reacting, you are contextually also missing out on opportunities.

> Resolution: Let’s challenge our own status-quo: what should we be changing today that can make us less passive and reactive? Let’s look beyond our nose, on wider and longer-term issues and challenges. Topics such as people exploitations, privacy & data misuse, non-sustainable production processes are boiling hot.


Extremisms

After years of working in the marketing and business development sector, I would like to share with you one of the most frustrating narratives going on: every agency, consultant, professional has the last secret, the perfect way, the unique tool, the disruptive solution, etc. This is professionally very tiring because, in the economy of content, we tend to over-share resources that most of the time are a reshuffle of other resources. Then, businesses are now over-promising: from diversity & inclusion and net-zero to the most traditional company culture, all businesses are creating the perfect pitch to cover up dysfunctional dynamics – because at the end of the day, all organisations are just a bunch of humans and therefore these suffer from the same bias and flosses – that is physiological.

Things are getting worse once you go from a professional to a personal level – we are getting so accustomed to sharing our opinions. No one is immune – we are all inevitably becoming over-opinionated (just read this article!). The borderless dimension of social media channels, then, boosts the effect. All these echoes of opinions are bouncing all around. Again, we are witnessing a dualism where we want one thing and its contrary. On one side, we live in an era where we need everything right now and more and more. We are highly dependent on products and services that grant us that. On the other side, we are embracing the green lifestyle, with soja and avocados endangering the environment. We are all about green energy that is heavily lithium-dependent.


And then we slip into the political level and we just see the immensely chaotic state of affairs that is about to arrive.


The far-left and far-right are radicalising each other. Words like “fascist”, “neonazi”, “far-right” are becoming more common. Racist people are running for the presidency everywhere. We start building walls. We are becoming polarised and extremists, without even noticing it. And the diatribe between vax and no-vax made things even worst.


> Resolution: Let’s get some old wisdom in the future: probably the Latins were right – in medio stat virtus – which in an extremely non-literal translation it would mean that in the moderation there is the maximum of potential realisation. Let's not overdo it. Let's try to see how extreme own opinions are, being more transparent and authentic.


The … metaverse

This is possibly the most hyped word at the moment, and I will not judge you if you decide to quit the reading here. For those of you that were lucky enough not to hear anything about it – I propose a rich & quick definition by Matthew Ball, the former head of content at Amazon, who describe the metaverse as “a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments” [3].


I often joke about the metaverse, stating that it is inevitable as it will probably make up for the incredible nasty world we are going to live in, full of lockdowns, toxic and unbreathable air, fires, tsunami and other impressive falling landscapes. The recent re-branding of Facebook Inc. into Meta Platforms, Inc. vulgarised this new trend. I have to admit that the overall picture that Meta proposed felt very old to me. I imagine a future with seamless integration of virtual & real. When I watch the Meta Platforms’ announcement, I was expecting something epic, whether instead, it was a mishmash of already seen and almost already experienced elements. That was meta old-fashioned. Probably the whole announcement was done in a rush for PR reasons, but that is another story and not the point of this article. I was imagining something more in the line of the TV series Anon as if you created something beyond the real universe but integrated in the reality. I guess for me aiming at building a three-dimensional virtual world is not as alluring as building an integrated world.


However, Meta is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg – dozens of companies are already investing to develop metaverse software and hardware, for example:

  • Amazon

  • Autodesk

  • Dropbox

  • Epic games

  • Microsoft

  • Nvidia

  • Niantic

  • Nike

  • Roblox

  • Snap

  • Tencent

  • Unity

We would better have more and more players in the market – from business to education institutions: we are creating a universe! One side of the story is very critical and I want to

quote again Matthew Ball to introduce it:

“(The metaverse) requires extraordinary technical advancements (we are far from being able to produce shared, persistent simulations that millions of users synchronized in real-time), and perhaps regulatory involvement too.” [3]


Perhaps?!


It will inevitably require an extraordinary and juicy regulatory involvement. At a first glance, when asking opinions around the law and the metaverse, the conversation seems way too much driven by privacy, data protection, artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity. Nonetheless, we are talking about something way bigger than that – we are about to create an entirely new universe, after all. And when we also take into account the permeability with the physical world, the legal implications behind an entire universe are immense.


> Resolution: Let’s be ready to work with an open mind on the unexpectedly complex realities and the many engaging and interesting challenges we have ahead of us!


Omicron

The word pandemic comes from Greek and it means literally “concerning the global population”. We all saw what happened (and is still happening) with the Covid-19. It was the first time in modern times that wealthy states experienced some drastic moments as such. We adapted to the so-called new normal and we changed what needed to be changed.


And yet we hear again and again that “finally, we can go back to normal”.


Every time I hear that I complain. “Finally”? We are not done yet – we are at Omicron: still 9 other letters from the Greek alphabet to go! “We can”? Sometimes we are miserably a-critical and if the government releases measures. And then “normal”? There was nothing normal before! One day, a friend of mine shed light on another element saying that the most shocking part of that sentence is the “go back”. True. The disarming bit is “go back”. It shows how we are very much looking at the past, instead of embracing the future. We are all ready to return to our comfort zone and avoid the thrill and challenges of changing. This is incredibly scary.


> Resolution: Let's go forward to the way it will be. Remote working, new business lines, experiments, being it more digital, hybrid, rediscovering the very little things that make our everyday special. The only way is forward.


The quiet after the storm

After this long and appalling monologue – how do I wrap it up? This has been by far one of the difficult questions when writing this article.


The 2022 resolutions I listed in this article are also my best wishes for all of you.


The future inevitably reshuffles the deck and changes the rules of the game. Unquestionably, we are unable to control the future. We will not be fully prepared but we can be more responsive and flexible.


May you have a year full of actions and fewer reactions. I wish you all a remarkable year where you will be able to make the difference, exploring the beautiful complexity and richness of our realities, exploiting limitations, being surprised by the magic of moderation, challenging your status-quo, enriching your opinions with other unexpected elements, smiling at new opportunities and jump on new adventures.

May you look forward to what the future has to bring.


I wish you all a brilliant 2022.

 

Notes

[1] Cicerone, Cato Maior de Senectute, III.7 - 44 b.C. [2] Cipolla, Carlo M. "The Basic Laws of Human Stupidity." Whole Earth Review (Spring 1987 pp 2 - 7)

[3] Matthew Ball, Framework for the Metaverse, Jun 29, 2021, available on https://www.matthewball.vc/all/forwardtothemetaverseprimer

 

About the Author Chiara Lamacchia is a consultant in legal, marketing & legal forecasting, working in corporate strategy for global organisations across different sectors, after an LL.M. from Bocconi University (Milan, Italy) and an MSc in Marketing from Edinburgh Napier University (UK). Chiara is the Founder of lawrketing.com and withoutconsulting.com, promoting the adoption of ground-breaking ways of using the law for innovation and competitive advantage.

Besides, among other things, she authored and published the book "Lawrketing – What Business Never Realised About Law", introducing a new concept, lawrketing, combining law, business, marketing and innovation.

Connect with Chiara on linkedin.com/in/chiaralamacchia.




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