Tech giants are constantly expanding the metaverse, the virtual universe that’s shaping up to be the next generation of the internet. But they aren’t the only ones.
Many governments have recently expressed their desire to take part in the development of this digital double of the physical world.
“Live and let live” is the motto of the Free Republic of Liberland, this 7 square-kilometer micro-state located in the Balkans, on the banks of the Danube between Serbia and Croatia.
This nation, led by Vit Jedlicka, now wishes to “live and let live” in the metaverse. It has partnered with the architectural firm Zaha Hadid Architects to help it move into this digital space of the future.
This ambitious project will take the form of a small virtual city composed of futuristic buildings with rounded curves, in the architectural style that brought the late 2004 Pritzker Prize winner to fame.
Once completed, the Liberland “cyber-urban” metaverse will be accessible to any internet user in the form of an avatar. They will be able to visit city hall, access coworking spaces, stores, business incubators and even an art gallery dedicated to NFT exhibitions.
According to Patrik Schumacher, principal architect of Zaha Hadid Architects, Liberland’s “cyber-urban” metaverse is directly inspired by the real world, and even replicates the real borders of this micro-nation.
“I believe the metaverse is not a fantasy world. It’s not a video game,” he said. “[Liberland metaverse’s architecture] is unusual and unique, but at the same time is realistic with respect to the kinds of architecture we have built already and which will be coming.”
The Free Republic of Liberland isn’t just launching itself into the metaverse as a way of jumping on a trend, but also to establish its presence on the international scene.
Especially since many countries are suspicious of this small patch of land, recognized by no member of the United Nations, and where there are no laws, no regulations, no gun control or even taxes. Despite this libertarian lifestyle, no one has moved to Liberland since its creation in 2015.
It does, however, reportedly have 7,000 registered residents and 700,000 applications.
From Liberland to Barbados and Seoul
The metaverse designed by Zaha Hadid Architects would be governed by the same ideals as Vit Jedlicka’s ultra-liberal micro-state.
“While the Liberland Metaverse is meant to spearhead the development of Liberland as a libertarian micro-nation, it will also function as a freestanding virtual reality realm in its own right,” says Patrik Schumacher in a statement. The Free Republic of Liberland is not the only nation to show enthusiasm for the metaverse.
In November, Barbados struck a partnership with the virtual reality platform, Decentraland, with a view to establishing a diplomatic embassy there. The functioning of this institution in the metaverse has not been detailed, but the government of the small Caribbean island has indicated that it will provide online consular services, as well as a teleportation portal to other virtual universes.
“The Metaverse Embassy demonstrates Barbados’ leadership in pivoting diplomacy and international relations into the technology age,” said in a statement, Gabriel Abed, Barbados’ ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, who headed the project.
The metropolitan government of Seoul, South Korea, is also investing heavily in the metaverse. It announced in early November that it wanted to become the first major city in the world to move into this universe of infinite possibilities. Its project involves creating a virtual communications ecosystem, covering all the fields in which the municipal administration operates.
Seoul’s residents will be able to meet avatars of city officials or attend events in this new digital space, thanks to virtual reality headsets. The South Korean capital has invested 3.9 billion won (about US$13.2 billion) in this project, provisionally called “Metaverse Seoul.”
“Metaverse offers new experiences and overcome limitations of reality by mixing the real world with the virtual world.
We will take advantage of such benefits in our public policies,” said in a statement, Yo-Sik, President of the Seoul Digital Foundation (SDF).
“There are some citizens who cannot enjoy all of the services we provide due to physical restraints.
We will try our best to use Metaverse Seoul in providing equal services to every Seoul citizen.” A beta version of this universe will be launched at the end of 2022.