The Future of Crypto: Special Crystal Ball Edition

If you’re thinking of investing in crypto, take your time to learn more about the market in general and the performance of individual cryptocurrencies before you do. The recent crash of some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin,  Ether, and Dogecoin, should give all investors pause.

One thing’s for sure. Few people expected cryptocurrency to become a major thing back when the first Bitcoin transaction was recorded in January 2009. Fewer still could have predicted how entrenched crypto would rapidly become in our economy, our vernacular, and our personal pocketbooks.  Crypto was too weird. Too nebulous. Too tough to get our minds around. Was it real money if you couldn’t hold it in your hand, buy a house with it, or spend it at the grocery store? There weren’t many souls brave enough to jump on the crypto bandwagon back then. But boy, have times changed.

By the most recent estimates, about 16% of Americans have invested in or traded cryptocurrencies at some point. Crypto enthusiasm is particularly strong among millennials and members of Gen Z. They represent some 94% of the crypto-owning community. And indeed, you can buy a house with crypto. And invest in a crypto retirement account. And satisfy your craving for a Subway sandwich or a latte from your local Starbucks, for that matter. So what does the future hold for crypto? We can expect it to be full of surprises. In May of this year, the price of Bitcoin reached its lowest level since 2020, for example. But recent adoption rates, market trends, and government interventions may offer some indication of where cryptocurrency is headed.

Tuning in to Crypto Advertising

When products are hot, they’re promoted. When products are promoted, they get hotter. For a pure gut check on how popular we can expect crypto to get, consider what you’re seeing while you’re streaming TV and between moves on Words with Friends. Ads for crypto exchanges, ads promoting crypto IRAs, and even highly-targeted ads wooing different ethnic groups to invest, are everywhere. Two crypto industry companies bought Super Bowl spots this winter. Celebrities are getting into the advertising game. And we all know how effective famous people are at promoting goods and services. By some estimates, advertisers have spent over $112 million on crypto campaigns since 2020. Compare that to the $165 million Colgate spends per year on advertising its toothpaste—a product that was launched in 1873 with much higher market penetration—and you can see how much cryptocurrency-related companies are investing in growing the market.

The Playing Field is Getting Bigger

Bitcoin was first sold in 2009. It took two years for the second cryptocurrency, Litecoin, to come around. Investors are trading more than 12,000 cryptocurrencies. The number of cryptocurrencies available for purchase doubled between 2021 and 2022. Crypto “retail” has grown at a phenomenal pace, as well. Today there are approximately 600 crypto exchanges worldwide. But because they are largely unregulated, that number is subject to change. Exchanges open and close every day. Crypto wallets are also proliferating. They’re often given away as freebies by crypto exchanges and many crypto investors carry more than one. The number of crypto owners reached 300 million in 2022, an increase of 178% in 2021. Some crypto market experts expect there will be a billion crypto owners by the end of this year. See advertising statistics above. And let’s take a look at the growing number of ways crypto owners can use and invest their assets.

You Can Buy a House with Crypto

There are two ways to buy a home with crypto. You can convert your crypto to dollars, Euros, or any number of fiat currencies and use that cash to make your down payment and monthly mortgage payments. But today you can also take out a mortgage using crypto funds directly. A financial technology company called Milo claims to have introduced the first purely-crypto mortgage. The company allows you to “borrow” up to $5 million for a home purchase.  It also boasts that you can finance 100% of your mortgage—no down payment required— and that you may be able to close on your loan in a single day. That’s a real boon in today’s competitive real estate market. Other lenders offer similar opportunities.

But crypto mortgages are different from traditional mortgages. While crypto lenders consider your crypto assets when approving you for a loan—something not all traditional mortgage companies do—they use your crypto assets to collateralize your loan. For example, if you want to buy a home worth $500,000, you’ll need to have crypto assets equal to that amount. Interest rates with Milo, for example, are adjusted every year, based on the value of Bitcoin. If Bitcoin’s value goes down, you may have to pledge more crypto to fund your loan or risk paying a higher interest rate.

Crypto mortgages are not for everyone. They are best suited to borrowers who have significant crypto holdings and other wealth reserves they can rely on when they tie up their crypto in a mortgage. The point is, however, that crypto continues to gain more influence in a wider range of financial sectors.

You Can Retire on Your Crypto Investments

The next financial sector that’s giving crypto its due as a growing asset class is the retirement savings industry. Once again, checking in with your favorite news channel or personal finance publication tells the story. There are now dozens of companies that can help you set up a self-directed IRA and fund it with crypto. Employees are also clamoring for crypto investing options in their 401K plans and the nation’s largest 401K management company, Fidelity, has announced that it will soon begin offering them. Others may follow suit, but legal experts warn that these management companies are putting themselves at serious risk of class action suits. The US Department of Labor, which regulates employer-sponsored retirement savings plans and devised the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, has expressed concern over this latest development in retirement investing, fearing a crypto crash and the devastation of millions of workers’ retirement savings that would follow. For now, Fidelity is limiting the amount of money employees can allocate to crypto in their retirement portfolios to 20% of their holdings.

If you’re not terribly risk-averse, crypto retirement investing is one route you might take towards diversifying your retirement portfolio. But the nearer you get to retirement, the riskier investing in crypto becomes. The crypto market is extremely volatile: Bitcoin has been known to lose half its value overnight. Analysts expect the market to resemble a roller coaster for years to come. Older investors, who would have less time to recover from a crypto crash, are advised to invest very lightly, if at all, in crypto, no matter how tempting it might be. Arguably, young employees, who have years of earning and investing ahead of them, are in a better position to manage that risk.

What About Regulation of the Crypto Market?

Conservatives revile it and liberals often cheer the phenomenon: follow the money and you’re likely to find government regulation close on its heels. But oddly, for now, the government has taken a pretty hands-off—or perhaps a wait-and-see attitude—toward crypto markets. That may be interpreted as tacit support for the growing crypto economy. For now, new regulations are few. Crypto is subject to the same capital gains taxes as stocks and other traditional assets when you sell it. It offers the same tax advantages when you hold it in a retirement account.

But government agencies are already making noises about regulations that may be coming. Joe Biden made a speech about it, issuing an executive order that federal agencies begin looking carefully at potential risks in the market. The SEC recently announced that it may require crypto exchanges to be registered and adhere to regulations around the custody of crypto funds. Exchanges are vulnerable to hacking and investors have lost millions to fraud by allowing exchanges to hold their investments for them. That’s one reason crypto security experts recommend holding your funds yourself in a crypto wallet.

The Bottom Line

We certainly don’t have a crystal ball that can reveal the secrets or future of crypto. No one does, so if an advisor or journalist speaks in absolute certainties about crypto, we suggest you give little or no weight to their prognostications. If you’re thinking of investing in crypto, take your time to learn more about the market in general and the performance of individual cryptocurrencies before you do. The recent crash of some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin,  Ether, and Dogecoin, should give all investors pause. Our recommendation?  Follow the most authoritative financial press routinely to track cryptocurrency as it becomes further entwined with the general economy. Keep up with how the government is responding to crypto market developments, too. You’ll find your path. Or maybe you’ll decide not to veer off the beaten one when it comes to investing your hard-earned cash. One size plan or one portfolio does not fit all. So be sure to look out for yourself, above all.

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The Future of Crypto: Special Crystal Ball Edition

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Hypocritical ‘Guns of Omaha’ Take Aim at Robinhood

If you’re thinking of investing in crypto, take your time to learn more about the market in general and the performance of individual cryptocurrencies before you do. The recent crash of some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin,...

It’s Time to Scale Up Regenerative Farming

If you’re thinking of investing in crypto, take your time to learn more about the market in general and the performance of individual cryptocurrencies before you do. The recent crash of some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin,...

Blockchain’s Fight Against Climate Change

If you’re thinking of investing in crypto, take your time to learn more about the market in general and the performance of individual cryptocurrencies before you do. The recent crash of some cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin,...

Hypocritical ‘Guns of Omaha’ Take Aim at Robinhood

For Buffett and Munger to slam Robinhood for behaving in the same way as their portfolio companies, is a hypocritical moral sham.

Back in February of last year, Robinhood ran their Super Bowl commercial arguing that investors aren’t made, but born.  That trading stock is as natural as sticking your thumb in your mouth and reaching for the mobile dangling over the crib.

My reaction was not subtle.  I wrote that:

“In an era where millions are easily seduced by immediate gratification and self-flattery, and suspicious of any kind of earned expertise, Robinhood’s “We Are All Investors” ad might be the most dangerously misleading commercial in Super Bowl history.”

Now a year later Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger are echoing my sentiments, and have launched the ‘Guns of Omaha’ on Robinhood, with an apocalyptic Munger saying: “It was disgusting. Now it’s unraveling… God is getting just. … There’s been some justice.”

At last year’s Woodstock of capitalism, Munger also absurdly stated:  “We don’t want to make our money selling things that are bad for people.”  (For the record, here’s what drinking a can of Coke – 9.2% of the Berkshire portfolio – does to your body.)

Buffett has been on the record saying that Robinhood caters to the gambling instincts of investors and promotes casino-like behavior.

Do you hear something?  That noise is my hypocrisy meter going bonkers.

Activision, which represents over 9% of Berkshire Hathway’s portfolio, made $5.1 billion from in-game purchases in 2021.  That’s gambling with no chance of an economic victory, just the ability to get to the next level.

But wait, there’s even more.  Bank of America, which owns Merrill Lynch and represents 12.8% of the Berkshire portfolio, is sounding very much like Robinhood.   In fact, while Robinhood has pulled back from their “we are all natural investors” appeal – their website now modestly promises “Investing is Simple Here” – Merrill Lynch tells investors that their online trading platform gives you “guidance, insights and tools to confidently put your investing ideas into action.”

That’s no different than what the Robinhood platform offers.  You don’t need the experts, it promises, just your own good ideas.

Lastly, if Buffett and Munger are going to ride their moral high horses into battle with Robinhood, they need to explain why Itochu, which represents 5.6% of the portfolio, is continuing to do business with Russia.

I hold to my original perspective that preying on our cognitive biases, minimizing the expertise involved in investing, and manipulating hopefulness is wrong and I feel the same way about the proliferation of seductive online sports betting advertising unleashed by the Supreme Court’s 2018 decision. For Buffett and Munger to slam Robinhood for behaving in the same way as their portfolio companies, is a hypocritical moral sham.

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It’s Time to Scale Up Regenerative Farming

Regenerative agriculture has the potential to transform lives and diets. The Cellular Economy has the potential to transform society. Let’s find ways to fund them to make the global food system and economy more sustainable.

A half-decade ago, Nick DiDomenico’s parents bought a small property north of Boulder, Colorado. They handed a dilapidated house and 14 acres over to him to help fulfill his dream of becoming an organic farmer. Nick gave the farm an appealing name, Elk Run. But in fact the prairie land was horribly degraded. Its topsoil had been eroded by wind and rain, and the property was essentially a parched wasteland. Advisors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture advised Nick that the land was unsuitable for growing crops.

Six years later, DiDomenico and a small group of allies—with help from funders—have done the seemingly impossible: They transformed a wasteland into a veritable Garden of Eden. DiDomenico, his partner, Melissa Pulaski, and a handful of others are raising pigs, sheep, chickens, and rabbits and producing organic vegetables and grains. The non-profit organization that DiDomenico and Pulaski established, Drylands Agroecology Research, explores regenerative agriculture techniques and provides consulting and land reclamation services for other property owners along Colorado’s Front Range.

“The overarching goal is to create many more safe havens for healthy food and healthy lifestyles,” DiDomenico says. “We want to help people all over the region produce food locally and we want to promote good commercial ventures that strengthen our communities. We want to get away from the extractive economy.”

Their project illustrates a phenomenon that is underway across the United States and across the globe. People in small groups are reimagining and rebuilding the economy one experimental step at a time. Many of them share the belief that capitalism as it is being practiced today is unsustainable. It’s destroying the environment and contributing mightily to global warming. And capitalism is causing a breakdown in society because of the inequities it engenders. So, it’s time to pivot and adopt new approaches that will help make the planet and society more sustainable.

This phenomenon got its start with the social-enterprise movement in the early 2000s, but it seems to have accelerated since the COVID crisis woke people up and convinced them that now is the time to make bold changes in how we live.

I have been exploring the evolution of this phenomenon since the rise of COVID. It was then that I became involved in an initiative called Pivot Projects, a global, all-volunteer collaboration aimed at using collective intelligence, systems thinking, and AI-assisted research to help society and communities become more sustainable and resilient. I started off as a journalist embedded in Pivot Projects and later became a full participant. Late last year, Columbia University Press published my book about the group’s journey: The Pivot: Addressing Global Problems Through Local Action.

One of the 20+ workstreams within Pivot Projects took on the subject of building a sustainable and just economic system—an alternative to the present system, which is based on greed, maximizing profits, and exploiting workers and resources. Rather than thinking about a revolution, which hardly seemed likely, the group took aim at defining and encouraging a new way forward. Out of that quest came a concept called the Cellular Economy.

The “cells” are small groups of people dedicated to pioneering new approaches to serving people’s needs. They’re democratic, humanistic, science-based, diverse, collaborative, community-oriented, and experimental. Some are mission-driven businesses. Others are social enterprises or community organizations. “We need a fundamental shift in the very foundation of capitalism as it is practiced today,” says Damian Costello, an expert in disruptive innovation who coordinates Pivot Projects’ economics workstream. “The Cellular Economy model describes what we need to do to make this brighter, safer future a reality.”

Right now, most of these initiatives operate in isolation. The economics workstream participants believe that to fulfill their potential, the cells will have to form into networks that enable them to more readily share resources and knowledge. Nick and his colleagues have already begun reaching out to other farmers and landowners in and around Boulder whose visions and missions are aligned with theirs. He refers to this as a “mycelial network.” That’s a reference to the role that fungal mycelia play in maintaining healthy forests. The mycelia tap into tree roots, connecting individual plants together to transfer water, nitrogen, and other nutrients to where they are needed most. Essentially, these networks enable trees to collaborate with each other and live in harmony. It’s a good metaphor.

The knowledge about regenerative agriculture that DAR is sharing with others comes partly from research but mainly from experimentation on the farm. The Elk Run land is sloped, and, in the old days, water from infrequent rain and snow episodes tended to slide off it without being absorbed. Nick and his team cut ditches across the slopes to capture and store water. They planted trees in the ditches to create shade, produce fruit, and provide habitat for insects and birds. The pigs serve as roto-tillers for the degraded soil—breaking it up with their hooves and snouts and peppering it with manure. Then come the sheep and chickens and more manure. Over time, the soil is enriched to the point where it can support vegetable and grain crops.

Today, this approach produces 90% of the food that the small group needs to survive. In the future, Elk Run plans on selling produce to others. But the bigger goal is to help other landowners improve their land and produce healthy food at scale. Within 10 years, DiDomenico and friends hope to be managing 1000 acres or more using regenerative methods, to establish 10 regional hubs based on their model, and to have planted 100,000 trees. “As a Front Range community, we can build incredible resilience,” he says.

Regenerative agriculture emerged in the late 20th century as an alternative to industrial farming, with its focus on chemical inputs, monocultures, and processed food. The practice has come on strong in the past decade as farmers became more sensitive to environmental concerns and climate change. The focus is on strengthening the vitality of farm soil, increasing biodiversity, and improving the water cycle.

The COVID crisis has been a wakeup call. “People all over the world tell us they want clean air, more decentralized affordable energy, water and waste systems, and a regenerative economic model in which people live closer to nature,” says Peter Head, a leader in the sustainability field and co-founder of Pivot Projects. “Regenerative farming is a key part of recovery.”

Pivot Projects has launched regenerative agriculture projects aimed at aiding small farmers in partnership with local groups in Nepal and central Africa, in both the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Advances in technology are now available for farmers in remote areas, including solar for electricity and Starlink LEOS for telecommunications, but funding remains a challenge. Microfinance systems are of limited use for scaling up production, and small farmers have little access to larger grants and loans, says Colin Harrison, a former IBM executive and co-founder of Pivot Projects. The good news is that the African team has been awarded an initial $25,000 grant by the UN Food Systems organization to cover the costs of strategy development.

Back in the USA, DAR and other cellular outfits face funding challenges of their own. DAR has been fueled mainly by GoFundMe campaigns and small grants from foundations and individuals, but that’s not enough for it to scale up quickly and have a sizable impact. New funding sources and innovations are needed. We need impact investors to step up and do their part.

I asked Ian Abbott-Donnelly, one of my colleagues in Pivot Projects, to do some research into the matter using an AI-powered research tool made by SparkBeyond.

Quickly, he spotted some good news. Regenerative farming dramatically reduces the cost of inputs for farmers, reducing the amount of money they need to plant and sustain crops—and thus decreasing the need for financing and indebtedness. Details are available in this report from the government of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Ian unearthed an extensive analysis of the potential for funding sustainable agriculture enterprises and projects in this article published by the National Institutes of Health.

Regenerative agriculture has the potential to transform lives and diets. The Cellular Economy has the potential to transform society. My challenge to impact investors is this: Find ways to fund them. Help make the global food system and the global economy more sustainable.

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Blockchain’s Fight Against Climate Change

The energy consumption of crypto mining has galvanized skeptics and proponents alike. But a new wave of crypto projects are pioneering ways to join that fight.

As cryptocurrency steams toward mainstream adoption, attracting investors and garnering increased attention, one issue has galvanized skeptics and proponents alike: the energy consumption of crypto mining. By some estimates, the proof-of-work (PoW) mining that powers Bitcoin consumes as much electricity as a small country each year, undercutting global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. (PoW requires powerful computer servers to simultaneously perform cryptographic calculations to validate transactions, thereby consuming significant amounts of energy.)

It would be a mistake for crypto proponents to dismiss these denunciations outright. But crypto skeptics should not dismiss blockchain innovations simply because of the energy consumption of a (shrinking number) of protocols. Ethereum, for instance, is moving away from PoW to proof-of-stake (PoS) – thereby committing to reducing the energy consumption on its blockchain, and most newer protocols have leapfrogged PoW entirely in favor of PoS, which does not depend on the same energy-intensive mining process as PoW. 

Those of us in the crypto community can add that crypto consumes much less electricity than the physical and technology operations of banks and other financial institutions. We should also note the energy required for other everyday activities – for example, household tumble dryers are responsible for 108 terawatt hours of energy each year in the United States alone, whereas Bitcoin mining uses 62 TWh each year globally. But making points like that is not enough. To answer criticisms about energy usage, it is also essential to highlight the real utility being provided by blockchain protocols in the fight against global warming.

Far from being purely speculative or frivolous, a new wave of crypto projects are pioneering ways to join that fight. KlimaDAO, for example, where I am a core contributor focused on product development, aims to democratize climate action through injecting transparency and liquidity into the Voluntary Carbon Market (VCM). In simplified terms, this means that anyone can now access a fair market price for carbon and offset emissions immediately without needing to use a third party broker. If successful, KlimaDAO will open the door for citizens, companies, and entities in every country to easily participate in a proven solution for reducing global carbon emissions. 

To understand the promise of KlimaDAO requires an understanding of the Voluntary Carbon Market, as well as markets built on blockchain and smart contract technologies. The VCM entered mainstream discourse in the early 2000’s, and provided a marketplace for corporate entities (or governments) to reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing “offsets”’ matched to greenhouse gas emissions. The proceeds from these sales were earmarked for projects that advanced environmentally sustainable solutions, and the VCM was designed to increase the cost of emitting carbon – thereby driving commercial incentives to integrate green technologies. It also drove increased funding to decarbonization efforts. 

While laudable in its mission and respectable in the results achieved to date, the VCM has fallen short of its promise as a global transformative solution for reducing carbon emissions. The VCM lacks transparency, and operates inefficiently. It is dominated by non-public, over-the-counter transactions, so those with access to insider information are often able to profit off of inefficiencies. Buying carbon offsets on the VCM today requires going through a broker who chooses the offsets an entity is able to buy and sets prices. As a result, the vast majority of offsets bought today are purchased by massive corporations that are able to navigate this inefficiency and afford a broker’s services.

Enter the blockchain: crypto markets have greatly expanded and matured in recent years, providing safe, secure, and efficient platforms for users to exchange tokens which fuel innovations happening across the ecosystem. Through crypto markets, almost anyone with an internet connection can easily buy and sell crypto tokens with minimal transaction costs. 

KlimaDAO sits at the intersection of blockchain-based innovation in exchange platforms and the inefficient carbon-offset market. KlimaDAO enables users to buy and sell tokenized carbon offsets – verified by independent carbon credit standards bodies – on a transparent, publicly viewable, open-source market platform. Instead of needing to turn to private entities with high transaction costs and minimal price transparency, with KlimaDAO any government, corporation, or individual can in effect buy and sell carbon offsets directly.

This approach is a sea change from the status quo VCM – a transparent, publicly available market, open to all, and without costly middlemen – a potentially revolutionary innovation that can, at scale, play a major role in protecting our planet for future generations by realigning economic incentives. As the unceasing burning of fossil fuels continues to wreak havoc on our planet, we will need all hands on deck – the crypto/web3 community and activists alike.  We must all work towards solutions to build a cleaner, greener, and fairer world for all.

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The Techonomy Experience – 2018

At Techonomy events, everyone in the room could be on stage as a speaker. Our community includes edgy innovators from business, tech, and beyond, and our conferences are full of intense conversations about the most […]

At Techonomy events, everyone in the room could be on stage as a speaker. Our community includes edgy innovators from business, tech, and beyond, and our conferences are full of intense conversations about the most pressing issues of our era.

On stage, you’ll see both stars you know and admire as well as inspiring leaders the world is about to discover. Off stage, you can expand your network of creative thinkers and savvy executives. The people at Techonomy event are the thinkers and the doers. This video includes footage from our Techonomy 2018 flagship event at The Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, CA.

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The Kids Metaverse is (Sort of) Open for Business

Grownups have gotten so excited about what they could do in the metaverse that they’ve all but ignored the kids. And for understandable reasons.

Grownups have gotten so excited about what they could do in the metaverse that they’ve all but ignored the kids. And for understandable reasons. Kids’ online safety and personal identification is a messy business. According to COPPA rules (Children’s Online Privacy and Protection Act)  you can’t market to children, hang on to their personal information, or engage them without the consent of their parents. In other words, it’s often a losing proposition for companies financially. COPPA was enacted in the early 90’s and is enforced by the FTC.  The Act is long in the tooth, created for a different sort of web. Most of the answers to frequently asked questions about COPPA on the FTC’s website begin with the murky qualifier…“it depends”.

As concerns grow that Meta’s Instagram can harm kids, Congress is batting around two new bills that would offer additional protection in a more immersive social and metaverse-enabled world. The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (often called COPPA 2.0) are complementary bills designed to provide protections for a next generation of kids and teens and extend the protection to age 16 (COPPA protects only kids up to age 12).

There’s no shortage of things kids should be protected from on the evolving internet. A white paper from Common Sense Media, an advocacy group for children’s media, cautions that the dangers include physiological ones (cybersickness from wearing VR headsets, injury due to immersion in virtual worlds, and eye strain) as well as more insidious psychological ones (bullying, sexual aggression and harassment, misinformation and more).

But toy companies and kids’ media properties want in today on the metaverse goldrush. So right now they have at least two innovative options that can help them play it safe. They can create an in-game currency, the way Roblox does with its native currency Robux. Or they can create a digital NFT (non-fungible token) that has built in utility. The NFT is typically good for redeemable physical products or for services, like special events. Ultimately the metaverse is likely to be built on top of blockchains and cryptocurrencies (most commonly today the Ethereum blockchain). That will keep immutable records of what’s being purchased, collected or traded. But for now, most toy companies are avoiding that course, probably because for kids these crypto-phenomena are just too hard to understand and operate. (It will be a while before even most parents feel comfortable giving kids an Ethereum allowance. I’m sure it will happen, though.)

Meanwhile, toy companies are taking baby steps towards a metaverse–a more NFT-infused future where digital versions of their products can be created, collected and traded. It’s messy, but here’s how it’s shaking out:

LEGO  

Last week Lego and Epic (developer of Fortnite) didn’t announce anything super tangible, but said that they were joining forces to create a safer world for kids and families in the metaverse. Lego joined Sony in investing a total of $2 billion in new money into private Epic to drive the effort. Lego is one of the most iconic, trusted brands in kids entertainment, while Epic, a creator of highly-graphical virtual worlds with open chats and in-game currencies, caters to a slightly older (13+) crowd.

HASBRO  

Hasbro is taking a multi-pronged approach. It sells a physical board, a version of Monopoly, based on Roblox. Players move around a real-life Roblox themed board dressed as virtual avatars. Hasbro has also teamed with Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite to enable users to play with virtual versions of its popular Nerf Blaster toy weapons.

Finally, it created Hasbro Pulse, a direct-to-consumer shop for all of its physical collectibles. It’s a place where people can create events, for example Hasbro Pulse Con, a special event with exclusive prizes and access  Recently Hasbro partnered with WAX (the Worldwide Asset eXchange™), a blockchain gaming platform, to offer digital collectibles. (It caters to the ages 16 and up.) The Power Rangers NFTs, also housed on the Pulse site, are redeemable for physical, limited edition collectible Power Rangers. So, for $199, as an example, you can receive a digital token with classic Power Rangers artwork and also get the physical figure. (In a series of confusing instructions on the Hasbro site, you’re be sent to the WAX platform to redeem your NFT.)

A Morphin Megazord NFT from Hasbro Pulse comes with a physical product, too. Photo: Hasbro Pulse

MATTEL

Mattel Creations focuses on attracting fans of collectibles, an older audience than the audience for playing with Barbie or Hot Wheels. Mattel is betting that those who grew up on physical collections of its coveted brands, including Barbie, HotWheel, and MatchBox, will want to engage digitally. All of them offer digital NFTs at auction, which each come with a redeemable physical product. Mattel has also announced plans to auction off digital art from its HotWheels collection, sell a GaryVee Collection of physical playing cards that coordinates with his company’s NFTs. and created an NFT event around Barbie.

Mattel will sell limited edition artwork of HotWheels vehicles as NFTS. Credit: Mattel

In all cases, the toy companies with expertise in production of physical toys are partnering with metaverse companies to create a “phygital” approach to play. Traditional toy makers playing with NFTs include MGA Entertainment’s partnership with Animoca, which is creating LOL Surprise Doll NFTS. WowWee Toys is partnering with GameFan (the largest creator of games on Roblox)  to bring beloved toys like Baby Shark into the metaverse. And Baby Shark, through another set of partnerships, offers an NFT token that takes the form of a musical video.

Beyond traditional toy companies, kids social media platforms are themselves pushing into NFT territory. Zigazoo, a popular (and COPPA-compliant) social platform for kids just introduced NFTs. Zigazoo’s NFTs were created by a 13-year-old female digital artist, Nyla Hayes, who has made millions on her digital art that portrays long-necked women. The art can be purchased as digital pieces that can be shared, incorporated into videos, or used as avatars. They also have built-in utility, unlocking adventures or levers of play.

Credit: Zigazoo

A package of these NFTs costs between $6 and $50, or kids can buy them with the in-app currency Zigabucks, earned making videos and logging into the app on multiple days. Zak Ringelstein, CEO of Zigazoo, told me he hopes to crack the kid’s NFT market by keeping fees for buying his NFTS low and shying away from digital wallets and complicated onboarding processes. “When kids and parents think of them as having the functionality of a real world trading card,” he says, “that’s when mass adoption takes place.”

Toy makers recognize the imperative to explore digital products. It’s direct-to-consumer. There are no shipping fees or supply chain challenges. They can create combos of physical and digital toys, using redeemable NFTs. They can create loyalty clubs for their NFT fans. And while minting and marketing NFTs can cost something, it’s a lot cheaper than creating physical objects and dealing with all the surrounding logistics.

So will you be buying your kids’ NFTs for the holidays?  Not so fast. Sales of NFTs have been dropping steadily over the past weeks, with analysts citing everything from over-saturation to inflation to the war in Ukraine as factors. And honestly, as a parent you should expect to spend inordinate amounts of time scrutinizing the fine print. After all, you’ve got to understand whether you’re buying a toy, an entry to a game, or a piece of digital art. For your kid it won’t matter, so long as they can just have fun.

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Climate Scientists are Desperate: We’re Crying, Begging and Getting Arrested

On Wednesday, I risked arrest by locking myself onto an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown LA. I can’t stand by – and nor should you.

“Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals, but the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels.” – United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

I’m a climate scientist and a desperate father. How can I plead any harder? What will it take? What can my colleagues and I do to stop this catastrophe unfolding now all around us with such excruciating clarity?

On Wednesday, I risked arrest by locking myself to an entrance to the JP Morgan Chase building in downtown Los Angeles with colleagues and supporters. Our action in LA is part of an international campaign organized by a loosely knit group of concerned scientists called Scientist Rebellion, involving more than 1,200 scientists in 26 countries and supported by local climate groups. Our day of action follows the IPCC Working Group 3 report released Monday, which details the harrowing gap between where society is heading and where we need to go. Our movement is growing fast.

We chose JP Morgan Chase because out of all the investment banks in the world, JP Morgan Chase funds the most new fossil fuel projects. As the new IPCC report explains, emissions from current and planned fossil energy infrastructure are already more than twice the amount that would push the planet over 1.5°C of global heating, a level of heating that will bring much more intense heat, fire, storms, flooding, and drought than the present 1.2°C.

Even limiting heating to below 2°C, a level of heating that in my opinion could threaten civilization as we know it, would require emissions to peak before 2025. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in the press conference on Monday: “Investing in new fossil fuel infrastructure is moral and economic madness.” And yet, this is precisely what President Biden, most other world leaders, and major banks are doing. It’s no exaggeration to say that Chase and other banks are contributing to murder and neocide through their fossil fuel finance.

Earth breakdown is much worse than most people realize. The science indicates that as fossil fuels continue to heat our planet, everything we love is at risk. For me, one of the most horrific aspects of all this is the juxtaposition of present-day and near-future climate disasters with the “business as usual” occurring all around me. It’s so surreal that I often find myself reviewing the science to make sure it’s really happening, a sort of scientific nightmare arm-pinch. Yes, it’s really happening.

If everyone could see what I see coming, society would switch into climate emergency mode and end fossil fuels in just a few years.

I hate being the Cassandra. I’d rather just be with my family and do science. But I feel morally compelled to sound the alarm. By the time I switched from astrophysics into Earth science in 2012, I’d realized that facts alone were not persuading world leaders to take action. So I explored other ways to create social change, all the while becoming increasingly concerned. I joined Citizens’ Climate Lobby. I reduced my own emissions by 90% and wrote a book about how this turned out to be satisfying, fun, and connecting. I gave up flying, started a website to help encourage others, and organized colleagues to pressure the American Geophysical Union to reduce academic flying. I helped organize FridaysForFuture in the US. I co-founded a popular climate app and started the first ad agency for the Earth. I spoke at climate rallies, city council meetings, and local libraries and churches. I wrote article after article, open letter after open letter. I gave hundreds of interviews, always with authenticity, solid facts, and an openness to showing vulnerability. I’ve encouraged and supported countless climate activists and young people behind the scenes. And this was all on my personal time and at no small risk to my scientific career.

Nothing has worked. It’s now the eleventh hour and I feel terrified for my kids, and terrified for humanity. I feel deep grief over the loss of forests and corals and diminishing biodiversity. But I’ll keep fighting as hard as I can for this Earth, no matter how bad it gets, because it can always get worse. And it will continue to get worse until we end the fossil fuel industry and the exponential quest for ever more profit at the expense of everything else. There is no way to fool physics.

Martin Luther King Jr said, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Out of necessity, and after exhaustive efforts, I’ve joined the ranks of those who selflessly risk their freedom and put their bodies on the line for the Earth, despite ridicule from the ignorant and punishment from a colonizing legal system designed to protect the planet-killing interests of the rich. It’s time we all join them. The feeling of solidarity is a wonderful balm.

As for the climate scientists? We’ve been trying to tell you this whole time.

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