Barbados says it is the first country in the world to establish a digital embassy in a metaverse.
The Caribbean island struck an agreement with Decentraland, a company that hosts a user-owned, 3D digital world, comprised of 90,601 plots of ‘land’.
The Barbados Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade approved the decision in August and is set to open the virtual embassy in January 2022.
The metaverse is a concept coined in the 1992 sci-fi novel Snow Crash to describe a kind of three-dimensional virtual reality version of the internet where people are present as avatars and move through a digital representation of the real world.
Decentraland began its own metaverse in 2017, allowing users to build on their plots, create online games, gambling services and more.
Barbados is also planning to open virtual embassies with other metaverse providers, including Somnium Space and SuperWorld, CoinDesk reported this week.
The move is expected to prompt other nations to establish virtual embassies, consulates and tourist sites.
Barbados had to consult lawyers when working on the proposal to remain compliant with international law and the Vienna Convention.
However, the new technology is unlikely to replace the old ways of diplomacy, former diplomat and White House Director of Global Engagement Brett Bruen, told Sky News.
“Diplomacy is going to be stubbornly stuck in the old ways of engaging, and while having a twitter account or a metaverse embassy may be a way to complement that engagement, it is certainly not a substitute,” he said.
“I recall when Hilary Clinton called us in to discuss American diplomacy on social media at the time, in Second Life – we received a presentation about how this was going to be the future of diplomacy.”
“Diplomacy has not done particularly well online. There are only few examples of countries that have effectively advanced their position online – there’s been a lot of disinformation from states like Russia and China but I remain highly sceptical that the old art of diplomacy can be practised in these virtual spaces.”
Originally selling each 33ft x 33ft parcel of land for 1,000 units of the cryptocurrency MANA, Decentraland plots are now being relisted for sums upwards of 3M MANA, more than $9M.
Decentraland’s MANA currency rocketed in value, following Facebook’s announcement that it would branch out into the metaverse sector.
However, it appears that, for now, while countries will continue to occupy a variety of online presences, the real work of diplomacy will remain in the form of brick and mortar embassies.
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