The metaverse – the new digital space that allows those in it to communicate and move using three-dimensional avatars or digital representations – is slowly registering a growth in demand for jobs in a sign of its imminent integration with the future digital economy.
"We are at a very early stage. We are starting to see new skills being developed, new job roles and new titles. Part of this is reimagining the future like we have never seen before," Kate Barker, a strategic adviser and future of work expert at the UAE Ministry of Interior, said at the Intersec 2022 conference at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Sunday.
However, as with any new disruptive technology and future ones, the main challenge will be ensuring that it is secure enough to earn the trust of users, given the vast and, at this point in time, uncertain effects and influence it would have, industry leaders said at the event.
The metaverse is being touted as the future of how society will interact, for work, study and everyday life. It is being championed by Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta Platforms, the world's largest social media company formerly known as Facebook.
About 23 per cent of the jobs that will be made available on the market in 2022 will be new to us, Ms Barker said, quoting a report from global consultancy McKinsey.
At this stage, it is unclear how many jobs will be created by the metaverse. To put things into perspective, 5G, the new standard in mobile communications, will create 309,000 new jobs in the next 15 years, according to the Progressive Policy Institute.
The metaverse is expected to transform a number of existing jobs and usher in a new career descriptions, including for the roles of research scientist, planner, development manager, advertisement blocker, storyteller and even unpaid intern, developer platform Cult said.
Meanwhile, employment website Monster lists technology-related roles such as chief productivity officer, drone manager, self-driving car mechanic, autonomous transport specialist and human-technology integration specialist among its list of 11 "cool" jobs that will exist soon.
Cryptocurrencies and the digital economy
Even as cryptocurrencies become more popular, largely owing to the success of the biggest digital currency, Bitcoin, experts have called for the issuance of more stablecoins – digital assets that are pegged to a fiat currency – to maintain stability.
"One thing that a currency needs to have is speed, transferability and trust. Every day, there are more currencies that come and more scammers take advantage of that," said Charanjeet Singh, senior vice president and head of fraud risk and investigation at First Abu Dhabi Bank, the UAE's biggest lender.
He refused to name some cryptocurrencies but emphasised that with prices of these assets drastically changing, "one day, somebody is rich, the other day, that same person can be poor".
"There is no underlying security," Mr Singh said.
Cryptocurrencies can also be a tool for illicit finance, with the Interpol last month calling for a collaborative effort "to prevent virtual assets from becoming safe havens for illegal financial transactions".
Intersec, which convenes experts from the global emergency services, security and safety sectors, also explored the basic factors needed to safely build a digital space.
An efficient digital economy can only be built with blocks that are capable of holding the entire ecosystem together, according to Anwaar Al Shimmari, artificial intelligence team leader at the UAE Ministry of Infrastructure Development.
"It is important to, first of all, understand what are the inputs [whether we] are ready for the digital economy and policies. We cannot build trust without having the proper policies," she said.
"The digital structure is important to help the private sector, as well as society, to create an ecosystem for a digital economy."
Several industries and businesses are totally dependent on the digital economy, so it is crucial that the entire cycle has the proper input and enablers to support it, Ms Al Shimmari said.
"Digitisation is not only dependent on technology; it also requires a lot of training and motivation for employees because it is a huge investment in the short and long term, also making people ready with changing mindsets."