What are NFTs, DAOs, Web3, and the Metaverse and How Will They Impact Healthcare?

by: Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD

Photo by Morthy Jameson

Note: these are my views, and should not be construed as investment advice. Original article published on KevinMD on 3–3–2022.

If you’ve tuned into the news over the last year, you’ve probably heard of people spending millions on digital JPG’s, or people acquiring these digital images and then “flipping” them for a profit. Many of my friends made six-figure profits last year by speculating on digital NFTs, though I don’t recommend it.

You’ve probably heard of terms in the media such as DeFi, DAOS, Web3, and the metaverse. With the amount of innovation that is happening most people are left confused and quick to dismiss these technologies as “fads, scams, tulip bubbles”.

At a fundamental level, however, these are transformative technologies, and will have huge implications for changing existing paradigms across a broad array of industries ranging from finance, real estate, investing, education, communication, social media, gaming, music, arts, entertainment, sports, law, politics, and medicine.

Regardless of whether we actively invest in space, I believe that it is important that we invest the time to educate ourselves about these technologies, hence the purpose of writing this article, which will synthesize current developments, and discuss the newest developments, and future directions in crypto.

Since my articles were published on KevinMD:

“What is the blockchain, and what does it mean for healthcare” and “Should physicians invest in cryptocurrency”, the field has continued to innovate at an exponential pace. In the last year, we have seen:

  1. First SEC approved BTC Futures ETF

  2. First SEC approved BTC mining ETF

  3. First roll out of a central bank digital currency (CBDC) out of China during this year’s Winter Olympics.

  4. The proliferation of stable coins as an alternative to traditional fiat currency regimes.

  5. More countries are experiencing unstable currencies and unstable political regimes. As a result, more countries are turning to Bitcoin to circumvent instability and strict controls.

  6. More high profile celebrities and public figures electing to getting paid in Bitcoin

  7. Enhanced discussions in Washington regarding how to develop proper infrastructure around crypto innovation, how to regulate, and how to tax crypto.

  8. Emergence of crypto innovation “hubs” including El Salvador, Miami, Wyoming, and Singapore.

  9. The rise of NFTs, DeFi, DAOs, Web3, and the metaverse.

NFT Defined and Implications:

NFT stands for non-fungible token. These are digital assets whose underlying value is tied to their digital uniqueness and scarcity. If Bitcoin was one of the first financial applications of the blockchain introducing a novel form of sound money and advocating for a new stable financial system, NFTs are one of the first applications of the blockchain that allow you to introduce scarcity and uniqueness into digital tokens.

NFTs are non-fungible, meaning that they can not be “swapped” for another since each NFT is distinctly unique. This is unlike a fungible token such as a dollar-bill that can easily be exchanged for another dollar-bill.

Another unique feature about NFTs lies in the concept of tokenization. Increasingly, anything that represents value or utility such as an equity, currency, bonds, real estate, art, collectibles, or fine jewelry can and will be tokenized on the blockchain. This results in the unique advantage where several inherent value attributes can be digitally combined and represented as a single token on the blockchain.

The third unique aspect of NFTs is that their authenticity can be verified on the blockchain, so the problem with counterfeit, forgeries, fraud, and fakes now becomes irrelevant. With automated smart contracts, the blockchain is now able to verify authenticity, eliminating cumbersome centralized third-parties. All of this is done in a fully open, transparent, safe, secure, programmable, and scalable manner.

With the attributes of digital scarcity, authenticity, tokenization, and utility, I think that NFTs are going to have enormous implications for the world and the economy to come.

In the fields of music, arts, gaming, entertainment, collectibles, social media, and sports, we are already starting to see NFTs represent a new paradigm shift in how tokens are represented and used, shifting power away from central entities, and allowing artists and creators more ownership, stake, and control of their own creativity. Creators, artists, and entrepreneurs can now go direct to their own fans and consumers eliminating expensive middle-men.

Imagine if you were awarded early stake and ownership in companies such as Meta, AirBNB, Uber-Lyft, DoorDash, Google, and Turo simply by being an early adopter or user of these platforms. You can do this with crypto currently. You don’t need to be an accredited, institutional, angel investor, or venture capitalist. Through tokenization, crypto has democratized a lot of the aspects of finance, and is democratizing aspects of other industries.

Taking it a step further, you can imagine industries such as real estate, insurance, financial services, the legal profession, education, and healthcare where contracts, identity, credentialing, licensing, supply chain management, and other processes can be tokenized into NFTs, and automated on the blockchain with smart contracts. This will result in more efficient processes and eliminate costs, waste, and fraud, leading to better outcomes.

You can see that in the span of less than a year, NFTs have evolved from a pure speculative play involving digital art, and now permeated the music, sports, gaming, and entertainment industry, and moving into traditional industries such as healthcare, real estate, and finance.

What are DAOS?

DAOS stands for decentralized autonomous organizations. DAOS are blockchain-based governance structures that consist of membership, community, and governance.

DAOS represents a fundamental shift away from what we are familiar with in today’s traditional corporations. These new blockchain technologies offer opportunities for changing how businesses are governed and run when observed from the lens of organization, decision-making processes, corporate structure, hierarchy, and governance.

Similar to how Bitcoin, DeFi, and NFTs are bets on the future of money, finance, and digital property, DAOS are a bet on the future of organizations. All of these are examples of how blockchain technologies are decentralizing, automating, and shifting value away from the few back to the many.

Looking specifically at healthcare, pharma, medical devices, and the insurance industry, you could easily see how the concept of a DAO could be incorporated into existing and new organizations. In the future, healthcare governance, management, and leadership top-down hierarchical models could be disrupted, allowing members more influence and say in how organizations are run, based around shared values, equal participation, and community.

What is Web3?

If Web 1.0 was websites, allowing one to organize and consume information, Web 2.0 was blogs, e-commerce, and social media, allowing individuals to create their own content.

Web 3.0 is the next iteration of the internet allowing an individual to consume, create, and most importantly own their content independent of centralized platforms. Web 3.0 will allow society at large to organize, consume, create, and own their intellectual property, allowing the seamless transfer of value across all parties.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a network of three-dimensional worlds where individuals will be able to interact, connect, work, communicate, play, and socialize. The metaverse is much akin to “cyberspace” that existed with Web 1 and 2.0. This infrastructure will be powered by VR-AR-MR, wearables such as the Oculus, social media, and online gaming.

Putting it all together

The future will consist of DAOS existing within various industries. Day-to-day activities and interactions will be represented as NFT tokens, and recorded on the blockchain. Everything will be automated with AI-powered smart contracts. DeFi and crypto will be the new monetary and financial system. The metaverse will be the new infrastructure for all of this, where everything happens.

The number one barrier to all of this technological innovation will be bureaucracy and regulation. Traditionally, finance, healthcare, and education have been laggards in technological adoption, but COVID19 has forced acceleration of technology, including telemedicine, surgical training via virtual reality, and remote work-from-home.

In conclusion, the past two years, we have witnessed economic uncertainty, rising inflation, supply shortages, budget deficits, social unrest, and geopolitical tensions, all within the backdrop of COVID19. Despite the uncertainty, hiccups, regulations, and setbacks, our world continues to be resilient, innovating and adapting. As entrepreneurs continue to push to the cutting edge on what is possible, I believe that these innovations will have a huge impact on every part of industry in the decades to come.

About: Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD is a retired physician, author of “How I Quit My Lucrative Medical Career and Achieved Financial Freedom”, and founder of the Financial Freedom for Physicians Podcast.

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