The concept of colour
In a docuseries by National Geographic, named “Welcome to Earth”, American actor Will Smith is seen exploring the hidden world of colour deep down in the ocean, with marine biologist and explorer, Dr. Amon. Will Smith who is also the narrator, opens the episode saying: “… all good things in life lived on the other side of fear’. It almost sounded like the stock market adage “Be greedy when others are fearful’. Around the point of watching this docuseries the decline from the record peak had lasted almost a month and stretched over 2000 points in Nifty, and for good measure, even the most optimistic were pinning on deeper falls before resuming uptrend. But the prospects of seeing the wonders of ocean, as well as Will Smith carrying the story in his inimitable style, kept stock market thoughts at bay, and I could get back to the screen without much ado.
As the submersible named Nadir makes its descent, you can see that everything begins to appear as blue. This is because, as you go deeper and deeper, the reds, oranges and yellows which have longer wavelength than the blues get scattered more. The only way to see red is to bring an artificial light with you. So, by the time Nadir travels over 3000 feet below the sea level, the red T shirt that Will Smith wears, is seen as blue. So, as you go closer to the ocean beds, the deep-sea animals do not have any of the usual colours in the visible colour spectrum. They are just red and black which makes them practically invisible as hardly any natural light reaches such depths. To elaborate on this, National Geographic takes the viewers to the Karst Plateau, Slovenia, 300 metres below the earth’s surface, and is shown an olm, that lives permanently in pitch dark. The lack of light prompted it to develop nonvisual sensory systems, enabling it to navigate without using vision. “First you lose colour…And then the concept of colour.” It took me a while for the idea to sink in. It got me thinking again.
Can sustained inflow of liquidity or persistent uptrend or downtrend in stock markets influence the trading behaviour of investors, just like the impact of darkness on olms or deep-sea animals? In my opinion, in stock markets, while fundamentals serve to provide a back story to the rational mind, quants and technicals hold the edge in price forecasting. The corner stone of this surmise is that mankind’s response to fear and greed has not changed over the years. Perhaps they have, but not enough to render such forecasting approaches futile. Or the changes are at a pace that permits adjustments and repairs to existing forecasting systems. But what if the fear-greed responses change beyond recognition? The moot question here is what can cause such a change.
Though the idea of metaverse was first popularized almost 20 years back by Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash, the word achieved worldwide attention after Facebook changed its name to Meta on 1st December 2021. The efforts to completely overhaul itself with this name change, comes in the wake of controversies around data privacy among others, and after Apple’s move to limit ad tracking hit the company’s profit forecasts. But there is no mistaking the fact that Metaverse is not a diversion at all, and it is not only Facebook (Meta) or big corporations like Microsoft or Google that are vying for a pie of the Metaverse, which is touted as the future of internet.
“To all those who helped us get one step closer to fulfilling our vision of the #Metaverse- thank you”, tweeted Roblox founder David Baszucki on the day of its IPO listing. Roblox, is not only an online gaming platform, but by having user generated games and role-playing offerings, it builds a community in the virtual space. The company has teamed up with a skateboarding shoe company to create a virtual skateboarding park, while Gucci set up a Gucci Garden, for the users to try and buy clothing and accessories for one’s virtual self. The British Fashion Council added a new award for “metaverse design” in partnership with Roblox. Now let us look at the size of Roblox. The company got valued at over $45 billion on the listing day at NYSE earlier this year, and if you think, this is a new company, you are wrong. It was founded in 2004.
So, what is the metaverse? It is a platform that provides an immersive multimedia experience, where users live within a digital universe. How is it made possible? The metaverse brings together multiple elements of technology, be it VR (virtual Reality), Augmented Reality (AR), and the internet. Think of metaverse as the three-dimensional version of internet. Or just think of it as the internet with you in it. While the flourishing of internet was enabled by government and researchers in the 1970s followed by wider public participation later, private companies are at the core of development of metaverse platforms. And while the internet is largely open source and works as an enabler for sharing of information, commerce etc. the metaverse is likely to be more pervasive with corporations at the centre.
While we have several elements of metaverse already in play in fields like gaming, we do not yet have the platform to bring them all together. It could be long before such simulated worlds begin to align more closely with our reality. But before we get to a seamless experience in the digital world, it is fair to expect some applications to fully embrace metaverse platforms sooner than other. Education, Meetings, Trainings etc could be among the first.
We know that our digital footprint is already used to profile us and for all we know, such profiling is used to influence and anticipate our purchasing behaviour, our voting preferences etc. But towards a truly predictive model, it requires 100 % surveillance which is limited by the technology of our times, civilian rights etc. But more importantly, neither do all people leave digital footprints, nor are the available ones big and immersive enough to get a comprehensive picture of individual behaviours, especially in complex environments. This lack of fidelity is a problem, which the metaverse could address more effectively. The multisensory and multidimensional nature of metaverse, as well as the interoperability between the physical and the digital world, would mean that our reactions could mirror one’s actual reactions. Let us get back to the moot question. Will the metaverse drastically change how we perceive losses? If yes, how will it impact stock market trends, and our ability to forecast? When every image you see is recorded and stored, the past could always be at fingertips, and the fear and greed emotions that are usually associated with bottoms and tops may come unstuck or may become less attached. So, while metaverse brings us closer to fidelity, that alone may not improve predictability.