These days, I don’t have much time to indulge in televised or streamed content. But when I do have the rare moment to myself, I like to watch old (basically decrepit) reruns of The Twilight Zone. True, the technology back in the boomer days was nothing like the CGI we have today. Thus, producers had to focus on a strong story, which is what brings me to Decentraland (CCC:MANA-USD).
When I think of the metaverse — in particular the digital real estate and ecosystem components which represents the specialty of Decentraland — I recall the classic TTZ episode, “Eye of the Beholder.” IMDB.com lists the Rod Serling classic as first aired on Nov. 11, 1960.
To provide a quick synopsis, a woman seeks surgery to fix her deformities so that she can blend in with society. Unfortunately, as she comes out of the operating room, the procedure is deemed a total failure. But the kicker is that the woman is beautiful, according to contemporary western standards. On the other hand, everybody else looks like pigs, which we the audience find horrifying.
Well, it’s thought-provoking narratives like “Beholder” that make those black-and-white classics must-watch viewing, even after all these years. But getting back to Decentraland, I harken back to this episode because the reaction I’m making to why so many people are buying digital land must have been the same face I made when I first watched “Beholder” as a young boy.
Back then, I was perplexed that a beautiful woman would want to look like that. Similarly, I question why people are throwing perfectly good money into digital land.
You don’t need to spend so much money on virtual real estate when there are plenty of opportunities — maybe not in California — to acquire real real estate!
Decentraland is Deceptively Nonsensical
Another rich beauty of TTZ is that its storylines stay with you for life, challenging old preconceptions and nudging you to find deeper truths. If you just watch TTZ for the entertainment value, you are missing out on one of the greatest miracles captured on film.
Among the key lessons of the “Beholder” episode is that humans often give power to societal structures and institutions, thus allowing third parties to pass judgment on our identities. Worse, we allow this to occur, actively participating in our mental enslavement. Thus, I transitioned from what I initially perceived as a scary story to one that has powerful implications for our modern world.
Here’s the thing about Decentraland. No matter how many times I assess the story, I cannot find any greater truths behind it. Let me break the fourth wall and say that everybody seemingly wants to discuss MANA. And that’s why InvestorPlace has asked me to write about it over and over and over again.
Still, I can’t get over the fundamental reality. If I had $1.7 million to spend, I would spend it on actual real estate, where I can make actual money from actual people actually living in the homes I purchased.
Of course, this is where I’m going to get some nastygrams reminding me about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). TLDR? The creation and marketing of NFTs can spark a digital economic ecosystem which undergirds a virtual landscape. And I agree to the extent of that argument’s functionality superficiality.
But where — and I’m asking to provoke thought, not a heated debate — does the value of said NFTs come from? If it’s because other people say it’s valuable, that’s not a sustainable situation.
Focus on Common-Sense Intuition
Before I come off as a complete luddite, the idea of a self-sustaining decentralized economy is an interesting one. Therefore, a network or community like Decentraland may command some non-zero valuation. Here, I put my money where my mouth is, having bought some MANA a few years ago.
But I think with the metaverse and digital land concepts, people should trust their common sense and intuition. Sure, I get that Decentraland is popular in part because so many folks are obsessing over the metaverse. But I think people must ask basic questions as part of their diligence.
Again, where is the money coming from? How can decentralized communities be sustainable over the long run? What is the incentive structure to keep users engaged in the network?
Until you get satisfying answers to these and many other questions, you should approach Decentraland with extreme caution.
On the date of publication, Josh Enomoto held a LONG position in MANA. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
A former senior business analyst for Sony Electronics, Josh Enomoto has helped broker major contracts with Fortune Global 500 companies. Over the past several years, he has delivered unique, critical insights for the investment markets, as well as various other industries including legal, construction management, and healthcare.