Written By: Richard Domikis, Chief Technology Officer, Cornerstone Defense

My youngest son Jacob, is a junior in college and an Economics major. That’s a bit far from the Technology tree … or is it? I had the great honor of watching Jacob give a Ted Talk last week at Hampden Sydney College. Tying economics and technology together, his very interesting Ted Talk illustrated a situation in which citizens of a country in economic despair turned to technology and virtual gaming as a way to make an income. Read on to see how economy, technology, reality and virtual reality unexpectedly come together in this situation, and why it should matter to us in terms of the future of our global economy.

Venezuela has become plagued by low income and rampant inflation, especially in the last decade. Venezuela is also a victim of a limited export (oil) economy, often called by economists, “Dutch Disease.” In Venezuela the monthly income converted to US dollars is around $25, though perhaps even less when you consider how many citizens are far below the average to offset the few mega-wealthy. With that in mind, some estimations claim the average monthly income for Venezuelans is as low as $4.50 USD. Couple that economic disparity with rampant inflation, and you have a scary mixture of low income and high cost of goods. It’s no wonder many Venezuelans are in desperate need of a solution to increase their income.

My son Jacob’s discussion describes how virtual gaming has offered a solution to Venezuelans, changing the lives of real people. Though perhaps not commonly known by non-gamers, many gamers spend real cash to buy virtual game items. That’s right — those of us in more affluent societies spend real dollars to buy virtual items! Inherently, this creates a supply/demand and a virtual economy. Because of this, Venezuelans are able to play online video games (mainly RuneScape, an old PC game from the early 2000s), to perform in-game virtual tasks for real money. Whether it be killing dragons and harvesting the bones to sell, or any other number of virtual tasks, Venezuelan players can take their virtual earnings and sell them to other players for bitcoin, cryptocurrency or US dollars. A typical player doing this can easily make $60 or more a month, substantially more than the $25 monthly average, doubling or even tripling their monthly income! 

So what this real-life effect of virtual technology have to do with Cornerstone Defense? 

The virtual solution that citizens of Venezuela have found to a real-life problem is just one example of a global entry into the next economy – one where data and information are the key commodity. Yes, we will still mine gold, harvest food, build and drive cars — but many will also find themselves “growing and harvesting” data for profits. Cornerstone Defense is a company built around data and data exploitation expertise.

The fact that citizens of a country where income is scarce can harvest virtual objects for real money is world-changing, and for them, life-changing. Imagine feeding your family based on work within a virtual world! The possibilities are endless. While there are many positives to these possibilities, there are also risks and downsides to the potential of virtual gaming for work. Near the end of his Ted Talk, my son mentioned another interesting point; though a few people are earning income in this virtual RuneScape world, many others are playing this video game just for fun, of course. Suddenly, hunting and stealing from others (which is a regular part of the game), becomes disconcerting when one player is feeding his family and another is “having fun.” Economics, technologies and ethics start to collide and eventually we will have to address how to navigate the repercussions of this new use of technology.

Whenever we embrace new technologies, we also open doors to both the good and challenging effects that may occur.

I certainly walked away with a new perspective from my son’s Ted Talk, and enjoyed his mixture of economic and technologic observations throughout his presentation. Of course, I am very proud of his work! If you found this quick summary of his Ted Talk engaging, I encourage you to watch his presentation on YouTube at the link below.

Until next time!

From the Tech Corner,

Richard Domikis, Chief Technology Officer, Cornerstone Defense

Link: Jacob Domikis Ted Talk

About Rich Domikis:

With over 30 years of experience as a senior technologist, Mr. Domikis has guided critical solutions for the DoD and Intelligence Community. Rich previously served as the Chief Engineer of Harris/Peraton. Prior to that, he served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of ManTech’s Mission Solutions & Services group. Over his long career, Rich has served as a senior technologist with companies such as Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics. He has served as direct support to technology leadership at DIA, ODNI, NRO, NGA, and others, often working on large cross-agency programs.

Rich has a bachelor’s degree in Intelligence and a Master of Science in Space Systems from American Military University and is a Ph.D. candidate at Walden University in Applied Management and Decision Sciences. Rich maintains CISSP, PMP, International Law/Law of Armed Conflict and Use of Humans in Research Certifications.