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Ep. 21 Season 3

The New Digital Wayfinders

Published: 09 Feb 2024
Listen on: Apple Spotify RSS
Stylized image of episode 21: The New Digital Wayfinders

For the island nation of Tuvalu, the effects of climate change are not a warning, they’re an eviction notice. Estimates vary as to when the small chain of coral islands could vanish beneath the waves, but experts agree that Tuvalu may be uninhabitable long before then, prompting its people to set sail for a new frontier… the metaverse.

Within this digital landscape, Tuvalu could potentially preserve its lands, heritage, and governance, effectively pioneering a new model for nationhood, in which a nation and its people exist in two realms—physical and virtual. But how does one go from sand to silicon while maintaining the essence of a culture? What is the real-world environmental impact of storing a nation’s worth of data? And can a virtual space ever replace the sense of community and identity built over generations?

Whether we take Tuvalu’s proposal literally or view it as a symbolic call to action, unpacking the logistics of such an ambitious project offers a glimpse at the expertise required to bring it to life—from tech experts grappling with blockchain governance to cultural preservationists digitizing traditional art and oral histories. The work forces us to ask: Can you really backup a country the way you backup a computer? And if so, what does that mean for the future of nationhood, identity, and the planet itself?

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