Poetry: An Alternative Answer To Onboarding The Next Generation Onto Web3

At the intersection of education, technology, the future of learning—and what makes us human.

GUEST COLUMN | by Olivia A. Halsall


Web3, the fiercely independent yet somewhat misunderstood younger brother Web1 and Web2, is touted as the future of the internet. Coined in 2014 as a “decentralized online ecosystem based on blockchain” by Polkadot founder and Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, Web3 includes cryptocurrencies, NFTs, DAOs, decentralized finance, and more. Central to Web3 is the idea that regular users take back control over their data. Think all things human connectivity, transparency, digital ownership and decentralization.

‘Central to Web3 is the idea that regular users take back control over their data.’ 

If Web1 was read-only, Web2 is read-write, and Web3 will be read-write-own. The social media platforms, search engines and marketplaces that we know today will henceforth emerge as decentralized and based on the blockchain. In Web3, for example, users will need one single customized account for all their digital activities, with blockchain recording all public activities. Imagining how Web3 will change the lives of ordinary citizens in decades to come is simultaneously fearful and fantastic.

When It Comes to Education

When it comes to education, Web3 boasts numerous enhancements to the traditional classrooms we still see today. The potential of artificial intelligence, for example, to create metaverse spaces that extend beyond our imagination is incredible. Imagine, if you will, an augmented reality t-shirt that allows medical students to examine the inside of the human body as an anatomy lab[1]. Our children might answer the boldest of humankind’s questions, such as imagining life after death, with the help of the metavese. What’s more, we will see self-learning programs learn and evolve independently in order to track user habits and provide search results that match their preferences.

So what does Web3 have to do with poetry, a form of literature that has historically been wholly humanities-focused? The answer, or rather, the common denominator is this: an upward trajectory, human connectivity and transparency. In the emotionally devastating aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge of people turned to pen and paper to morph their anguished emotions into a poetic commotion.

Instapoets are generating revenue from poetry like never before; Rupi Kapur is worth an estimated 1.2 million USD and 2018 saw a record 12 million GBP[2] in poetry sales, with interest driven by predominantly by younger readers. The share of adults reading poetry grew by an astounding 76% between 2012 and 2017, with the % of poetry readers age 18-24 doubling during the same period.

Our Most Human Instincts

A poem can be any (in)coherent string of words thrown together that may, or may not have been, entrenched in lived human emotion and/or experience. The intersection of poetry with natural language processing (a form of artificial intelligence) is a significant area of potential to safely educate the next generation about web3. There is something so very human about the need for poetry, and we need to preserve our most human instincts as we approach Web3.

Technically, humans are no longer needed to create poems these days. At the UK’s pavilion at the (delayed) Expo 2020 Dubai[3], a ‘Collective Message’ was created whereby each visitor submitted a word to describe humanity or life on Earth. An algorithm trained by AI experts and programmers with consultation from The Poetry Society, the Scottish Poetry Library and The Poetry Archive was then used to create poetic couplets.

Intended to explore whether computers can “express the complex nature of humanity through verse”, the idea is derived from Stephen Hawking’s Breakthrough Message[4], which asks: “If we discover other civilizations out there, what message could we send that represents humanity and planet Earth?” These are the precisely questions we need to be engaging our children with.

Taking the blending of STEM and arts one step further is the creation of poetry NFTs. Sasha Stiles[5], co-founder of theVERSEverse, a crypto poetry gallery established at the end of 2021, explains, “Poetry is a wonderful use case for NFTs: writers can publish and sell texts in a way that’s never been possible before; readers can savor and own digital texts that are especially meaningful to them; and minted poems can be available for anyone to visit, experience, enjoy and share.”

Inspiring Them to Create

In the Metaverse, there is no limit to the boundaries of how far a poem can ensnare its reader; immersive works of art, experimental, multimedia pieces, video poems and digital animations all heighten the senses beyond traditional hardcopies. Immersing the next generation in education technologies that inspire them to create and cultivate is of the utmost importance. We need to be educating our children on how to work with web3, rather than against it.

Olivia Halsall is a Paris-based education entrepreneur with interests in multilingual identity, bilingual poetry, creative writing for English as an additional language students, natural language processing in artificial intelligence, edtech for teenage mental wellbeing, blockchain and fintech for kids, and poetry NFTs. She is founder of Olea Education and Paris lead for CAMentrepreneurs. Olivia speaks English, French and Chinese Mandarin to varying degrees of fluency and a holds a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Cambridge. Connect on LinkedIn


[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8737403/#:~:text=The%20metaverse%20roadmap%20categorizes%20the,body%20as%20an%20anatomy%20lab

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jan/21/poetry-sales-soar-as-political-millennials-search-for-clarity

[3] https://poetrysociety.org.uk/news/uk-collective-message-launched-at-poetry-pavilion-at-expo-2020-dubai/

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/jul/20/breakthrough-listen-massive-radio-wave-project-scan-far-regions-for-alien-life

[5] https://thetokenizer.io/NFT/will-nfts-bring-about-the-poets-of-the-metaverse/


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