Metaversen, a question of sovereignty [1/2]

What is “metavers ”?

That ” metavers “, sometimes translated” metavers ‘In Molière’s language is a word built on the terms’ meta’ (around) and ‘verse’ (universe). An expression which therefore roughly means “parallel universe” or “alternative universe”. Implied, a digital world where people end up living and interacting; a world superimposed on the physical world.

that metavers still has a very vague definition. But we can empirically identify at least three central and structuring criteria:

  • The first criterion metavers must mimic the real world. That is, try to imitate it, but without being an exhaustive or realistic copy. ONE metavers can therefore allow users to evolve in fictional worlds or with fictional characters, but all this while preserving some of the real world codes.

  • Second criterion, the metavers can be accessed quickly and intuitively by computer (smartphone, computer, television, etc.).

  • Third criterion, the metavers is persistent, ie. this alternative world exists continuously, just like the real world. When a user logs out, will metavers continues to evolve without it. This is without a doubt the most important criterion as it creates dependence and mass adhesion by causing a FOMO effect (Fear of missing outliterally the fear of missing something): the user stays connected or reconnects regularly because he is afraid of missing something during his absence.

that metavers is therefore a term denoting a very broad set of possibilities. In fact, this term covers more of a concept than a technology, more a social ideal than a real groundbreaking innovation, more a form of social organization than a technical or scientific creation. The idea is simple: Let people live more and more in a virtual world. Even to replace the virtual world with the real world.

In the computer world, the idea of ​​creating a parallel digital universe is quite old. Since the beginning of the internet, more or less successful attempts have appeared, the most famous of all is probably back Second Life, a kind of realistic cyber republic, which counted up to 1 million users. In a very different genre, the video game EVE Online has offered an enduring world for years, with players competing for control of entire galaxies. In another category, World of Warcraft was already a kind metavers medieval-fantastic provides the opportunity to develop in a wonderful fictional world, to organize in guilds, to trade with other players, to fight, etc.

In addition to these evocations, which will do some millennials nostalgic, there are also much more recent examples that will speak even to high school students and college students. Minecraft and its thousands of persistent servers, GTA Online and its “role-playing” servers that tend to copy the real world, Pokemon GO and its augmented reality … A rapidly growing phenomenon in an increasingly connected world. But above all, a phenomenon that exploded with the COVID-19 crisis.

Due to successive incarceration, the vast majority of the world’s population has been confined inside confined spaces for several days or weeks. Virtual worlds then emerged as a quick way to escape, to see friends from school or work, have fun, and get away from the real world, which is so anxious and insecure. During imprisonment, in Europe as in the rest of the world, the use of online gambling and social networks therefore has exploded, to levels not dropped since. The less informed observers will be moved by the fact that part of the world’s population is fleeing into video games and artificial worlds. But the problem is actually much deeper and more serious than that.

The brands and ”metaversion ” of the world

Until 2020, the aforementioned virtual worlds remained de facto simple worlds of video games. Admittedly, players spent a significant amount of time there, to the point where they forgot the real life of some. But the boundary remained very clear between the virtual world and the real world. But since 2020 and its successive confinements, some companies have gone even further and see in these virtual worlds a means of establishing a power that they can no longer exercise in a world under confinement. So companies in the real world are slowly taking over parallel universes and other things metaverserand thus helps to constantly blur the boundaries that exist between the game world and the real world.

For example, the phenomenon Fortnite has organized real events within the game itself: in April 2020, rapper Travis Scott gave a concert in the game in front of 12 million people. Again, the game Roblox has entered into a partnership with major brands such as Vans and Gucci, to offer players access to the clothes they would buy in real life; and vice versa to access in real life a copy of the clothes they bought in the game. Likewise, the company has Atari paid hundreds of thousands of euros to buy land with his image in the metaverse: Sandboxesa metavers using technology blockchain governed by decentralized cryptocurrency TRUE. Similar examples abound, with companies willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to acquire virtual display ads, virtual land, or virtual objects. In other words, to take control of these digital worlds.

These parallel worlds seem to be gaining momentum at an astonishing rate, a phenomenon encouraged by the health context that tends to promote the digitalisation of the world and human relations, a phenomenon that some brands are therefore already browsing. Admittedly, by observing all of this, we might be tempted to see it simply as a fashion phenomenon or delirium in a few out of phase and ultimately very marginal users. But this “rush” to metavers raises both ethical and political issues.

If it is true that until now all these parallel universes were built as support and beyond the real world, this trend has been reversed as the first takes precedence over the second. Experiences and relationships from real life then become goods that need to be digitized. For some users, it is now the real world that supports their virtual life. Players work the day to have enough virtual money to spend in their games, users ofInstagram thinks about their life in order to stage it on their social media timeline, etc. Physical life becomes the means to our virtual life. Digital is no longer a means, but an end in itself.

From there, there is only one step to cross to confirm that in tomorrow’s world one will marry in metaversthat children will entertain and study in the meta-verse that parents will work in metavers and help their children with their homework in metavers. There is only one step to confirm that tomorrow we will work in the real world to provide enough to buy branded clothing for his virtual avatar, so he is well dressed for the company meeting that takes place in the meta-verse. There is only one step to confirm that tomorrow we will work in the real world to have enough money to go on vacation or to a concert with our friends in metavers.

It seems absurd. However, the question does not arise tomorrow. It emerged yesterday, in the time of Facebook, and society as a whole has followed the model proposed by social networks. In other words, humanity is ripe for metaversthat is, mature to look formalized in a tight and technical way, which is already the case in practice: We live in virtual bubbles, a digital existence mixed with physical moments.

that metavers is therefore only an extension of a way of life that has already been registered, but which until then was unfinished for technical reasons. that metavers, it is this promise to be able to continue to be entertained without limits while the real world loses more and more flavor. that metavers, it is the promise of being able to continue consuming indefinitely even when resources run out: buying a car or taking a plane in the “metaverse” is just a line of code for users. Companies can therefore indefinitely sell objects that they no longer have to produce themselves, which they can generate via code lines. Travel agencies can sell road trips and cruises without having to control the movements of their clients and without having to anticipate possible recurring inclusions. As long as people value their virtual double room, this digital economy will work and reap colossal profits. This is ultimately what metavers, formalization with technology of a reality that already existed in power through social networks and the digitalization of the world. Now this is truly the basic key to understanding this whole topic: the page metavers is only the end of a long process, the actors of the current digital economy are in a good position to maintain their dominance and establish an even more total form of supremacy.

that metavers is therefore not a space, but a moment. This is the time when our virtual life will be more valuable than our real life. A moment in time when the integration into the web of all elements of our lives, through connected objects, will spawn a new way of consuming, working, having social relationships, and ultimately having an identity. We are already paying more and more attention, and therefore energy, to our digital lives. that metavers is therefore the moment when our lives will shift almost exclusively to the virtual world, which can only be a process (already underway) over several decades.

Matthias Hauser

Part 2 : Metaversen, a question of sovereignty [2/2]

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