Thanks to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “metaverse” became a buzzword in late 2021 that you could not miss unless you lived under a rock. But the idea of the Internet as a network of intertwined virtual worlds, where people spend most of their time, is much older than Zuckerberg’s vision.
In addition to the science fiction novel “Snow Crash” from 1992, which the author Neal Stephenson invented the concept, the metaverse was the subject of the dystopian novel / film “Ready Player One” and inspired a number of articles. , including this amazing piece by venture capitalist Matthieu Bal.
My most memorable virtual reality (VR) moment happened in VR Chat a few years ago. There, I met an Iranian artist who showed me around her virtual gallery while we discussed the hardships she suffered after the Arab Spring and how it affected her work.
I managed to hear his voice and see his avatar guide me through the exhibition, which featured both interactive 3D sculptures as well as his traditional works of art, including the surrealistic architecture we navigated. The presentation ended with the opportunity to purchase one of his physical paintings, which we saw in the gallery. It was a healthy and emotional experience that I will soon forget.
I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences, whether it’s chatting with someone in a virtual environment or enjoying Sandbox on your PC. But in itself these experiences are not metaverse. They are rather fragments of it, in the same way that a computer game or a search engine does not make up the Internet.
The internet we live on today is a sum of all our digital experiences tied together. It includes online services provided by governments, individuals and companies – all intertwined but intertwined and slowly coming together through unified search, authentication and authentication systems – search engines and login systems. social media created by technology giants like Alphabet GOOG,
and former Facebook FB,
The focus here is on the mechanisms that connect all these experiences. Thanks to a huge effort, mainly from Alphabet’s Google, we now have the experience of a unified internet. It is this experience – not hidden sites and services – that helps us better understand the concept of the Internet and use it to its full potential.
There are a number of reasons why the company was able to achieve this. It has a massive user base that spans the globe (4.3 billion worldwide), giving it plenty of data to work with to understand user behaviors and preferences.
In addition, Google offers a wide range of products and services that can be used to connect third-party products and services. Finally, let us not forget the enormous financial resources that, for obvious reasons, played a key role.
All of these factors have made the approval feature “Sign in with Google” and Google as a search engine as ubiquitous as they are today. Today, Google is the world’s leading provider of seamless access to various global web services and an important part of today’s internet.
It is highly unlikely that any competitor will be able to invest enough resources to dethrone the technology giant.
Now owned by Google, Metas Zuckerberg knew he had only one choice: his company should seize the opportunity and become the undisputed ruler of tomorrow’s Internet: Metaverse.
To the untrained eye, this fight started recently. For those who are more aware, many of the recent investments – even before rebranding and public proclamation – have only been the building blocks of the meta-verse.
The failed Libra corpocoin became Zuckbuck; The first Oculus Rift has evolved over several iterations into Meta Quest 2, which now gets a premium upgrade and augmented reality (AR) features with Project Cambria.
Finally, there is Horizon Worlds test site where all of these concepts can be put together. A virtual world and social experience that you can enjoy, an existing economy that you can use and make money in, and a hardware solution that allows you to seamlessly switch between two worlds, real and digital.
In his recent interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg acknowledged that, as with the modern Internet, gilded experiences will coexist with Meta’s infrastructure in the meta verse. He made it very clear that Meta’s endgame is not to push other platforms and creators away. Rather, the business model aims to be a unifying force that unites all these concepts and facilitates integration.
The goal is to give creators as well as users and companies the opportunity to seamlessly switch between these experiences, and that Meta can benefit from providing the infrastructure.
With Facebook, Meta had learned that significant financial gain could be achieved by selling user information and creating an environment where advertisers and businesses can thrive. Taking its share (which is currently significant) of each transaction and selling ad space will be a big thing for Meta in Metaverse. In that sense, the company not only takes a page from Alphabet’s playbook, but also maintains Facebook’s business model.
There is another factor that plays a major role in the adoption and success of the meta-verse: the global socio-economic context.
Modern life is full of crises and the chances are that things will get worse before they get better. The global workforce has almost become accustomed to working from home, and with wars and pandemics occurring regularly, people have fewer opportunities to actively pursue one of humanity’s greatest needs: social interaction.
Although the environments and interactions experienced in virtual and augmented reality are far from real-world interactions, the visual fidelity and technology behind them are improving day by day. As the opportunities for interactions in the real world become scarce, people will inevitably flock to solutions that at least provide a glimpse of what freedom and camaraderie meant in the good old days.
Combine all these factors with global adoption, significant financial resources and a talented workforce, and it’s easy to see that it’s only a matter of time before Meta succeeds in reaching its lofty goal.
So is that a good thing? Shit no. Humans have repeatedly proven – especially in recent years – that in light of danger and risk, we prefer convenience and escape rather than confronting the problem directly.
Clearly, this creates the perfect basis for deepening the crises that are already present and looking back on centuries of adaptation and resilience. To be clear, I’m talking not only about physical prowess, but also about mental acuity driven by real-world experiences, natural curiosity, and freedom of thought.
In this sense, the metaverse could be a problematic and suffocating environment. Here’s a scary scenario that is likely to happen when the metaverse becomes mainstream:
Over time, we may have an increasing number of individuals who are so accustomed to virtual stimuli that they show a severe deficit in social skills when interacting with people in the real world. Since most of their experiences would be formed in controlled virtual environments, their perception of reality would also be skewed. Due to the difference between real and digital interactions, these people would increasingly lack the appropriate motor skills needed to survive and thrive in the real world. No wonder they prefer the convenience and the happy ignorance of the manufactured world, using only their real bodies to perform necessary bodily functions. Over time, these individuals could have children who would follow in their parents’ footsteps and spread addiction to virtual worlds.
We already have something similar in Japanese hikikomori these days, and although the roots are different, the escape is the same, and for that kind of people, the metaverse simply offers more.
But let’s not rush. It is important to emphasize that I am not on an anti-progress crusade. But I also do not promote escapism as an important way to cope with everyday stress and challenges. Like any tool, the metaverse can be good if used to facilitate certain interactions, such as teleworking, games, and creativity. However, it should be used in a way and in a way that complements rather than replaces real life. Otherwise, a “Matrix” type scenario could become more and more common among the world’s population, leading us to a dark and dystopian future where the digital environment becomes a golden cage for the human psyche rather than a powerful tool for progress and improvement.
What is your opinion on that? Tell me in the comments below.