A virtual reality headset on your head, controllers in your hands, and then you go to join friends at the bar. Without moving away from home. Maybe in a few years, this gesture will have become commonplace in the metaverse: a virtual world where we can work, go out, find our loved ones … The project seems crazy, but it is being studied in the offices of the world’s largest digital companies. Recently, Mark Zuckerberg even announced that he was setting up a team of 10,000 employees to tackle the construction of such a universe. made on Facebook.
Fanny Parise, anthropologist, is seriously considering it. Associate researcher at the University of Lausanne, she observes an acceleration of “lifestyle digitization” with the Covid-19 crisis and the containment. In other words, the “real” existence – intentionally or unwillingly – is shifting to digital ever faster.
Imagine new pandemics occurring. Could the meta-verse replace reality, become our daily life?
In fact, it seems possible. In anthropology, we work with very extreme scenarios, not to say that the future will be white or black, but because, depending on the development of the situation, we will move more towards one than towards the other. .
Currently, we have two dominant scenarios. The first is technological collapse. The second is when the individual, forced to stay at home, will have to push their use of technology even further. During the first confinement, the digital enabled a continuity of social interactions, of life in society. If successive inclusions were to be introduced in the coming years, the virtual would allow for continuity in our lives in society, of our daily lives, when part of it becomes impossible in the physical life.
It is also quite relevant to think that other types of crises, social or environmental, can lead to a democratization of the virtual world. However, this will cause other problems. If a social crisis arises in physical life, how do you guarantee peaceful – or not – interactions in the metaverse? Similarly, will the digital pollution or control of the servers associated with the function of the metaverse still be compatible with the new situation in the event of a major climate problem?
Living your life in the skin of an avatar, without moving away from home … In your relationship with yourself and with others, it should bring about some changes, right?
A lot, even. It will not necessarily change the way you interact, but it will make individuals ask themselves questions prior to a social interaction. Depending on the degree of closeness with the person, they will have to decide: do I meet them in physical life or in the metaverse? New ways of having friends and family are likely to emerge.
For the individual, the meta-verse will create an extension of one’s self into the virtual. The whole question then becomes to find harmony between our different identities. Some, for example, may very well find themselves stuck between a reality that does not suit them and a virtual world that they prefer.
For Mark Zuckerberg, the meta-verse would make its users experience a real sense of “presence” on the other hand more than on social networks. Is this ambition not exaggerated?
I do not really agree. In studies, we see that a virtual assistant or a television that is on is enough to create what is called “co-presence”. The individual does not have the impression of being alone and better accepts that he is confined or far from his relatives. The VR headset is not going to bring more “co-presence”. On the other hand, with immersive reality, we want to have more influence on people’s lives, in the way they adhere to different universes, to different ways of living.
Exactly, is this virtual world likely the scene of excesses?
One question I would like to ask is: what are we going to do with this metaverse? Will it be a form of transhumanism that will increase our capacity? Will it lead to reflection on a new lifestyle, perhaps more compatible with environmental constraints? Or will it be a duplication of reality?
What worries me is that it will be anticipated by brands or companies. In fact, the problem with the meta-verse is that it immerses us in a visual universe that prevents us from distancing ourselves. For companies, depending on what they create, it will be easier to get us to stick to social models, political models … Who tells us that the universe will be built according to ethical reasoning? What about business partnerships? The interesting thing is that history repeats itself after the creation of the Internet. Before, we had an idea that it would be a space of freedom where we could create new ways of interacting. Now it has become a place where physical and commercial life multiplies. We do not invent anything.