We’ve (skimmed) read Meta’s Metaverse manifesto so you do not have to … – TechCrunch

Recently crowned chairman of global affairs for Meta, Nick Clegg – who in a previous life was literally Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – lived in California by writing a manifesto of about 8,000 words to promote “the Metaverse”: aka, det sci -fi-inspired vaporware, which the company we all know as Facebook, launched a major rebranding last fall.

At the time, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the new entity (Meta) would be a “metaverse-first” company “from now on.” So it’s a little funny that the central question that Clegg says he addresses in his essay is “what is the metaverse” – and basically, why should anyone care? But the attempt to explain such basic logic apparently keeps the Meta-metamats busy.

The Average Post Clegg published yesterday warns readers that it will take 32 minutes of their lives to assimilate it. So few people might have bothered to read it. As a Briton, I can assure you that no one should feel pressured to submit to 32 minutes by Nick Clegg – especially no bloviation on the orders of his employer. So TechCrunch took that ball to the team and read (ok, quick read) the alignment so you do not need it.

The following is our bullet point of Clegg’s metaverse manifesto. But first, we invite you to chew on this WordCloud (below), which condenses his essay from about 7,900 words down to 50 – with the most bold word “metaverse” in orbit around the “Internet”, thus firmly anchoring the test in our existing digital ecosystem.

Glad we were able to drop a few thousand words to get to the first base. But wait, there’s more!

Image credit: Natasha Lomas / TechCrunch

Entertaining word pairs popping up out of CleggCloud include “Corporate Rules” (not democratic rules so Clegg?); “human tech” (maybe just an oxymoron; but we’re open to the possibility that it’s an all-encompassing euphemism for fateful startups like HBO Silicon Valley‘s (satirical) ‘Human Heater’); “around the potential” (no real potential then?); “metaphysics” (vi lol’d); and – squint or you miss it! – “possible confidentiality” (or possibly “possible confidentiality”).

The extremely low ink for this latest pairing adds an appropriate layer of additional uncertainty that life in the Zuckerberg-Clegg metaverse will be anything but truly awful for privacy. (Attentive readers may feel compelled to point out that CleggCloud also includes a “Private Experience” as another unusually weak pairing. In exceptional, silo-clad, closed friendships – not that the whole meta-verse will be a paradise for human privacy. Lol!)

Before we move on to the summary, we feel that it is also worth noting a few words is not used in Clegg’s essay – and therefore can not be “invisibly colored” on our word cloud (much like a tracking pixel) – and deserves credit for their omission: namely, “tracking” and “profiling”; aka how advertising giant Meta is making its money now. Because we have to assume that tracking and profiling is how Meta plans to make money in the mixed reality future that Clegg is trying to whip up.

His essay does not spare words about how Meta plans to monetize its money-demanding “pivot” or reconfigure the current “we sell ads” business model in the theoretical mixed reality future scenario he outlines, where the digital trading battle consists of a web of interconnected services owned and operated by dozens of different / competing companies.

But perhaps – and we are wildly speculating here – Meta envisages being able to supplement the sale of surveillance-targeted ads by charging display owners from the holiday home industry at the “creators” Clegg & co. there will be hope to serve these spaces by making digital objects to sell to users, such as virtual threads for their avatars or virtual changing rooms to buy real threads … sell – good job! – but if you want metamates to see it in full glorious color, you have to pay our advanced viewing fee, ”write things. Just a thought!)

Now to our summary of Clegg’s screeds – which we have incorporated into a number of point-by-point claims / suggestions made by the chairman of Meta (adds our comment along with bold italics). Take advantage of the time we have saved you.

  • There will be no “a” or “metaverset”, in the sense of a single held experience / entity; there will be “metaverse spaces” on different devices that may or may not interact well [so it’s a giant rebranding exercise of existing techs like VR, AR, social gaming etc?]
  • But the big vision is “a universal virtual layer that anyone can experience over today’s physical world” [aka total intermediation of human interaction and the complete destruction of privacy and intimacy in service of creating limitless, real-time commercial opportunities and enhanced data capture]
  • Metaverse spaces will over-index shorthand, incarnation, and immersion and be more likely to center speech-based communication compared to current social apps, suggesting that users may act more openly and / or forget that “they are not really alone with their friends. [so Meta and any other mega corporates providing “metaverse spaces” can listen in to less guarded digital chatter and analyze avatar and/or actual body language to derive richer emotional profiles for selling stuff]
  • The meta-verse can be useful for education and training [despite the essay’s headline claim to answer “why it matters”, Clegg doesn’t actually make much of a case for the point of the metaverse or why anyone would actually want to fritter their time away in a heavily surveilled virtual shopping mall — but he includes some vague suggestions it’ll be useful for things like education or healthcare training. At one one point he enthuses that the metaverse will “make learning more active” — which implies he was hiding under a rock during pandemic school shutdowns. He also suggests metaverse tech will remove limits on learning related to geographical location — to which one might respond have you heard of books? Or the Internet? etc]
  • Metaverse will create new digital gaps – as those who can afford the best hardware will enjoy the most immersive experience [not a very equally distributed future then is it Clegg?]
  • Anyone can guess how much money the meta-verse could generate – or how many jobs it could create! [🤷]
  • But! Incredibly large amounts of work will be required to maintain these interconnected metaverse spaces. [i.e. to maintain any kind of suspension of disbelief that it’s worth the time sink and to prevent them from being flooded with toxicity]
  • Developers, especially there will be so much work for you !!! [developers, developers, developers!]
  • Unlike Facebook, there will not be one set of rules for Metaverse – it will be a patchwork quilt by ToS [aka, it’ll be a confusing mess. Plus governments/states may also be doing some of the rule-making via regulation]
  • A lack of interoperability / enjoyable play between all commercial devices that create “metaverse experiences” can fatally fragment the seamless connection that Meta loves so much. [seems inevitable tbh; thereby threatening the entire Meta rebranding project. Immersive walled gardens anyone?]
  • Meta’s metaverse can allow you to create temporary, enclosed private spaces where you can talk to friends [but only in the same siloed way that FB Messenger offers E2EE via “Secret Conversations” — i.e. surveillance remains Meta’s overarching rule]
  • Bad metaverse experiences are likely to be even more horrific than 2D-based cyberbullying, etc. [yep, virtual sexual assault is already a thing]
  • Major challenges and uncertainties await Meta [no shit]
  • It will take at least 10-15 years to build something similar to Meta’s idea of ​​connected metavers. [Clegg actually specified: “if not longer”; imagine entire decades of Zuckerberg-Clegg!]
  • Meta hopes to work with all kinds of stakeholders when developing metaverse technologies [aka, it needs massive buy-in if there’s to be a snowflake’s chance in hell of pulling off this rebranding pivot and not just sinking billions into a metaverse money-hole]
  • Meta mentions a few “priority areas” that it says govern its metaverse development – topped off by “economic opportunities” [just think of all those developer/creator jobs again! Just don’t forget who’s making the mega profits right now… All four listed priorities offer more PR soundbite than substance. For example, on “privacy” — another of Meta’s stated priorities — Clegg writes: “how we can build meaningful transparency and control into our products”. Which is a truly rhetorical ask from the former politician, since Facebook does not give users meaningful control over their privacy now — so we must assume Meta is planning a future of more of the same old abusive manipulations and dark patterns so it can extract as much of people’s data as it can get away with… Ditto “safety & integrity” and “equity & inclusion” under the current FB playbook.]
  • “The meta-verse is coming, one way or another” [Clegg’s concluding remark comes across as more of a threat than bold futuregazing. Either way, it certainly augurs Meta burning A LOT more money on this circus]

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