Opinion: The metaverse is inevitable — we have been heading toward it for a long time. This is the good and the bad when the physical and virtual worlds collide

Thanks to Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, “metavers” became a buzzword in late 2021 that you couldn’t miss unless you lived under a rock. But the idea of ​​the Internet as a network of intertwined virtual worlds where humans spend most of their time is much older than Zuckerberg’s vision.

In addition to the 1992 sci-fi novel “Snow Crash”, whose writer Neal Stephenson coined the term, the metavers was the subject of the dystopian novel / movie “Ready Player”. One “and inspired a series of articles that include this amazing piece by the venture capitalist. Matthew Ball.

My most memorable moment in virtual reality (VR) happened in VR Chat a few years ago. There I met an Iranian artist who took me for a walk through her virtual gallery as we discussed the difficulties she went through in her Arab post-spring and how it affected her work.

I was able to hear his voice and see his avatar guiding me through the exhibit, which included both 3D interactive sculptures and his traditional artwork, including the surreal architecture we were navigating. The presentation ended with the opportunity to buy one of his physical paintings that we saw in the gallery. It was a healthy and emotional experience that I will not soon forget.

I’m sure most of us have had similar experiences before, whether it’s chatting with someone in a virtual environment or enjoying Sandbox on your computer. However, these experiences alone are not metaverse. Rather, they are fragments in the same way that a computer game or a search engine does not constitute the Internet.

The Internet we are currently experiencing is a sum of all our digital connected experiences. Includes online services provided by governments, individuals, and businesses — all separate but intertwined and slowly linked by unified search, authorization, and authentication systems — search engines, and social login systems created by technology giants like Alphabet GOOG ,
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and, in the past, Facebook FB,
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(see Meta Platforms).

Here the emphasis is on the mechanisms that unite all these experiences. Due to the enormous effort made, mainly by Google from Alphabet, we now have the experience of a unified Internet. It is this experience, not isolated websites and services, that helps us better understand the concept of the Internet and make the most of it.

There are a number of reasons why the company was able to achieve this. It has a massive worldwide user base (4.3 billion worldwide), which gives it a lot of data to work on in terms of understanding user behavior and preferences.

In addition, Google has 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 economic resources, which played a key role for obvious reasons.

All of these factors made the “Sign in with Google” authentication feature and Google as a search engine ubiquitous as it is today. At the moment, Google is the leading global provider of seamless access to various global web services and a staple of today’s Internet.

It is very unlikely that any competitor will be able to put in enough resources to dethrone the tech giant.

With the present of belonging to Google, Zuckerberg of Meta knew that he had only one choice: his company had to take advantage of the day and become the undisputed ruler of the Internet of tomorrow: the metavers.

For the untrained eye, this battle has only recently begun. For those who pay more attention, many of the recent investments, even before the brand change and public proclamation, have been nothing more than the basics of metavers.

The failed Libra corpocoin has been transformed into Zuckbuck; The first Oculus Rift, in multiple iterations, evolved into Meta Quest 2, which is now receiving a premium upgrade and augmented reality (AR) capabilities with Project Cambria.

Finally, there is the Horizon Worlds test field where all these concepts can be brought together. A virtual world and a social experience that you can enjoy, an existing economy where you can spend and earn money, and a hardware solution that allows you to switch seamlessly between two worlds, real and digital.

In his recent interview with The Verge, Zuckerberg acknowledged that, as with today’s Internet, isolated experiences will coexist with Meta’s infrastructure in the metavers. He then made it very clear that Meta’s ultimate game is not to kick out other platforms and creators. Rather, the business model aims to be a unifying force that unites all these concepts and facilitates integration.

The goal is to empower creators as well as users and businesses to move seamlessly between these experiences and for Meta to benefit by providing the infrastructure.

With Facebook, Meta had learned that substantial profit can be made by selling user information and providing the environment in which advertisers and businesses can thrive. Taking the cut (which is currently substantial) of every transaction and selling advertising space will be a big deal for Meta in the metavers. In this sense, the company is not only taking a page from Alphabet’s playbook, but also perpetuating Facebook’s business model.

There is another factor that plays an important role in the adoption and success of metavers: the global socio-economic context.

Modern life is full of crises, and things are likely to get worse before they get better. The global workforce is virtually accustomed to working from home, and with the wars and pandemics that usually occur, there are fewer opportunities for human beings to actively pursue one of humanity’s greatest needs: social interaction.

Although the environments and interactions experienced within virtual and augmented reality are far removed from real-world interactions, the visual fidelity and technology behind them are improving day by day. As options for real-world interactions become scarcer, people will inevitably turn to solutions that offer at least a glimpse of what freedom and company meant in the good old days.

Combine all of these factors with global adoption, substantial financial resources, and a talented workforce, and it’s easy to see how it’s only a matter of time before Meta achieves its high goal.

So, is that good? Caram no. Humans have shown time and time again, especially in recent years, that when we face danger and risk, we prefer comfort and escape over the problem we face.

Obviously, this creates the perfect basis for deepening the crises already present and going back in centuries of adaptation and resilience. To make it clear, I am not only talking about physical dexterity, but also mental acuity driven by real-world experiences, natural curiosity, and freedom of thought.

In this sense, metavers could be a problematic and suffocating environment. Here’s a creepy scenario that could probably occur when the metaverse becomes widespread:

Over time, we could have an increasing number of individuals so accustomed to virtual stimuli that they would show a severe deficit in social skills when interacting with humans in the real world. Since most of his experiences would be formed in controlled virtual environments, his perception of reality would also be skewed. Because of the difference between real-world and digital interactions, these humans would increasingly lack the proper motor skills needed to survive and thrive in the real world. No wonder they preferred the comfort and happy ignorance of the manufactured world, making use of their real-world bodies only to perform the necessary bodily functions. Over time, these individuals may have children who would follow in their parents’ footsteps, spreading dependence on virtual worlds.

Today we already have something similar to the Japanese hikikomori, and although the roots are different, the escape is the same, and for this type of person, the metavers simply offers more.

But we are not moving forward. It is important to note that I am not on a crusade against progress. However, I am not promoting escape as an important way to deal with stress and the challenges of everyday life. Like any tool, metavers can be good if used to facilitate certain interactions, such as remote work, games, and creativity. However, it should be used sparingly and in a way that complements rather than replaces real life. Otherwise, a “Matrix-like” scenario could become increasingly common among the world’s population, leading to a bleak and dystopian future where the digital environment becomes a golden cage for the human psyche. rather than a powerful tool for advancement and improvement.

What is your opinion on this? Let me know in the comments section below.

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