A few days ago, while my 5 years old daughter was on a video call with her little cousin, I saw how they shared about what they were eating, showed each other their new toys and made silly faces in front of the camera, no matter that they were in different cities, very far away from each other. This made me wonder about how the technological future will look like for her generation; and above all, will we be prepared for what is coming?… Unfortunately for me, I found out the next couple of days, that the new “internet” was being built under the name of Metaverse, and nowadays, no one stops talking about it.
This concept, which now becomes confusing and comes at a time when we are exhausted from the crisis generated by the Covid-19; actually comes originally from the imagination of Neal Stephenson, author of the science fiction novel ‘Snow Crash‘ from 1992. In this dystopia, he describes the metaverse as a digital universe, adopted as a shelter from the Mafia and where people could interact with each other. Without being new, this is a trend that regained strength during our post-pandemic days, the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated that vertiginously, our offices instantly shrunk to the size of a screen. We know how fragile we can feel, and how it is to be forced to stop our lives, and perform many daily activities virtually without even being prepared. Even Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of the great technology company Facebook (now Meta), in October 2021, announced and showed advances of his new bet that is already in development, a virtual universe in which he intends us to work, buy, study and even have a social life.
There is no doubt, the metaverse is here, and it is here to stay.
With the evidence and the great challenge of rethinking, transforming and connecting people in real time to promote work, educational and family environments; computer giants such as Microsoft consider the Metaverse as a breakthrough, and therefore decided to improve their own tools such as Teams and its innovative Mesh platform. Likewise, Minecraft, a video game acquired by Microsoft that has achieved great popularity for its simple and open way of choosing how to play it; it has been considered as an option of digital universe, to simulate university campuses, to carry out sports meetings, integrations for students and to create learning challenges through gamification techniques. The metaverse has come to our times as a great new scenario courtesy of augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality and blockchain; transactions in the virtual world, are executed through the famous cryptocurrencies and another concept, totally worth to talk about in another post, the NFTs. Non fungible tokens (NFT) are the main method to monetize and exchange value within these digital universes, such as the purchase of digital art or the purchase of real estate that has reached exorbitant values. This is the case of the prestigious consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the latest firms to trade in the real estate market of The Sandbox, a platform known for generating virtual worlds in which we can socialize, play, buy and even watch concerts of our favorite artists.
What about reality?
Reality is all that we can perceive, our perception is changing and will continue to change. It is already a fact that we spend much of our time online, immersed there; however, the idea of not materializing a physical contact, the thought under what circumstances the metaverse is possible, if more places will be closed, or if concerts will be canceled to create a complete experience in this new world, is disturbing. Will work meetings suddenly move to a space in the cloud?, will children then grow up under a stimulus panorama with completely unknown effects, so much so that they could approach metaphysics? The morality of the metaverse project is the least of its problems.
With all this brittle context, the way to define the metaverse, then, is… not to define it. The metaverse is not a particular technology with a specific goal, but rather a wide range of technological tools that interact with each other and may have new uses and disruptive purposes.
Is the metaverse fit for humanity itself?
We could answer this question analyzing different points of view:
- Unfortunately, there is a lack of governance within these spaces, real-life valid rules, principles and values can’t stop humanity to create a dysfunctional bubble against everything we have already built.
- The metaverse can take us away from our own bodies, generating an ignorance of our reality, senses and society; in other words, we would lose touch. Touch is a fundamental part of humanity, “If we lose touch with ourselves,” the philosopher Richard Kearney writes, “we lose touch with the world. No tactile connection, no resonance between self and other.”
- In the past, we wouldn’t imagine the extent of harassment through the Internet and social networks, but it is a reality; and in the metaverse we can already see cases such as what happened recently with Nina Jane Patel from England, who reported having been sexually harassed in the beta version of the environment developed by Meta.
- In today’s world, we have a media invasion on this issue. This has increased the pressure to be part of the metaverse, which everyone seems to be building, but no one knows where it is, added to the high post-pandemic uncertainty that we live in this environment faithfully BANI: brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible.
News and reports on the metaverse deliver many data and percentages that you don’t even know if they apply to you, others are too specialized and difficult to understand. In social networks they seem to be all fake news, and not very credible facts; and Google offers random results with very different points of view… neither do you know a therapist who specializes in the uncertainty caused by the metaverse hype, able to explain to you what is really going to happen, and you know it because, actually your current therapist is also looking for it. However, there’s a little breeze of positivism because you also know that the metaverse does have many advantages and that it has a promising future… So, are you ready for the Metaverse?
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