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Time to go to the Metaverse?

The Metaverse is the only thing people are talking about these days. Well, other than the pandemic, vaccines, masks, war, politics, inflation, NFTs, cryptocurrencies, oh, and global warming, equity, diversity and inclusion, house affordability and the cost of gas. 

But the metaverse. It’s either the next big thing that will solve many current problems or the next big hype that will dissolve into a whiff of current-events-past when the next hopefully big thing comes along. The trick is how to know the difference between truly revolutionary new things that promise to advance society versus something that just looks like it will, and a bunch of people agreed, but might work out as suggested.

In reality, what is the metaverse? Every media outlet seems to have recently written an article to answer this question1, so I won’t repeat the details. My synopsis: 

The metaverse is an artificial reality where humans can either:

  • do the same things they would do in real reality, like have meetings, or be entertained.
  • do things they’d like to do but can’t because they are impossible in real life, such as play games based on fantasy – e.g. fighting orcs. 
  • or, experience things that aren’t feasible for real reasons, like wearing expensive clothes, sitting next to a celebrity, or travelling 12,000 miles in seconds. 

This metaverse place sounds like fun, right? At one level, it’s easy to understand, as an extension of the communication technology we are all familiar with. It’s only a bit of stretch to imagine my avatar shaking hands with your avatar on Mars when we currently have Zoom calls. And it’s only a bit more tech to have a hand and body controlled VR simulation, running through streets shooting at things, compared to directing a character with a Wii controller to do the same.

My instincts are telling me there is more. There seem many possibilities for the potential implications of the metaverse.:

  • it has the potential to warp our perceptions of what is real or what is not – an ethical dilemma
  • it is hyped out of proportion and merely another communication channel – an old business model
  • it is a new way of living, a new wave of technology and creative destruction – innovation
  • it’s only one business model for VR and AR apps – maturing technology and therefore new products in a defined market
  • it’s being exploited by big business – anti-capitalist conspiracy theory
  • it’s the solution to many pressing social problems – optimistic slant
  • it’s an academic phenomena – an entertaining abstract thing of little practical importance.

More than one analyst has likened these early days in our experience of the metaverse to the mysteries of the internet in 1995. Back then, I guessed at URLs to find things I might be interested in. By analogy, another possibility for what the metaverse is – a novelty. A source of amusement based on having access to a new thingie that doesn’t do anything critical to survival or daily life, but is… interesting.

The 1995 internet did provide access to information far better than any other existing source. What could the 2022 metaverse provide us? Ha-ha, this could be where the big business conspiracy theories kick in. In the early 2000’s of the internet , the burning question was whether it would become something commercially viable, or remain academic, not-for-profit, and therefore of limited use. This fit well with the internet as a source of information. Who else other than scholars have an insatiable hunger for information? 

Twenty years later, we know the answer. Hindsight is 20/20. Clever business people have discovered how much we all enjoy information. Businesses enjoy information, especially about customers, because it can be used to sell things, many things. 

The internet proved to be a place where inherent human needs are met in new, and yet old, ways. In other words, what the internet currently does for us, we did in other ways before the internet, but less effectively, or efficiently. We communicate. We find information, knowledge and data. We are comforted by it, inspired by it, and enlightened by it. We find community. We find items we need or want. We find employment, culture, history and more. Business prospers by making each of these needs accessible and practical.

Does the metaverse meet needs in new and yet old ways? 

The businesses that are currently honed in on the metaverse tend to be in gaming, which is big business. If real human needs are satisfied through the metaverse, it will be much bigger than fun and games. I’m interested to know more about its potential.

I’m going to go to the metaverse more often. It might be interesting.

1 I like this one:

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