Is The Metaverse Dystopia Or Utopia?
Recent events have seen Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, announcing a complete rename of the company to Meta in a scheduled video conference lasting over an hour. Furthermore, he introduced to many the idea of the metaverse, the collective body of virtual worlds that Facebook will work to develop over the next decade. For non-enthusiasts, this opened the world of technology to a digital realm that is here to stay.
With the metaverse, people will no longer be required to stay in the same physical space when playing video games, socializing with friends, or attending business meetings. The advent of Web 2.0 saw a change in the understanding of what space is. Zuckerberg has also hinted that the metaverse will completely radicalize the human concept of time and space due to the fact that flat screens simply cannot convey the full spectrum of human connection and expression. This project is one that began long before the mainstream media knew what it was.
Acquisition Of Oculus VR
In 2014, Facebook first acquired Oculus VR for $2 billion, an independent virtual reality company whose core product, the Rift, was designed by hardware enthusiast Palmer Luckey. In a statement made in July, Zuckerberg has predicted that within the next 5 years, Meta will evolve into a social media-focused company to one that resembles a fictional universe. He has described the digital realm as the next stage of communication. With HMDs, we will blur the lines between reality and virtual reality.
Problems Of The Past
From science fiction novels to the real world, the metaverse has been on the lips of everyone lately. It isn’t a new concept in the slightest. Geeks and nerds first read it in a 1992 novel by Neal Stephenson called Snow Crash. The concept, which originated by term in the book 30 some years ago, combined the terms “meta” and “universe” together. Back then, it had already defined the merging of virtual worlds with physical reality.
Prior to Snow Crash’s release, virtual reality had been the experiment of many companies, including and especially the works of VPL Research in the mid 80’s at the helm of Jaron Lanier, a futurist and technologist. Unfortunately, VR’s hype fell deep into the sink as the technology to power the HMDs was simply too expensive and ineffective compared to what is possible today. Modern high-resolution displays in a portable form factor have become possible thanks to smartphone technology. VR’s resurrection was first established in 2012 with the founding of Oculus and used such technology to power its first product.
The World’s Rapid Migration To The Digital Realm
If you are a gamer, then it’s no surprise to hear talk about the virtual world. One such universe that was initialized on flat screens includes Second Life, first released in 2003 and directly inspired by Snow Crash. In this world, users are able to create a fully realized avatar and meet new friends, shop, and partake in social activities all at the same time. Furthermore, it’s a world complete with its own economy, social system, and cultural structure.
Upon the emergence of Second Life, researchers believe it was a reflection of the future of human communication. It created a virtual world through Fortnite. However, it was never a game. Last year, nearly 12 million people watched, on its website, an online rap concert. This population spanned well beyond the game world to include a community of artists.
For every significant step in information technology, radical changes to human lives are observed. Web 2.0 represents the latest major revolution through social media and active involvement on the Internet by figures spanning well beyond the average person. Now, as we step into Web 3.0, we begin to observe the metaverse.
The 2018 Spielberg blockbuster, entitled Ready Player One, tells a modernized story of a virtual universe long depicted in the history of science fiction. In it, the world comes to terms with its ongoing struggles in nuclear war, scarcity, poverty, and climate change. To seek refuge, the population resides in a virtual world known as the OASIS to avoid their real-life problems, live anywhere, and be whoever they want. The virtual world promised by Zuckerberg is designed to deliver this experience in real life. The metaverse will present a digital realm in which anything is possible, where people can travel, socialize, and have experiences beyond their wildest dreams.
The Challenges Of The Metaverse
A lack of payment required to use social media applications has resulted in their widespread use. They have evolved into applications that affect the vast majority of the world’s events. The next stage of its development involves becoming an active participant in the world that was first established there. However, people will require the best possible equipment, and it will be far more difficult to spread in the same way as social media to all of society. This has led to discussions centered around the digital divide, defined as social inequalities arising from the exponential growth of computer power.
Data & Information Security
Although there has been a multitude of discussions surrounding user privacy on behalf of Facebook in recent times, data is inevitably being used by social networks to aid businesses in spending significant barrels of capital for the purposes of targeted advertising. With the avatars created in the future of social media worlds, we will be offering even more information to big tech. The entry of society into the metaverse will be analyzed and monitored. However, the greatest threat lies within the idea of the data belonging to a single, centralized company.
Furthermore, the metaverse is projected to establish an entirely new sector of the economy. Money will be required to purchase innovations, dress avatars, and add more features. The quality of computer hardware will determine one’s place in the digital realm, bringing with it inevitable inequality to the real world. Despite the fact that the metaverse will allow for an escapist utopia to certain segments of society, the vast majority will face dystopia.