EXPLAINER: The Metaverse

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The interwebs has been buzzing with talk of the Metaverse since Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s plans to become part of it in July.

Zuckerberg is known for wanting to be in every corner of the Technosphere so it’s not really a surprise he wants in on the action when it comes to the next iteration and evolution of the internet.  In fact, I don’t know what took him so long – Tim Sweeny from Riot Games (the dude who created Fortnite – widely regarded as a beta version of the Metaverse) has been presenting his vision for it for several years (in 2017 he said it was about 3 years away).

What even is it?

The Metaverse is basically the convergence of the millions of online ecosystems into one central digital cosmos.  Rather than logging into different platforms (Facebook or Discord, Fortnite or Roblox), you will theoretically go to one portal and the whole digital galaxy will exist there.

Think Second Life meets Web 2.0, meets gaming, meets Augmented Reality, meets blockchain and crypto.  It’s a digital world that exists parallel to our analogue physical one.

Some of the features of the metaverse are that it is:

  • Synchronous and live: you will experience it in real time, via scheduled events (like concerts) as well as spontaneous activities (like buskers or town hall chats)
  • Persistent: there are no opening or closing times, there are volume limits on access.
  • Economically and financially functional: you can own, invest, buy and sell in the metaverse, you can be rewarded for work and increase your value.
  • Convergent: its spans the physical and digital, there will truly no longer be a difference between online and ‘in real life’, it will bring together all of the features that currently are accessed separately.

Who owns the Metaverse?

Noone as it hasn’t been actually created.  We’re basically in an era before the big bang where the blue print for the metaverse is being designed but no one has brought it together yet.  There are huge tech platforms/planets that exist that we access separately to each other, the Metaverse will see a convergence of these, so the race to build it and own it is on.  Again, Sweeny has been concerned about proprietorship for 4 years. The race to build and own the metaverse is on.

How do I login in?

You can’t, yet.

What does this mean for our wellbeing?

Probably that all the people who freak out about teens and smartphones will shift their moral panic to the metaverse and fears around a loss of humanity and succumbing to a kind of cyborg existence.  You just wait…

Rather than a focus on ‘digital wellbeing’, we will need to be asking questions about our ‘metaversal wellbeing’ – how we can live meaningful and connected lives in the metaverse and how we can ‘stay human’ inside of it.

Further reading on the metaverse:

Got thoughts on the metaverse?  Are you excited or skeptical about it?  Comment below.