It is undeniably the next step into the future of social interactions, economic opportunities, and cultural dissemination.
It’s VR/AR’s and social media’s love child, and we’re here, in 2022, to witness the birth pangs of the space where humanity will be spending huge chunks of their time.
The biggest names in the most disparate niches of tech and entertainment are throwing bucketsful of money towards its development.
Through the heavy involvement of Microsoft, Adobe, Facebook (which has rebranded itself as Meta), Epic Games, Activision, Nike, Amazon, and Google, to mention but few of the biggest companies, the metaverse is poised to go from the $12B affair it was in 2020 to a £72.8B investment by 2024.
So there’s no denying that it’s happening, and you might as well plan to invest into a good VR set sometime soon if you don’t want to be left behind like generations of boomers missing out on the explosion of social media in the 00s.
And to be honest, what’s not to love about the ideas behind the metaverse?
You’ll be able to socialize from the comfort of your living room, or access facilities that are out of your reach in the real world.
You’ll be able to see your favorite band live, visit your doctor for prescriptions, and find the avatar-love of your life, all while being able to experience history-making moments that you’ll be able to witness in the front row.
The whole world will be connected, and having a friend on the other side of the globe is not going to hinder your relationship with them: socializing will be like belonging to an MMO guild, but on steroids.
There’s always a but when one depicts future scenarios.
And sometimes these buts can turn out to be real ugly.
Let me explain what I mean with this.
As of now, and we are ridiculously early: the metaverse is just a collection of floating worlds loosely connected to one another, which we hop on and off of at our convenience.
Visiting the Sandbox, Decentraland, and all of the early iterations of the metaverse is like visiting different clubs or establishments. And just like with any club or social venue, each has its own rules, and they vary hugely.
Just like the internet, the metaverse is ruled by no centralized authority.
For now, at least.
This beautiful, ultramodern new world, combining Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Physical Reality, powered by blockchain technology and non-fungible tokens, is poised to become a commodity worth north of $10 trillion by 2030.
The idea that a peak-capitalist society like ours will not witness giant corporations vying for the control of this money making machine is at the very least questionable.
The metaverse is an enhancement of all that is good and bad in our society and the hi tech and online social space today:
We’ve outlined the good, so now it’s probably a good idea to try and envision what could go wrong once the metaverse becomes the first stop for people’s entertainment, consumer habits and social life.
The first aspect is pretty simple, to be honest.
- The metaverse is still in its infancy, and, while predictions tell us that it will be the next big thing, the truth is that it still isn’t:
Most metaverses are frequented only by the most tech savvy nerds worldwide, and that creates a really low percentage of people who can, at this moment in time, be present in a metaverse.
Out of the 4% worldwide who have ever bought crypto in their lives, how many have bought NFTs? And out of those, how many are also interested in VR/AR and persistent worlds online?
Less that 1% of the population is actively interested in metaverse issues, and such a small number means that things can easily go in the desired direction, but also fail catastrophically.
Being a very new space, the metaverse is clearly open to fraud and scams.
I’m not talking about crimes related to scamming people out of money only, but possibilities of identity theft, the proliferation of deep fakes, and the explosion of VR related cybercrime.
Every law has its loophole, so every cyberlaw must have its virtual loophole that people will find and exploit.
The people committing frauds on the metaverse are the same people who commit crime on the blockchain, and who scammed people on the phone before the internet.
This is closely linked to privacy issues, another massive subject companies are freaking out about:
- Imagine the privacy issues presented on the internet and multiply them a thousandfold.
VR headsets will monitor what we look at and haptic devices will register our mood while performing certain actions rather than others.
A marketer’s dream come true is usually a consumer’s nightmare.
- Don’t even get me started with the health issues related to over-extending your presence in the metaverse.
We already have issues with internet and gaming addiction: compulsive gaming has been classified as a disease in 2022.
Imagine how addictive the metaverse will be when all your life could revolve around it: the people you meet, the products you shop for, the games that you play.
You also have what are called VR hangovers, a kind of depression that hits you when you finally disconnect from the matrix and suffer withdrawal from the constant bombardment of stimuli programmed in the metaverse.
Does it really have to be this bad?
Does technology necessarily need to come and bite you in the ass?
Considering the way we are abusing social media, and how people’s online persona differs drastically from their real self, the chances are quite big.
Our therapists will make a killing asking us why are you not forming normal social connections, or why we’re not getting married, or physically not exercising away our depression.
And will mumble back a reply, trying to explain to a well-adjusted individual of how, together with your virtual girlfriend, you enjoyed a walk on a virtual promenade, before watching a virtual gig in the metaverse.
There is no unchangeable way of how this is going to work out, but what I’m sure that unless we make a collective effort to nip the future problems in the bud, and create a safer environment AS we build the metaverse, and not ONCE it has been built, we will headed towards very interesting, and not so entertaining, times.
The Metaverse is not getting the attention it deserves, and that the problems it could create deserve.
We should be handling the whole discourse with the utmost care, giving it at least as much thought and attention as we have given to nuclear power, and that we are currently giving to AI, and how it will condition our lives.
If we do not start having informed conversations about the metaverse phenomenon now that it is still in its infancy, we seriously risk this new space becoming an online replica of the real world.
Things could easily go in the direction of creating a fertile environment where this technology will only benefit big business and giant corporations.
If you think that the metaverse will not become one of the most impactful paradigm shifts in recent history, you should check out the time you spend on your phone or laptop socializing, consuming, planning, devouring entertainment.
What we do on our devices today, and the amount of time we spend on them, will increase exponentially, so it is paramount that we engage in timely and constructive discussions on how to direct the metaverse towards that state of freedom, security, and lack of an intermediary, that blockchain-sphere should be all about.
If we were to neglect this fundamental aspect, then we would be royally, and virtually, screwed.
Image by Freepik