Meta-Insight into the Metaverse
The first-ever website went live in 1991, and it had nothing more than a plain white background and some text on it. The first photograph was uploaded on the internet on the 18th of July of the following year, closely followed by "Me at the zoo", the first video in 2005. With time, we have evolved to more and more engaging mediums. May the transition be from letters to text messaging, or the introduction of VR and AR, and Metaverse is the next.
But is Facebook's — oh sorry! But is Meta's Metaverse really "a dystopian future?" A concept not unlike the Metaverse (there called Oasis) was portrayed in Steven Speilberg's Ready Player One, a world with almost no social interactions and restricted to concrete jungles. It contained cages for humanity or otherwise. But before getting into such predictions, let us understand what "The Metaverse" really is.
Broadly speaking, we can classify it as unique cyberspace but a more idealistic version of it. Imagine a form of internet that isn't on your screen, but an internet that you are inside! An internet where you can unwind, socialise, sky-dive, horse-ride, work and do anything that comes to your mind, really live out your fantasy! A platform like Metaverse unravels the incredible power of the internet, revolutionising and forever changing how people interact, work, entertain themselves, and lead their daily lives. Basically, it is a "Living Shared Everlasting Virtual Universe" in the words of a famous YouTuber, Arun Maini.
From the perspective of technology, the three main stems that help constitute the Metaverse are Web 3.0, the next iteration of the internet that broadly focuses on decentralisation and promotes transparency. The blockchain technology of Web 3.0 is an integral part of building Metaverse. Lastly, both Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality(AR) help bring the concept "of a different universe" to life. While in web 2.0, the only thing that an individual could really own was the domain, web 3.0 allows users to hold 'parts' of the internet with the help of Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs.
The Metaverse seeks to provide a life-like experience by virtual presence holograms, called Avatars. They are essentially "virtual identities of a person", 3D moving figurines that mimick an individuals' actions and expressions, seeking to make interactions richer than anything that is possible today. These so-called legless Sims™ will definitely evolve as we did from fish, to be more human-like, and really walk than float around like aliens.
Aside from Fa— Meta… a lot of companies and experts see great potential in the Metaverse as a whole. Other than the primary company introducing Horizon-Home, Worlds and Workrooms into this synthetic universe, companies like Microsoft have also announced their involvement in this platform. Introducing features like Mesh for Microsoft Teams to really facilitate the concept of virtual presence Avatars in video calls, and integrating Microsoft Dynamics 365 into a full-scale VR/AR model; Microsoft is really working towards expanding its model into the growing entropy of this cyberspace, foreseeing a great potential in the platform for a booming business ecosystem. "The metaverse enables us to embed computing into the real world, and to embed the real world into computing, bringing real presence to any digital space"-says Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft. May it be a normal conference as avatars, or interacting with a coworker who either works remotely or is in a different part of the world, a shift from traditional video calls is really sought to be welcomed by organisations to not only boost productivity and collaboration, but also save on expenditure on maintaining state of the art office complexes, and rather owning 'internet real-estate instead'.
The Metaverse would also help the planet significantly, with a shift from real goods to virtual objects. The pollution emission from factories will exponentially decrease with the growing demand for virtual goods, as will the automobile and aviation emission with teleportation being the means of travel in the Metaverse. If the world does in fact shift to this universe of pixels, our environmental concerns may become a thing of the past!
Metaverse offers endless opportunities, offers financial advantages to both individuals and companies and does not fall short to bring about a positive impact on the environment either!
So, what really is the problem with this digital universe?
Imagine a world, where everything is controlled by one person, everything that is being done on that particular platform is being tracked by one person, and all the information shared on that platform is rightfully his. Can you name such a world? Metaverse indeed, with Mark Zuckerberg having the 'meta’-Excalibur to the VR-cage of the said cyberspace.
We have all known Facebook(yes not Meta) to keep track of personal information from users, events from their lives. It has been slammed with several lawsuits over its year of operation. Even imagining a world wherein …Meta…has access to almost every conservation, every individuals' personal life, every conference of another company, gives me the shivers. Monetising this data is a piece of cake for the parent firm.
Being a platform based on the internet, any means of accessing the Metaverse is certainly going to be digital. With the current situation of the pandemic, a vast majority of humanity has migrated to online means, may it be things relating to work, education or otherwise. A great population have realised that clocking several hours in front of a screen isn't really the best option, with fatigue, headache, tired eyes and a screening of one's entire life in front of their eyes coming complimentary. Metaverse takes this a step forward. Living in the Metaverse, restricting our work, education, socialisation and entertainment to it basically implies being online all the time.
While being online all the time not only takes a hit on an individuals health, may it be physical or mental, but also destroys the concept of offline socialising and human touch as we know it today. Logistical constraints are also a factor in the growing popularity of this virtual universe, but Meta has already planned ahead in this regard, and has strategised to reduce costs of its VR gadgets, and also come up with new VR headsets to aid this 'universe transformation'.
Snow Crash’, a science-fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992 was the first to use the word ‘metaverse’. The author used the word to portray a virtual universe in a dystopian world, where due to the destruction of lives and nature, humans stay trapped in their concrete jungles and live in the Metaverse. The novel itself does not show the Metaverse in a positive light, and not something that humanity should in fact seek out and build.
'What really is the future of Metaverse and Meta? Commenting on this is like commenting on the internet way back in the 90s.
In my opinion, the Metaverse, or really the concept of a virtual universe is what the internet and social media may evolve into. Metaverse in itself has great potential, to connect persons from around the world in a more expressive and personal manner, to aid education, and open a whole new idea of socialising and entertainment. However, every coin has two sides, and Metaverse is no exception to it. Metaverse too could be a great tool, much like the internet today, if it is used in a regulated manner, with concerns of privacy and tyranny being addressed.
The future of Meta with respect to the Metaverse does seem bright, and only time shall unravel how this platform evolves if it becomes the 'new universe' or is just another tool used within a limit to aid man's productivity.