The metaverse isn’t what Zuckerberg think it is

You’ve actually already been dipping your toe in the metaverse for a few years, probably without even knowing it. But it isn’t VR and it definitely isn’t Facebook. The metaverse is actually the polar opposite of Facebook. Or at least, it should be. Allow me to explain.

Before written language your cognition was limited to what you could remember and codify and share through stories. Humans survived thousands of years like this.

Then came the written word, and a select few could start writing down and manufacture stories that shaped the world around them, giving them immense power to influence others across both time and space.

Then came the printing press that allowed for almost anyone to write, print och distribute any written information they wanted, at least in theory. Our distributed cognition and collective sensemaking got upgraded big time.

Then came the radio and television, and fast forward to today; the internet. The internet is in a class of its own because it truly leveled the playing field making it possible for anyone to gather an audience of millions, or even billions. Not even the biggest media networks could’ve dreamed about such a reach just a couple of decades ago.

Enter the metaverse

Suddenly the complexity of the individual and all of the evolutionary and individual quirks, opinions, drives and faults are hooked up and allowed to act on a global stage. Our individual and collective cognition, interaction, sensemaking, information gathering and knowledge creation are let loose, boosted and distorted in all kinds of ways in “cyberspace”.

In the early days of the internet people dreamed of “cyberspace” as a separate universe. Like Tron. Or if you’re a millennial like me, The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. But “cyberspace” isn’t a separate world, it’s still just this world. Because we’re still here. With all our faults and all our quirks as humans. “Cyberspace”, or “the internet” as the kids call it is intertwined with everyday life. Things don’t happen “on the internet” anymore, like they did in the early days. When things happen online, they happen in the real world. There is little distinction today. And still, it’s very different.

Mr Zuck and Facebook, seem to be stuck with the notion of cyberspace as a separate place, very much fueled by the promise of VR and similar technologies. And since they are among the leaders in developing this technology they have made themselves a huge, very shiny and pretty looking VR-hammer that they’re running around with, hitting what they think are VR-nails.

Don’t get me wrong here, VR will probably be a part of the metaverse and one of the ways we interact. But it will be to reality what chat is to email, or what video chat is to voice chat. Same, but different. Nothing revolutionary. Noting that merits calling it metaverse. And definitely not anything that merits a name change. Although, Facebook needed a name change anyway, so they might as well do it now, for silly reasons. It’s not a bad name per se.

So what is the metaverse?

Since you’ve read this far, I’ll tell you what the metaverse is. And I’ll tell you how you’ve already been dipping your toes in it for a few years without realizing it.

The metaverse is the next evolution of human cognition. In the same way the written word was, in the same way the printing press, television, radio and the internet was. It will unleash, and most importantly facilitate and boost your cognition and humanity.

You actually already know what the metaverse is, because Facebook has built the anti-metaverse which lets us see clearly what the real metaverse actually should be. We should thank them for that.

Facebook and all of Silicon Valley have put billions of dollars into the anti-metaverse already. They’ve researched human cognition, habits, reactions and behavior to such a ridiculous degree that any single individual is almost powerless to resist their tricks and algorithms. We’re even talking about social media addiction as a huge, growing problem. Wake up Neo. The matrix has you.

If the anti-metaverse is created to hijack and exploit your basic emotions and evolutionary drives, the metaverse will do the opposite. It will help you counteract and stir the animalistic behavior that helped you survive in the savanna away from today’s destructive manifestations and towards more productive means. But that’s just the beginning.

When we have the first version of a metaphorical (or literal) digitized and reified version of our own conscience on our shoulder we’re well on our way towards a new revolution for the human species. Perhaps we’ll even have a tiny little metaphorical angel on our shoulder with all the world’s best psychologists and behaviorists encoded in it, telling us exactly what we need and (hopefully) want to hear.

But it won’t stop there. Heck, it probably won’t even start there. It’ll probably start with something that most of the modern world is already investing about 50% of its capital in. Human cooperation.

Most companies spend an enormous amount of time and money on trying to get people to work together and cooperate. Think about how horribly Facebook and Silicon Valley help us cooperate and get along with each other. Not so great, huh? Yeah, I told you it’s the anti-metaverse. Now flip it.

Imagine all those billions of dollars, all those experts and all that profit seeking working to improve the algorithms and systems to facilitate cooperation, understanding, knowledge creation, information gathering, creativity, empathy, wisdom and self-knowledge. Imagine Facebook wasn’t trying to get you either extremely happy and satisfied by showing your what you already like and confirming your beliefs or get you upset and make your heart beat fast and get your adrenaline pumping because of that insanely stupid thing someone just said or did. Imagine Facebook actually cared about you and humanity as much as it does today about money. Yes, yes, I know, that’s of course a simplification. Almost nobody is actually evil. They just act within certain structures and systems and have incentives that will manifest truly evil things, without anyone actually being evil. But that’s not a sexy story, so we’ll just leave that part out.

Although, building that kind of metaverse will be a whole different beast than building the anti-metaverse. Since we’re not reducing humans down to their most primitive urges, but facilitating and enhancing their higher functions, the complexity is enormously larger. It’s like the difference between building a space shuttle and blowing it up.

Since the space race in the last century ended in an anticlimactic way with us realizing that we’re way too far from anything at all and that walking on other planets and discovering new worlds would never be a thing, we will instead find a new frontier within our own mind.

There is a silent revolution happening

Some call it the meaning crisis. Some call it the mindfulness revolution. Some call it Game B. Some call it meta-modernism.

None of these things are the same, but they all overlap in important ways. They all work towards humanity’s next frontier. Our new horizon. They look inwards and try to figure out how we can better understand ourselves, each other, how we can fulfill our higher order needs of meaning, belonging, understanding, empathy, and also the L-word. But I dare not say that love is a central concept, because it will surely undermine everything else I’m saying because it sounds too much like new age bullshit. So I won’t say it. I think it’ll be a by-product anyway if we solve the other stuff, so we won’t have to explicitly worry about it.

What about my wet toes?

Yes, yes, we’re getting to that. Hopefully you’re starting to get the picture now, and I’ll finish this ad hoc text by explaining where we are now and what the next step might be.

Like I said, you’ve already been dipping your toes in the metaverse for a few years. The metaverse will enhance and facilitate a better way of being human and thus a better society. It will augment and enhance our drives and ways of being and interact. And the way it’s already helping you do that today is so simple that it’s almost trivial. And it is trivial in your day to day life. But it’s not trivial from a conceptual and evolutionary perspective. I’m talking about the edit-button.

The edit button allows you to say something, broadcast it to the world, and later change it. Sure, you can twist and turn that statement around and make it trivial, because in many ways it is. But in principle it exemplifies what the metaverse should be. It should take something fundamentally human, like communication, and enhance it in important ways. Speaking to an audience of millions is of course another way we’re already living in the metaverse, or the edit or delete button. But the real metaverse will be what technologies, systems, new principles and ways of thinking that we deliberately and explicitly build to enhance our humanity. Daniel Schmachtenberger calls it the cultural enlightenment.

So when someone asks you what the metaverse is, just tell them it’s the edit-button on facebook.

#facebook #metaverse #meta

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