Is COVID-19 a Co-Star to Our New “Black Mirror” Future Reality?

Image from Forbes, “The Important Difference Between Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality” by contributor Bernard Marr

The impact of the worldwide pandemic COVID-19 has altered the lives of humans globally, from the way we function to the remodeling of our environment. Who would have known that the life that Americans have familiarized themselves with since December 2019 would be left behind as we counted down the seconds to the New Year of 2020.

The first confirmed case of Coronavirus in the United States presented itself in the state of Washington late January which took everyone by surprise since we have yet to receive any guidelines on how to prepare for this new disease. Those who feared the end of the world (or at least the human race) thought we would solve our problems one toilet paper at a time as the media focused on the human behavior towards the hoarding of toilet paper.

Little did we know that the toilet paper frenzy was only the beginning of a long list of commodities that became impossible to acquire due to these fearful times. As the cases grew in numbers and death toll started rising in the U.S. as well as all over the world, countries began to shut down their borders. Eventually, governments took the precautions they thought necessary for the safety of their country and citizens.

American lives paused mid-way as if we were in some kind of video game and people anxiously waited for someone to press resume. The plans of being able to see peers at school and/or workplaces, shop for basic necessities, or even gather for special occasions was abruptly replaced by a virtual alternative.

Except for the routinely banging of kitchenware and cheers of citizens showing appreciation to our frontline healthcare workers, the silence of deserted streets stretched on for months. As the the world shut down with restrictions in place allowing people to go outside temporarily when needed, this allowed for many company’s stocks to sky rocket.

Image from USA Today article, “Here are 40 solid stocks of companies thriving through the coronavirus recession” by John C. Ogg and Chris Lange

Whereas companies that have to do with traveling were negatively impacted such airlines and hotels, companies that facilitated the transition from being outside to staying at home improved tremendously. Amazon, Netflix, Peloton, and Zoom were one of the top stocks according to USA Today that were well off during the crisis.

As the world adjusted to lockdown protocols in order to keep the virus under control, some people’s perspective of the life after the pandemic evolved. No longer were people anxiously waiting to go back to their daily routines that was suddenly taken from them, instead, they proposed an alternative to the lives they anticipated.

COVID-19 might have been the push needed to demonstrate that we can depend on the internet access to facilitate our daily routines. Most workers who have never experienced the life of working from home prior to the pandemic found that their jobs were easier if they were able to do it from home.

Image contained from “How the Coronavirus Outbreak Has- and Hasn’t- Changed the Way Americans Work” by Kim Parker, Juliana Menasce Horowitz, and Rachel Minkin

Many new innovative proposals emerged from this new attitude towards remote access to life after restrictions were lifted. Some ideas were just emphasized after the first COVID wave. One of the most recent concepts that has become a hot topic globally is the development of the Metaverse.

Metaverse is not COVID-19 brand new to the world as it was mentioned prior in the 1990s in a book called “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson. The book is about people who immerse in a virtual life differently than their own which predicts “a future America”.

Image from GoodReads

The CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, of Meta which is formerly known as Facebook, is a supporter of this virtual reality idea. In the wake of uncovering Facebook’s rebranding, Mark stated, “The next platform and medium will be even more immersive and embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it, and we call this the metaverse.”

Advocates of the metaverse imagine people working, playing, socializing and bonding through everything from shows and gatherings to virtual worldwide outings like business trips or even vacations.

To my surprise, you are even able to immerse into a virtual real estate world which would definitely impact my career in the future since presently I am a legal assistant for a real estate firm in NYC. Currently, people are able to buy and sell virtual land and stocks which is signaling how palpable and swiftly this new world is plunging into our lives.

NFTs (Non-fungible tokens) are a popular demand at the moment as we see different influencers such as Paris Hilton, John Cena, Ellen DeGeneres, Eminem, and much more jump on this bandwagon.

CNN: “A CryptoKitty”

In her article, “What is an NFT? Non-fungible tokens explained”, Jazmin Goodwin explains NFTs as “pieces of digital content linked to the blockchain, the digital database underpinning cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum…NFTs are unique and not mutually interchangeable, which means no two NFTs are the same…NFTs create scarcity among otherwise infinitely available assets — and theres even a certificate of authenticity to prove it. NFTs are typically used to buy and sell digital artwork and can take the form of GIFs, tweets, virtual trading cards, images of physical objects, video game skins, virtual real estate and more.”

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is not something new to us though.

There are virtual reality games, headsets, lenses, and much more that already existed for the gaming world. Gamers have already experienced firsthand what it is to submerge in a virtual world none like the one we live in pretending to be character that do not represent their real selves in our world.

However, it is the spread of where VR and AR is being consumed that is currently growing by a lot today.

Image from FinancesOnline

Until the pandemic, people did not have to worry about their companies being at risk of losing profit because of outside forces. The pandemic has now made it clear how crucial it is to find alternative ways to continue their jobs regardless of the setting they are in.

Of course there will be some heavy investment in the process of transitioning to this latest revolution in technology. But it would also save major companies from falling behind on gains, having to furlough their workers, and most importantly risking their companies overall.

Not all businesses will be able to profit from a VR world such as restaurants, construction companies, factories, etc. However, being involved in the virtual world can make their jobs easier by providing and being provided a visual representation of purpose.

But will metaverse consume the lives of people past helping them in predicaments like COVID? Most likely. And will that be a good or bad thing? At this very moment in time, it is difficult to weigh the good with the bad since we have not fully transitioned into this new tech life.

Some compare whats to come to the Netflix original series, “Black Mirror”. According to the show’s description on Netflix, “this sci-fi anthology series explores a twisted, high-tech near-future where humanity’s greatest innovations and darkest instincts collide.”

Image taken from IMDb

This show represents a more up-to date theory of the lives of people who live in a tech world. It is one of the most disturbing theories on Netflix because although as intriguing as the show may be, it is discomforting to acknowledge the possibility of our lives becoming equivalent to those characters in the show.

Even if the show’s theory is not as accurate to what the future may hold, it does highlight very important characteristics of people who are consumed by the tech world such as social media.

There are critics of metaverse. Shaan Puri, the director of Twitter, suggested a theory that that metaverse wont be a place, rather a time. In one of his three part theory tweets he claims that the metaverse will have a “moment in time where our digital life is worth more to us than our physical life.”

From Twitter Thread

The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced many ways in which people imagine the future of the world. Without this experience, numerous of people would not have been easily convinced to reshape the environment that affects our day-to-day duties.

Nonetheless, COVID-19 definitely played a role in the virtual revolution that will play out in the next 5–10 years.

During the process of this transformation we have lost some important people, businesses, and values.

However, this transformation has opened up many possibilities to new beginnings and we should expect more similar news in the upcoming years as we still struggle to find an end to this pandemic.

My own theory is that this all comes down to the government being able to control people further than what their current capabilities allows them to. I believe that COVID-19 is a disease that was planned for this very purpose — to be able to introduce the world to a more in depth consumption of the tech world.

Unfortunately, this is deviating from the topic at hand so I will end my blog here.

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Just a student expressing her ideas.

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Lisbeth Almanzar

Lisbeth Almanzar

Just a student expressing her ideas.

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