As we are more and more exposed to the breathtaking space race between the billionaires, there is a chance you might have missed a new race that has been long started. Perhaps you heard it first when you read the recent announcement by Zuckerborg.
A new digital frontier is in the making. The Meta Verse.
You can think of it as the Lonely Mountain in Hobbit. A place, strategically so important that every race in Middle Earth set out to capture. Well, those have the resource and power of course.
So one of the contenders getting ready to dominate this new uncharted territory is Facebook. (now rebranding itself to show its ultimate purpose as Meta) Epic Games, is also a worthy contender considering how they disrupted the gaming industry with Fortnite and created a digital universe.
Now let’s dive deeper into this digital frontier and talk about what treasures and calamities it might bring to the digital economy and our digital rights.
What is Meta Verse?
Remember this scene from Matrix? Think of Metaverse as the software called the Matrix. Think of it as plugging into a virtual, but “actual” reality.
A place where you can immerse yourself fully into a digital world. Which will be experienced not through a “screen” but possibly through a virtual reality headset. It will allow us to go online and occupy digital spaces just as we do today in physical worlds.
Meta Verse will take decades to fully mature into a living world. Therefore it is still uncharted territory, just as the internet was in the 90s .
Meta Verse will also disrupt the digital economy. We will see a myriad of new products and services launched by companies and individuals alike that will be able to create work and produce value within the Meta Verse.
Just like how in-game purchases and loots in online games created a new market, where individuals play online games to earn virtual currency and other goods, then turn around and sell them for real money.
NFTs will probably tokenize all assets like artwork, real estate, items, collectibles, and even personal identity within these digital realities.
What are the bottlenecks?
The current underlying standards and protocols used for today’s internet won’t cut it for a Meta Verse. Let alone the tech, the interoperability issues that we see today between tech giants even cause too many operational problems. One example might be regarding the operational burden of complying with data portability rights mandated by privacy laws.
So even though the underlying systems of the internet today are not enough to fully provide new digital realities, the improvements in broadband and infrastructure are already allowing us to have micro-dosed experiences.
Games like World of Warcraft, Second Life, or Fortnite are clearly not a Meta Verse. But nothing offers a better glimpse of what Meta Verse can truly become, for those who can see the bigger picture. (William Blake’s “too see a World in a grain of sand” might be a good fit here…)
These games offer huge online worlds, content, and experience to their users. But there is a trick on how they create and maintain these massive worlds.
These games are built in a way so that not every player is part of the same big online world. But rather a player only really sees or interacts with a small handful of other players at any one time due to the current server-client model of the internet. So they are distributing users to servers, separating digital worlds to servers located all around the world to make it possible.
Meta Verse requires persistent, real-time sync among users rather than reaching out to a central server. Therefore it is hard to envision a full-scale meta verse any time soon but rather micro-doses of the experience.
Digital Rights Frontier
Meta Verse must be populated by a massive user base, content, and experience which is why not one tech behemoth will be able to sustain by itself. In my opinion, Meta Verse should be fully distributed, with interoperable standards and protocols, and controlled by individuals.
Yet, there are already tech giants getting ready to abuse their power over these individuals and small groups and absorb them just as how Google, Facebook, and Amazon already did with the current internet.
Surveillance capitalism will evolve and adapt itself to this new world.
Meta, is in a really advantageous position to seize this uncharted territory, considering their 3B active users and limitless resources.
These are serious alert signs regarding our digital rights, considering how they were already violated through the “screens” we are currently using. We are trapped in filter bubbles, by only looking at the texts and images within our tiny screens.
Now, think about how much the risk increases as rather than “screens”, we will totally submerge and immerse ourselves within a world created by these very tech giants and live inside their servers, a “second life”.
In a previous post regarding Children, Gaming, and Privacy, I touched upon how playing games can produce sensitive information about us. How gaming companies are retrieving this information from our in-game actions, reactions, and decisions.
Consider how much information and digital footprints we will be producing in an online world. Think about how valuable these will be for an ad network provider within a Meta Verse.
We must be asking these questions from day one, we must be watching and participating more in how they will be created.
Or we can watch them become a new human farm. Where we believe we are in heaven, but rather become puppets of these tech giants.
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