To be honest, I never wanted to talk about the metaverse. An idea that has been floating around since at least the 70s that we are all going to live in VR one day. Populating a world that replicates our old one but allows us to do it somehow better. This idea only being pushed into the forefront again because Facebook wanted to take some light off its rubbish pile of a service.
Instead, insisting the company, now called Meta, was going to focus its efforts on building a metaverse for us all to live in, and this couldn’t be further from what people want if they tried. There’s no denying that technology will get to a stage where it can augment, and in many ways replace, the real one. The sad fact is we might need this if we continue to build data centres and mine cryptocurrency to buy digital crap instead of fixing the world we have. No-one want it to be built by Facebook, though.
Yet, the fundamental idea presented is flawed on so many levels, I am surprised we are still talking about it. That is without the notion that a company like Facebook is going to power such a world to begin with. I don’t want to even go there with the idea that Facebook can somehow be trusted to “bring us all together” when we are perfectly capable of doing that without a viewer strapped to our head. Let’s take a step back for a minute.
The Metaverse that Meta presented was one of replacement. A massive pitch of a rendered reality, not one that can actually be made, instead of the one we live in. Mark presented alternative ways to meet, make meetings, even shop, all in VR and the idea is laughable. No one wants to do those things. No worker in the world wants to have a meeting as it is. Spending time and money recreating something that no one wants to do, instead of finding a way to eliminating that thing, is Silicon Valley at its finest.
What's this? I can push a cart around a virtual grocery store and pick up things off a shelf? I don’t even want to do that in real life, and the technology available to us has already allowed that menial task to be eliminated. Do I even need shopping at all, unless it's for the preselected nutritional paste that is pumped directly into my system because I can’t take the mask of my face because of all the fun I am having watching digital concerts and chatting to my friends in VR?
To burrow down to the core of the issue that I have is that there is nothing new here. Nothing that makes the world a better place, and solves problems. There are, for instance, massive benefits of using VR for disabled people. Improving accessibility and making interaction easier. Nothing is solved by it, but another layer is added on top to make things as ‘normal’ as possible. There’s no pitch to this effect, though. Just privileged folk having meetings or watching a concert with a headset on that they could do in person, or with existing tools.
Add to this the very real side effect that all this energy and work being done is destroying our planet anyway, it seems like some kind of shortsighted dystopian story. A tale of solving problems that occur from the problem trying to be solved. Yet, the solution is already possible.