The Metaverse: Democratizing Reality

I have to admit, when Facebook announced their supposed saving grace was virtual reality, I was as skeptical and cynical as everyone else. The company that tracks you across the Internet and quantifies your every interest and whim wants to strap a headset on you? And I am still plenty wary of Facebook the company, no matter how many re-brands, re-names, or re-thinking they do.

However, that doesn’t mean we need to carry over all that criticism to the idea of the metaverse itself. Looking back, we know the Internet democratized information. It and its technological foundations came from information theorists, computer networking scientists, and radio frequency engineers. Looking at the now, we have cryptocurrency which claims to democratize money. I’m not going to get into that here, but it fits the theme of watershed technological innovations that — regardless of their merit or what you think of them — changed the world forever and cannot be put back into Pandora’s Box now that they’re out there. Looking forward, we may have the metaverse, which democratizes reality.

I will likely never go to even one tenth of the exotic, exclusive, and expensive places the rich travel to regularly. I will never fly a private jet, nor board a yacht. I will never take a luxurious vacation to the Seychelles or stay at the Palms hotel. There are countless things out of the reach of the vast, vast majority of the population. However, imagine you could virtually experience the snowy slopes of the Alps, or the great expanse of the African savanna, or even a “Blue Marble” view of the Earth, all accessible to you. Imagine coming home to a tavern out of Skyrim, or taking a walk through your own Animal Crossing village. The possibilities are endless. The metaverse offers amazing opportunities to expand our reality, to help make the dull parts of life a little more enjoyable, to give you some control over the time you have.

Of course, there are technical objections. A headset is hardly a supplement for actually being somewhere. However, I believe that if these technical problems could be overcome — just as much of the Internet’s have — the core of what the metaverse is, is actually transformative. At least it has the potential to be. No one knows how these ideas, perfect in isolation, would actually come to fruition and under what limitations. But I was surprised to find that this alternate reality is not as dour as its biggest proponent. I don’t want to do Facebook’s marketing work for them, but I think the whole “virtual office” idea is an awful way to introduce the metaverse. Who wants to do that? If we instead imagine the possibility of controlling our surroundings and our experiences, of making the impossible a simple download away, of giving power to the people to determine their own reality, the metaverse is the next watershed technological revolution.

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