O Brave New Verse
The Meta and Metaverse initiative was announced at the end of June this year by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. His vision was ambitious. His initiative entailed building a maximalist, interconnected set of experiences in a world known as the metaverse. If it sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi novel, that is because it is. The term was coined by Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash. The term refers to a physical, augmented and virtual reality converging into one single universe experience. That is what Zuckerberg plans to do, create the reality that authors and filmmakers have warned us against for decades.
Zuckerberg’s motives are even more questionable given the timing he revealed his big news. It was not too long ago that Facebook was under fire for allowing fake news to spread on the platform. Facebook has also been criticized for damaging micro-targeted ads and collecting users’ information without their knowledge. Instagram is also under fire for fostering an environment that makes adolescents insecure and promotes eating disorders. The biggest charge among all of these is Facebook’s hand in the 2016 Presidential election. It is fair to say Zuckerberg is trying to revamp his company to save face, but rather than reprimanding his practice, he has created a new initiative that is questionable.
What is the purpose of Metaverse if not to distract people from issues going on in the real world? Social media already functions in that way, but even some part of it is based on reality. With social media, we share parts of our reality with one another. With a metaverse that is completely thrown out and replaced with an alternate reality. I think we can all agree that we have enough distractions in our society. The influx of entertainment goods and services being produced within recent years is telling. With gaming, social media and streaming platforms there is always something to do. Metaverse plans to combine all of these, alongside things found in the real world like banking and transport them to a realm away from our reality.
O brave new world, that has such people in it! Just when we need to be more aware and connected than ever we are the most detached. Metaverse is not a gimmick, it is a warning of what is to come. And it is now more important than ever for us to become conscious consumers. We must question the motives of people like Zuckerberg and demand transparency. If we do not, those who do not have the privilege to escape to the metaverse will suffer the most. Who are we if we do not care for our community and rather partake in escapism, the easy way out? I am not suggesting boycotting Meta as this new evil, but rather stop and question why we need the metaverse in the first place.