We have an opportunity now to create a new world — from scratch. We can break from the shackles of atrocious societal norms and be whoever we want to be. We do not need to be defined by gender or race or our sexual identities. The big bang of the digital world is happening — now.
There was once a world where semi-autonomous guard units were deployed for personal defense, car wheels could take the shape of cracks or bumps, and a railgun was firing depleted uranium flechettes. This was the virtual world in a 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash”, written by Neal Stephenson. The word ‘metaverse’ is borrowed from this novel. It described a future of the internet that was based on virtual reality. In the novel, people in an attempt to escape from reality, used avatars of themselves to discover the online world. This book came very close to predicting the metaverse of today. In the words of Alex M. Vikoulov, author of The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution, “The next major technological platform for creative expansion of the mind will be cyberspace, or more specifically the Metaverse, a functional successor to today’s 2D Internet, with virtual places instead of Webpages.“
Imagine waking up in the morning, and ‘going’ to work, socializing with friends, maybe even attending a music concert (because, why not when you can) — all without actually leaving our house. Everything we do in our real lives can be done in the metaverse (well, maybe not eating and sleeping). The Metaverse is a three-dimensional digital universe in which we can get immersed and in which we can interact with virtual objects and avatars of other people. Today the internet allows us to consume content on a two-dimensional screen. Metaverse will extend this experience to the third dimension. We will be able to immerse ourselves and engage in exciting and thrilling (unless it is your office in the metaverse) virtual three dimensional universes which will be almost indistinguishable from the real world.
Remember that guy, Mark Zuckerberg? The guy who created Facebook? He said, “We believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile internet,” and that “We’ll be able to feel present — like we’re right there with people no matter how far apart we actually are.” Then he said ‘let there be Meta’ and changed the company name to Meta (well, he didn’t actually say that!). All this is not to say that the metaverse will be a replacement for our real lives. The metaverse is meant to be an addition to our lives, not a complete replacement.
All this sounds great, but do I need a visa to enter the metaverse?
As of now, there are two types of ‘visas’ to the metaverse. For the complete package, we need a special pair of headsets (known as Virtual Reality headsets) and glasses (known as Augmented Reality glasses). However, there is a lighter package that includes only VR headsets and a Desktop. So now we have entered the metaverse, and we want to wave at our friend. How do we do that? We can either use a gaming console or motion-sensing controllers.
“All you need is a plan, the road map, and the courage to press on to your destination” — someone famous
Do you know how commonly understood the word ‘internet’ was in the 1970s? Almost as much as the word ‘metaverse’ is now. Up until the mid 1960s if you wanted a personal computer you would need a degree in science and laboratory to put the massive computer and its accessories in. Yet today, not only can most of us not imagine our lives without the internet, we carry smart computing devices in our pockets.
There is no reason why technology will not evolve to accommodate all the necessities of the metaverse. Given that the key constructs of the metaverse — virtual reality, augmented reality, and the internet are already in place, the question is not ‘if metaverse will come’, it is ‘when’.
Hop aboard for a day in the metaverse
Let us begin your day with you hanging out with your friends who are spread all over the globe. Fa-, I mean Meta’s Horizon World is one of many options for doing that. Next, let’s say you want to attend a concert, and Fortnite (which has hosted concerts with the likes of Ariana Grande and Travis Scott) is hosting one tonight. After the concert, a bunch of you want to go somewhere to socialize. The Sandbox offers a huge metaverse world for this! One of your new friends is talking about how she bought a piece of land whose price has now almost doubled. So off to Decentraland, you go to check out digital real estate there. While you are there you could also check out if they plan to host a Paris Hilton concert again. Unfortunately, your marvelous day has been interrupted by your employer who needs you to send out an email. Horizon workrooms have your back! After this exhilarating day, all you want to do is relax. The platform Malorka offers you the experience of a relaxing island — you can now just close your eyes and meditate.
How will the metaverse affect your life
It will depend on what you are looking for. Are you looking to socialize with old friends and make new ones? As already mentioned there are several platforms for that. Are you a budding artist who is struggling to make it in the art world? Or maybe you are a fashion designer trying to sell your designs. The metaverse provides a uniform playing field for artists and the possibilities are endless.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has predicted that within a couple of years virtual meetings will move from “2D camera image” to the metaverse. He wrote “The idea is that you will eventually use your avatar to meet with people in a virtual space that replicates the feeling of being in an actual room with them,”. He went on to write that, “There’s still some work to do, but we’re approaching a threshold where the technology begins to truly replicate the experience of being together in the office”
Even the movie watching experience will evolve with the advancement of the metaverse. Think of the last 3D movie that you had watched — now imagine if you could interact with the objects and people in that movie. According to the CEO of The Walt Disney Company, “Suffice it to say, our efforts to date are merely a prologue to a time when we’ll be able to connect the physical and digital worlds even more closely, allowing for storytelling without boundaries in our own Disney metaverse,”
For the love of money…
Can you earn money in the metaverse? Hell, yes! According to Tim Sweeney, the C.E.O of Epic Games, the metaverse could be “a multi-trillion-dollar part of the world economy”. C.E.O of Nvidia, Jensen Huang, goes a step further to say that the metaverse has the potential to create “a new economy that is larger than our current economy.”
Let us assume that you are trying to earn some extra bucks in the metaverse. What are your options? If art is your forte, you could try selling digital art. In early 2021, a piece of digital art by Mike Winkelmann (who goes by the name Beeple) had been auctioned off at 69 million dollars. Or if fashion designing is more your kind of thing, digital fashion is definitely where you should go looking. In case you are thinking, ‘what is the use of digital clothes?’ — you don’t expect all avatars to roam around naked, do you? Adidas has even launched a ‘Into the metaverse’ project and is collaborating with artists. Nike has started acquiring start-ups specializing in virtual fashion designing. Louis Vuitton and Moschino have already launched outfit collections that can be worn during games.
Or maybe you are interested in making real estate investments and enjoying that return on your investment. You can buy and sell digital land on virtual real estate platforms such as Decentraland and Axie Infinity. Just last year a piece of land in Axie Infinity sold for a whopping 1.5 Million dollars. In Decentraland a plot of land has been sold for 2.1 million euros. Maybe all my assumptions about you are wrong and all you want to be is a stand-up comedian. ‘Failed to Render’ has created a platform for comedians along with ‘Slyce Comedy’.
In which currency will these transactions happen? The metaverse transcends all geographical borders and uses Non Fungible Tokens (NFT) as its currency. NFTs are tokens that are uniquely assigned to digital assets. More than 400 million dollars have been spent on NFTs so far. Therefore, the metaverse will not only change our social and professional interactions in the future, it will also change our modes and means of transactions.
You’ve got 99 problems, but is the metaverse one?
Are we safe from crime in the metaverse? Can we get assaulted there and what can we do if we are? If any experience in the metaverse is as authentic as in the real world, it also means experiences of assault for example will be almost as traumatizing (if not more). However, the question does arise that should a crime in the virtual world be punished equally like in the real world? Our legal systems will have to catch up with these issues in the coming days.
Now, like all technologies, the metaverse will be as ethical as its users. While no one can deny that the internet or social media comes with its own share of challenges, it is also blatantly clear that they have revolutionized our lives for the better. Mankind’s desire to come up with the next-generation technological advances has always existed and so has the skepticism about it. Once the metaverse is ‘completely’ built it will be up to us the users and our governing bodies to ensure it is a safe space for us all.
Here’s to our metamorphosis!
The metaverse is the future where our real and virtual lives will converge. It is where we will work and develop meaningful social relationships. We will go shopping, attend concerts, and meet up with our friends. It will also be the place where a lot of us will earn our livelihoods. In the words of the Chairman and CEO of Microsoft Corporation, Satya Nadella, ‘The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it’.