THE FACT OF THE MATTER
Okay so, you are walking down the street. Suddenly, you fancy a bottle of diet whats-it. Immediately, next to you, a vending machine appears, filled with those diet what’s-its. You grab a bottle, slug away to your heart’s content, and continue on your way.
Next, your other half offers to go to the shops for some goodies but can’t for the life of them remember what it was they needed to begin with. However, help is at hand when your brain-computer interface thingy recognises the needed item and transmits a link to your partner’s AI device, along with what store and aisle it is located in. Who said shopping isn’t fun?
Welcome to the Metaverse, ‘alternate digital realities’, where people will work, play, and socialise. You can call it the Metaverse, the Mirror World, the AR Cloud, or the Spatial Internet, but one thing is for sure — it’s coming and it is the biggest thing since sliced pan, or, at least since www. entered our reality three decades ago.
At the moment, we can only experience the internet when we actually turn it on, but with this forthcoming new connectivity, devices and technologies, we’ll be able to experience it all around us every single waking moment.
I know. I’ve trouble, too, visualising it.
But think of it like this. If you think of, let’s call it, Web 1.0 as the internet that connected us to information, and Web 2.0 as the social-media interaction, which connects people, then Web 3.0 (which we’re now entering) is connecting people, places, and things. Every single thing, in fact.
Sometimes, these people, places, and things will be in a fully virtual or synthetic environment, or sometimes in a physical world with some level of augmentation. It’s kind of whatever you fancy yourself.
While Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been running around like the kid who got the cream the last few weeks mouthing on about the Metaverse, the reality is that it is still some ways off, a brave new augmented virtual/real everyday interaction 24/7. In the meantime Metaverse — the term first coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash — is now being hurled into such wide and varied use that it has come to mean something no more specific than the future. Or for anything that takes us a step closer — like those smart thingy glasses — to this future reality, if reality we can, indeed, call it.
It is coming though. If someone had told you three decades ago that all your music library and film collections could be held on a device in the palm of your hand, along with which you could see and chat for free with someone in Australia and also control all your financial transactions and shopping on same said device, you would have thought them mad.
The idea of the Metaverse, if you can get your head around it, is similarly no more mad. One day will be the reality, say, where you will not have to be be in the same room as someone in order to make love to them. The Metaverse could give a whole new dimension to infidelity, wouldn’t you know.
“ No darling, I was home all last night. Honest. Ask Siri…”
The smartphone era changed our relationship with technology in ways that were as profound and shocking as they now seem banal.
Leaders in technology, like Ethan Musk, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, and in entertainment and fashion, have rushed to stake their claim in the coming world of the Metaverse, though few seem to agree about what exactly it is. The important thing — wouldn’t you know, damn it — is it’s coming.
Think back 10 or 15 years to when smartphones and apps were new, and social media was on the rise. Lots of people believed that the supercomputer-in-your-pocket era would change, well, a lot of things, even if they didn’t quite know how. Metaverse navel-gazers who, like Mark Zuckerberg, can seem eager to just jettison the last era’s baggage — has not Zuck renamed, rebranded his Facebook? — believe we’re on the cusp of even bigger changes.
If all this sounds more wishful thinking than visionary, despite the sci-fi branding and ‘decades from now’ talk, that’s because it, at the moment, is. But sometimes, just sometimes, a great notion, or a mere idea, has a way of creeping into our reality.
We may be seeing the future, but will it work?