The Metaverse Can Be the Future of Technology
But it should look nothing like a gamified version of reality.
We might be underestimating the real value of the metaverse as a concept and its implications in technological innovation. Prima facie, it might look far-fetched, scary, irrelevant or simply not that interesting.
Indeed, seeing Meta’s gamified version of reality, that had more in common with early Nintendo Wii than with what we imagine as the future of human interaction with technology, didn’t do too much for Metaverse as a concept.
There’s also the natural human tendency of being unsettled by anything that remotely resembles an Orwellian dystopia. Probably fuelled by the fear of one day finding ourselves living inside the primordial soup of a Matrix-like pod, deprived of human interactions and emotions, constantly exposed to fluorescent entertainment, controlled by some evil billionaire. The fear of finding ourselves living in a Black Mirror episode quicker than we can say the word metaverse.
Well, we might be getting it wrong. Meta might be getting it wrong, at least for now.
The concept of a meta-reality might actually be what solves the awkwardness and alienation that technology naturally entails. The emphasis should be on it being a meta-reality not a virtual one. We can agree that we all somewhat enjoy reality. Colours, sensory experiences, food, hugs, live music and what have you. We can also agree that the technological platforms that we use everyday i.e. phones and computers carry an intrinsic alienating component to them. We use our tiny screens to do almost everything we do. Talk, work, find an address, check the news, read a Medium article, order food, etc. and it’s often alienating. The reason, I argue, is how non-organic a lit screen is as a platform, it is simply non-human. Here’s where the metaverse might come in handy.
I will take work as an example, because it’s what we do (or should be doing) most of the time. 2021 work is quite consistent across industries. It looks a lot like emails, meetings, emails, calls, zoom, emails. Most of these activities are likely to be done through a screen. We have become familiar with doing such activities through a screen, in fact some of us are native to the screensera, and have never seen the “before” era. However, when we interact with people through a screen, we are missing large parts of the human experience. How people look at us, how they react to what we say, their movements, their cues.
The Metaverse will maintain all the benefits of technology and the internet, but it will enable us to engage with technology through a human platform. Although virtually, we will be able to be in rooms with people, pass documents to each other, smile, give physical cues, understand an audience. This is a big deal. It connects technology and nature. It means that we will, for the first time, interact with technology in a natural way, by using our bodies and having stimuli that closely resemble those of real reality. Technology might start making much more sense to us. It also might just happen that we get rid of some of the problems that technology causes today: alienation, depression, decreased social skills, lack of emotional interactions and so on.
This is the real power of the Metaverse as a concept. It shouldn’t be dismissed as a quirky, gamified, bland version of reality. Rather it should be embraced as a reality enhancer, as the tool that will enable technology to become human for the first time in history. Any time we need to interact with technology, we will do so in our reality, through an organic platform, instead of pulling a tiny screen out of our pockets and being compelled by yet another notification.