It feels like an eternity ago that smartphones and social networks turned our lives upside down. But you know what? The seed for Facebook was only sown in 2003, and the first iPhone in 2007 established the breakthrough of the smartphone market. A few years later, we find ourselves in a new reality from which we can neither imagine smartphones nor social networks. Crazy!
There have hardly been any other technological milestones in our history that have become part of our everyday lives so quickly. A little reminder: the Blu-ray has been around since 2002, but you can still quickly get a vast selection of DVDs in stores. Some newer productions are even DVD-only! Have you ever tried to buy the original Nokia 3310 (off the nostalgia market)? The mobile phone has a legendary status for its quasi-indestructibility, but the smartphones have almost completely thrown even the former non plus ultra off the market. Once the ultimate in its market, Nokia has been chasing the market since the rise of smartphones and has even been resold.
If some big tech companies have their way, the next milestone is already on the horizon. The “Metaverse” inspires the Internet giants and leads billions of investments to make the future a reality. We have already explained elsewhere what exactly the Metaverse is all about. Here, it is supposed to be a bit more subjective about the fascination and the horror that a very real metaverse can bring. So expect fewer hard facts here and more the dream and nightmare imaginations that the Metaverse creates.
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The Metaverse Tears Apart Even Tech Nerds
The Metaverse tears me apart inside. Diving deeper into the Metaverse for our explain article, I felt like I was in a shower, with the water constantly alternating between cold and scalding hot.
There are, for example, images of the future that many films and books provide us with. Much of this describes a high-tech world in which advanced virtual reality brings us problems above all. Companies gain more power than some states, real-life gives way more and more to virtual dreams, and in the end, it all boils down to overthrowing the monopoly company.
But let’s be honest: Despite the horror scenario, many of these visions of the future also awaken a desire. If virtual worlds are shown that feel like the real thing, we’d love to dive into them. Whether it’s the MMORPG Aincrad in the anime Sword Art Online, in which captured players fight for their lives, or the broken parallel world from Ready Player One – deep down, we want to experience a virtual world just as accurate as of the protagonists of this fictional future – maybe without it the misery of reality or natural death in the virtual game.
The Metaverse As The Most Significant State?
The possible dimension of the Metaverse is nevertheless gigantic. On the one hand, the Metaverse expands and connects the physical world with the digital. But the digital side seems even more crazy – a virtual world that is constantly growing and populated by users worldwide. According to the stock market report from April 2021, Facebook alone is used by 1.8 billion users every day. Imagine these user numbers in a virtual world where everyone has their avatar, which is also visible to us when we are in the same place in the world. Perhaps one should almost see this virtual world as a separate state, and this is then just the largest country in the world.
Sometimes it might even be necessary. The experience is different than in a video game. We have a firmer identity, see all virtual fellow citizens, use other virtual services from the Metaverse and can experience the new world much more immersively with VR glasses. It makes a difference if someone bounces around you in today’s games and writes stupid comments (/ignore and they’re hidden) or if others are bullying you in a much more immersive world with VR goggles. While it’s still easy to jump to another location, there are fewer hiding places in the Metaverse.
Anyone familiar with the sometimes toxic communities on the Internet or in some games will surely suspect that clear rules are needed sooner rather than later so that pure chaos does not break out and, above all, underage users are protected in the Metaverse.
Legislative, Executive And Judiciary In The Online World
The Metaverse will need its jurisdiction beyond the virtual police force if you follow this example further. There will be new forms of virtual crime that cannot be localized to the jurisdiction of a specific country. The contributors can come from different countries. Flowing funds can be a cryptocurrency. Boundaries and, thus, responsibilities become blurred in the Metaverse. However, the Metaverse is not just the virtual world. The fact that the real world is part of the Metaverse, but digital content and people can also expand the physical world makes it much more difficult to restrict the Metaverse as a separate state completely.
But not only the legal level but also the economy may need new rules. At some point, if the Metaverse progresses far enough, there could be more money movement there than anywhere else. Existing companies are also going into the Metaverse, but completely new business models are emerging. Millions of users will virtually earn and spend their money in purely digital currencies. Here, too, solutions are needed to connect the old and new economies.
Which Virtual Elements Remain?
A lot will also depend on how much reality is brought into the virtual level of the Metaverse and where the digital possibilities are used. Depending on how real you want to keep the Metaverse, it could be that we are tied to a unique avatar outside of gaming applications. Maybe this even corresponds to our natural appearance. Luckily, in the real world, you can’t just read someone else’s name over their head. Visual identification is much more critical if this is also the case in the Metaverse. If you do without the adaptability of the avatar, you are also deprived of many advantages of the virtual level.
There are similar questions when it comes to “traveling”. Can we travel entirely freely in the public spaces of the Metaverse, or are there perhaps travel areas or portals so that avatars popping up everywhere don’t disturb the immersion too much? And how is it handled with logged out users? And what about screenshots. The more personal the avatar is, the more problematic it is to photograph others unnoticed. Do we end up holding virtual cameras in the Metaverse instead?
In the context of harassment and bullying, there is also the question of whether people can be ignored after all so that they are not seen. With the Metaverse, not only does the question of which virtual possibilities are used play a role, but also which ones are not used. I can imagine substantial differences between a public space used by the masses and private applications such as games. In a game, it makes sense to switch avatars, have (character) names over your head and override some rules because you’re deliberately competing against each other.
Prepare Answers Before Asking The Questions.
The Metaverse is still in the early stages of development. We don’t know who will develop the Metaverse in the end, nor what it will look like in the future. Perhaps it takes place on a more subtle level that digitally expands our real-world rather than creating a virtual parallel world. The picture drawn here is slightly more extreme and selected from well-known science fiction dystopias. It is intended to show which questions the Metaverse can raise – also for the physical world.
And while the Metaverse ends up being a lot more subtle, it’s never too early to start thinking. This also applies to decision-makers in politics and business. We have seen how quickly technology can become an integral part of society with Facebook, smartphones and Tiktok. Only the Metaverse connects the analogue and digital worlds much more strongly than anything before. There must also be politics involved. But the fact that we are still struggling with dead spots and that the health authorities are partly dependent on fax machines even after almost two years of Corona does not speak for a quick adjustment.
I’m curious if the Metaverse will come at the end and in what form. It can be one of the most significant technological milestones and a considerable hype that turns into an even bigger flop. Just because companies make an effort doesn’t mean that we users embrace it. And even if it comes, it must first be seen whether it will enrich our lives or whether the dystopias will be fulfilled. In any case, the potential is enormous.