Read science fiction books, which I do a lot of, or watch science fiction movies, and the metaverse is the future. Ready Player One, both the book and the movie, certainly make it feel like it will be an incredible experience.
The way it’s portrayed in science fiction, the metaverse appears to be a foregone conclusion. The movies certainly make it look interesting and pretty cool. I get the attraction. It’s a digital playground where you get to be anything you want and do anything you want (for a price). As a software developer, the metaverse would be so much to fun to build. It would be a great project to be a part of.
Well, regardless of how cool it looks or how much fun it would be to build, if the metaverse is the future, then count me out. I don’t want to join it nor do I want to engage in it.
When I see the metaverse, I see it as another way for companies to market their wares and sell cheap digital goods and experiences. Companies are selling virtual real estate and houses, which people are buying. Want a different look for your digital character? Pony up a few dollars. Want to level up your skills in a sport? Just pay for a few skill upgrades.
Call me old school, and maybe I am (getting) old, but I want to spend my time and money in the real world. I don’t want to experience new places in a digital replica. I don’t want to get better at a sport by simply sitting in a chair, clicking on buttons and paying for upgrades. I don’t want to hang out with digital “friends” that may be computer simulations and not even real people.
If I want to travel, I want to experience the sights, sounds and smells first hand. I don’t want some developer telling me what I should experience. If I want to get better at a sport, like golf, I want to enjoy the game, experience nature, feel the ecstasy of a crushed drive or the frustration of a bad shot. If I want to be around friends and family, I want to experience the warmth of their presence and feel the embrace of a hug. Digital simulations aren’t going to cut it for me.
Seen is this light, the metaverse is an escape hatch. It’s an attempt to experience the perfect life, which is an illusion. Life is life because it’s not perfect. And I’m here to tell you, when you pile tons of people into the metaverse, there’s going to be problems. Why would I want to leave my real life problems to experience “virtual” problems? Let’s face it, whether it’s real or virtual, life is messy. We all experience problems. I’d prefer to “embrace the mess” in real life rather than the virtual world, where it’s all made up and make-believe.
Most of all though, my biggest beef is that the metaverse isn’t going to be a free and egalitarian place. It’s going to be a place controlled by corporate interests. In fact, I see it being controlled by a single company that will act as the gatekeeper, the ruler of this virtual world.
I suppose that’s why companies are investing so much money to build it. The company that secures the most users and dominates the market stands to make a lot of money, similar to the way a single company can dominate the internet in search, commerce, or social media.
The metaverse, though, will have an even deeper level of lock-in than the services on the internet. Once users have invested in their avatar and their virtual world, they are unlikely to leave. It will give the company that controls this alternate reality unprecedented power. They will set the rules of user behavior. They will determine who’s allowed in, who’s not, and which other companies have access.
I don’t want to live in any ‘verse’ that is controlled and dictated by a company, especially a single company, that stands to turn obscene profits by stealing my time and attention. I understand that our current reality is already controlled by corporate interests, but there are ways I can get away. I can take a walk, go on a hike, play golf, listen to music when I want. In the metaverse it won’t be possible unless the powers that be say so. Corporations will set and be in control of all the rules. They’ll determine what I can do when, and how much it will cost me to do it. I’m sure if I’m willing to pay, they’ll let me do anything I want, but then how is that different than real life?
Bottom line, I understand the fascination and the pull, but the metaverse isn’t for me. I want to participate in the real world, connect with actual people, experience nature, work through problems and embrace the mess, and spend my time and effort making my time in this world, the real world, a deeper and more enriching experience – not spending my time and effort in some artificial, made-up world.