We Can See The Future
Or why this whole "metaverse" thing is pretty simple
100% of us know what Facebook is. 95% of us know who Mark Zuckerberg is. 40% of us know about his plans for Metaverse domination. 0% of us know if it will work.
The problem is, “Metaverse” as a term is now part of an illustrious group of words that carry so much baggage and varying forms of interpretation that it’s almost impossible to use them in conversation. Other words like that: “crypto” and “woke”. Let’s throw in “crossfit” for good measure.
Marketing is everything, and the Metaverse people have severely botched it.
Why am I talking about it now? Because it’s fun to think about how technology will be different and better in the future. Because we rarely stop and think about how much we’ve progressed in the last 20 years and how that means we’ll progress in the next 20. And because the Metaverse specifically is not some sci-fi concoction – it’s actually a pretty straightforward progression. It doesn’t even take that much dreaming!
Let’s Go Back To The Past
In the year 1999, my dad was pretty cool. He wore a floor-length Barbour trench coat with wire Revo sunglasses that made him look like Neo whenever he strolled up to my soccer games. He also had a Motorola StarTAC that he could plug in and out of his car. He was most assuredly a man about town.
Now imagine if he and I were walking back to the car after a game and a man from the future wearing a black turtleneck approached us. He says his name is “Steve”. He has a device in his hand that he says we can use to video-call anyone else in the world that has this device too. Do you think we would have fainted as if we had encountered an alien species? No! I probably would have screamed “that’s so cool!” Because in the end, it wouldn’t have felt that far out of the realm of possibility.
The Present Keeps Moving Forward
That was 20+ years ago. The same will go for someone showing us what the Metaverse looks like 20 years from now. And what is the concept of the Metaverse really? It’s a better, easier, more comprehensive set of online experiences. Meetings, social events, recreation, transactions… all without leaving your home.
Doesn’t that make sense? Think about it: we spend an absurd number of hours in front of phone, tv, and computer screens each and every week. Some of that is personal, some of that is professional, and some of that is even social - time spent hanging out with other people. In fact most of our life could be considered virtual already when you consider the amount of our waking hours we spend interacting with the online world.
Now imagine if that virtual world starts to feel more and more real. Imagine if it was basically lifelike. Imagine if the online version of yourself mirrored your facial tics, your arm movements and everything that is conveyed in real life. Isn’t that just FaceTime on steroids? Does that happening in 2042 feel at all absurd?
No one is suggesting your entire life moves online. It’s just another space that you can go to meet up with a lot of people quickly, to keep in touch with people, or just to have fun. Yes, there are some people that will spend their entire life online, just like some people currently spend 10+ hours a day playing Fortnite, watching TikTok, and posting on Twitter.
In 20 years, maybe “metaverse” as a term doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s as ubiquitous as “internet” is today. You won’t say “I’m going to hop into the metaverse” you’ll say “I’m gonna hang out with Deanna and Travis.” The point is we’ll be doing things differently in the future, in a more technologically sophisticated way. It doesn’t matter what you call it.
It’s Not Surprising If You Can See It Coming
Thinking in binary terms - online or offline, for example - is a consistently incorrect way to think about technology. Life is in-person interactions, digital communication, losing yourself in a book, losing yourself in nature, zoning out watching a movie, or going out to dance. It all just swirls together, and will continue to do so. In the future, there will be weddings done completely online… just like people did zoom weddings during the pandemic and just like my sister and brother-in-law FaceTimed in for mine. Online and offline already mix fluidly.
So limiting our scope of what’s possible based on what we see in the present is just a lack of acceptance of how we grow alongside technology's steady improvement. We live with it every day, so we don’t think about the small jumps forward. The iPhone debuted to much fanfare, and then 3 months later it was an accepted part of our lives.
Sit back and think about 20 years from now: do you think that the technology we’ll be using will be significantly better than what we are using now? I’d bet it will be. So is the “metaverse” or online world all that wild to imagine?