“The metaverse is here, and it’s not only transforming how we see the world but how we participate in it – from the factory floor to the meeting room.”— Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO
“The metaverse is how we will collaborate in the future. With avatars/holograms we will be able to work anywhere in the world but sit around a table as if we were all in one place.”— Dave Waters
“In the next 5 years we will effectively transition from people seeing us primarily as a social media company to being a metaverse company”— Mark Zuckerberg
“This Metaverse is going to be far more pervasive and powerful than anything else. If one central company gains control of this, they will become more powerful than any government and be a god on Earth.”— Tim Sweeney
“Meta’s metaverse would be a massive factor in replacing human relationships. Not only would it threaten or endanger human interaction, but it could contribute to people choosing more of the AR world rather than the real world outside the lenses.”— Eric Schmidt
“The future of collaboration is the Metaverse.”— Dave Waters
“Metaverse isn’t a thing a company builds. It’s the next chapter of the internet overall.”— Mark Zuckerberg
“A Metaverse is a possible future in which online communities, organizations, and economies have evolved beyond their current forms.”— Richard Stallman
Unlike myself, you probably know all about the Metaverse – a single, universal, and immersive virtual world focused on social connection. Not my thing but probably attractive to the tech-oriented folks. Even the World Economic Forum (WEF) has jumped on the Metaverse bandwagon. Is this a major red flag? Maybe part of how we will own nothing and be happy?
Wikipedia is probably the right place to start on a Metaverse story:
“In science fiction, the ‘metaverse’ is a hypothetical iteration of the Internet as a single, universal, and immersive virtual world that is facilitated by the use of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) headsets. In colloquial usage, a ‘metaverse’ is a network of 3D virtual worlds focused on social connection.”
“The term ‘metaverse’ originated in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash as a portmanteau of ‘meta and ‘universe’.”
Note here that “meta”, from ancient Greek, meant “beyond,” “after,” or “behind.” The “beyond” sense of meta appears today in words like metaphysics and meta-economy. So, “metaverse” probably means “… beyond the (physical) universe”.
“Some metaverse implementations rely on digital currencies [emphasis added], and often cryptocurrency. Assets within the metaverse are sometimes traded as non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and track ownership using blockchain technology.”
“Proposed applications for metaverse technology include improving work productivity, interactive learning environments, e-commerce, mass-audience interaction, real estate and fashion.”
You will of course see immediately the reason why WEF is jumping on the metaverse bandwagon: productivity, learning, and fashion applications seem most likely to be of interest to them, yes? Or perhaps not.
Metaverse as next iteration of the internet
From Wikipedia on the Snow Crash sci-fi novel:
“The Metaverse, a phrase coined by [Neal] Stephenson as a successor to the Internet, constitutes Stephenson’s early 1990s vision of how a virtual reality–based Internet might evolve in the near future. Resembling a massively multiplayer online game (MMO), the Metaverse is populated by user-controlled avatars, as well as system daemons. Although there are public-access Metaverse terminals in Reality, using them carries a social stigma among Metaverse denizens, in part because of the poor visual representations of themselves as low-quality avatars. Status in the Metaverse is a function of two things: access to restricted environments such as the Black Sun, an exclusive Metaverse club, and technical acumen, which is often demonstrated by the sophistication of one’s avatar.”
A virtual-reality-based internet – seen by many in the computer industry as the next iteration of the internet: a single, shared, immersive, persistent, 3D virtual space where humans experience life in ways they could not in the physical world.
Unlike myself, you of course know what a virtual reality is. No? Well, Virtual Reality, or VR, is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment which can be explored in 360 degrees. Unlike traditional interfaces, VR places the user inside the virtual environment to give an immersive experience.
To allow this feeling of presence, a VR headset is used. These headsets remove vision of the real world and provide video to each eye allowing for depth of vision. This technology is then supported by head and body tracking to connect the virtual world to what the user is seeing.
Just what we need today. Our real reality has become so troublesome that we have to replace it as much as possible with a virtual substitute. And in the process buy a VR headset:
“The average price of a virtual reality (VR) headset in the United States stood at 430 U.S. dollars in 2022, and is expected to remain at around this price in the following years. Notable VR headset vendors include Meta (previously Oculus), Pico, Sony, HTC, and Valve.”
If you have any interest in shifting to a virtual reality, this source covers way more than you probably ever want to know.
Commercial applications are proliferating as you might expect. The Related Reading section below lists a number of current application areas. To be fair, most of these appear on the surface to be of some actual value.
So why in all that matters might the WEF be trying to drive the Metaverse and its virtual reality?
Metaverse as a WEF tool of surveillance and control?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) and its founder and chief honcho Klaus Schwab have become a major force in world happenings. They are driving the Great Reset and related extensions. The WEF has enlisted an impressive number of major corporations and organizations worldwide to assist in its modest goals of world domination and more.
Their involvement has in fact become a major red flag with respect to anything they touch. Like Metaverse stuff: The recent WEF Metaverse press conference event description reads:
“This press conference will announce the first, and long-awaited, outputs of the Defining and Building the Metaverse Initiative: highly anticipated briefing papers on Interoperability in the Metaverse from the governance track of the project, and Demystifying the Consumer Metaverse from the value creation track. These two briefing papers, the first in each workstream’s series, will serve as the foremost publications involving this amount of research, this number of stakeholders from diverse industries (120+ partners are involved in this initiative), into these topics.”
”The WEF will also host an event at Davos 2023 titled ‘Deployment In The Industrial Metaverse.’ Panelists will discuss how ‘the next era of the internet is fast approaching in the form of the metaverse, an immersive, interoperable and synchronous digital world.’ In the industrial metaverse, unique opportunities will arise from the convergence of artificial intelligence, digital twins, data and robotic technologies.”
The WEF is surely sincere in its effort to take over the Metaverse technology for the good benefit of all humanity. Surely.
Even a voice of reason and caution seems a tad worried
One of the better ways to figure out what may be going on in complex, confusing situations is to look at what appears to be the extreme views. Extreme views themselves are highly unlikely to be right in most cases, but they provide boundary cases within which is what may actually be going on.
Following this somewhat arbitrary approach, here is an example of what such an “extreme view” may look like:
Didi Rankovic via Infowars reports that “WEF plans to issue guardrails on Metaverse creation”:
“The WEF has for a while now worked to position itself as, to all intents and purposes, a self-appointed authority on the direction in which the metaverse should develop. This is expressed through the initiative, whose papers will be presented at a press conference in Davos dubbed, ‘How to Build a Metaverse for All.’”
“Announcing the event details, the WEF claims that the papers on interoperability in the metaverse from the governance point of view and another that concerns value creation, called ‘Demystifying the Consumer Metaverse,’ represent ‘foremost publications’ in this field.”
“According to the announcement, the WEF conducted extensive research and managed to bring together more than 120 partners from across different industries as the initiative’s ‘stakeholders’. Among them are Meta (Facebook), Microsoft, Walmart, Sony, Mastercard, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan, Lloyds, the UN counter terrorism office, the US NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, and several other countries’ information and communication ministries.”
“If all goes to WEF’s plan, the world can expect ‘boundless opportunities’ from the metaverse that will supposedly improve pretty much every aspect of society and economy: innovation, education, healthcare. Otherwise, there is risk of the metaverse being ‘inaccessible and unsafe,’ the press conference announcement warns.”
This is reassuring, right? My sense, for whatever it may be worth, is that the WEF and its confreres are doing whatever they are doing strictly for their own benefit and goals. Us roughly 8 billion non-rulers are simply obstacles that must be overcome on the way to their stated nirvana of “You’ll own nothing and you’ll be happy”.
Ruling the Metaverse may be a bigger challenge that they realize
Many normal and often interesting people like to own stuff and to enjoy their growing pile of toys. Kind of built into human nature. These lively folks are not likely to sign up for a world of “owning nothing”. It seems possible also that these folks will not be much attracted to the joys of the Metaverse. They are probably very okay with real reality.
This thought brings me back to my favorite pop-psychologist Mattias Desmet who argues that the world is suffering heavily from “mass formation psychosis” (rebranded as ‘hypnosis’) and is stampeding toward “totalitarianism”. He might well argue at some point that the psychosis/hypnosis focus of the masses can readily be directed using Metaverse technology.
As I have observed a number of times in past posts (see here, here, and here), Desmet’s own data shows that maybe 30% of the mass formations will be true believers, maybe 10% to 30% will actively resist, and the remaining 40% to 60% will go-along-to-get-along (GATGA). This reality is very inconvenient, yes?
How can you dominate the world and beyond with only 30% of your mass formations (formerly known as ‘crowds’ or ‘mobs’) are signed up to whatever it is that is being pushed at the moment?
Even worse, if they play their hand badly, as is the case in general, they will manage to convert a sizable number of GATGA folks into active resistance. History shows, to the extent that it shows anything real (see here), that even severe totalitarianism fails at some point.
Not to mention that only a small percentage of people globally are technically-oriented enough to get deeply into the Metaverse. And probably a majority of these will be active resisters or malleable GATGA’s.
It seems that becoming a successful totalitarian is a tough job. Odds of success, even without the joys of a Metaverse, are pretty low. So, what are the totalitarian-wannabes to do?
The WEF may be making a big mistake on its Metaverse bet
As the additional information in Related Reading below suggests, nothing much is expected of the Metaverse through 2040 or so. That’s virtually forever at today’s pace of living. So why has the WEF taken “leadership” of the Metaverse world rollout? Some wild guesses:
- Create distraction from whatever is really going on.
- Believing its own hype and superpower-dom.
- Attracting huge donations from Metaverse developers.
You can probably come up with a much better list, but this will get you started.
The Metaverse – a single, universal, and immersive virtual world focused on social connection and enhancing commercial interactions. Or maybe not. Why? The World Economic Forum (WEF) has jumped aggressively on the Metaverse bandwagon. The WEF has a rather different agenda from enhancing business and social interactions. Also a very aggressive timeline for whatever it is up to. You know – we will own nothing and we will be happy. Or maybe only the WEF, if successful, will be happy while us normal folk romp about in the Metaverse? I am quite worried.
- From 3D cloud VR vendor Marxent and Joe Bardi “What Is Virtual Reality: Definitions, Devices, and Examples”:
“How Virtual Reality Applications Are Used Today. VR technology is associated with gaming, but it is used to support sales, facilitate learning, simulate travel, communicate, and more. Due to the pandemic, remote work, social interaction and virtual travel have increased VR use.”
“Virtual Reality Use Case Examples. VR has impacted businesses ranging from medicine to tourism and is a cornerstone of many corporate digital transformation strategies. For example, according to a November 2020 Statista report estimates for business investments in the U.S. industrial maintenance and training are forecast to hit $4.1 billion in 2024. Futurist Baron says: ‘There will be significant opportunities for businesses to use VR both within their companies and with potential and existing customers.’ Baron offers her insights into these top use cases:”
“Training: One of the most obvious is the use of VR in employee training. While this currently requires the use of a headset, it can also be done onsite or at home. The ability to put an employee in other people’s shoes (whether those of a co-worker or customer) delivers a unique experience that isn’t feasible otherwise. As the technology improves, this will become a valuable tool in all corporate training, including situations that require complex decision-making. VR makes sense in education. Imagine an immersive experience in history or science, for example. As technology progresses and our attention spans decrease, we will continue to expect well-rounded experiences when learning anything new.”
“Travel: Hotels can take you inside their property, so you know what to expect. VR can be beneficial for high-end travel (e.g., honeymoons or luxury resorts). For the user, they’d see (and feel) the location from their perspective instead of watching an online video or looking at 2D photos.”
“Real Estate: Developers can move beyond 3D models to simulate life inside their new development. VR would work both for homes and commercial spaces. Also, co-working spaces can use VR to put the prospective tenant inside the space before you join.”
“Healthcare: There are many uses for healthcare practitioners, researchers and patients. Imagine using VR to help patients with disorders such as anxiety or anorexia. It would be invaluable in medical school to help students learn how to deal with situations that may arise when they become doctors (empathy training, for example). VR is already in use for surgical training.”
“Retail: Retailers can help potential consumers put themselves in situations where they can ‘try on’ clothes or objects and get a sense of how they interact with an environment. For example, a bride-to-be could try a wedding dress and place it in an actual wedding environment. VR is different from AR, where you stay in your current reality.”
“Military: VR is already a valuable tool in simulations for combat, confrontations and the like. It can replace expensive and sometimes dangerous real-life exercises. The ability to change scenarios makes it attractive for all branches of the military and the defense industry.”
“Entertainment: The ability to provide immersive experiences will transform entertainment. Gaming and Hollywood will increasingly provide users and viewers with the ability to go from passive to active. Consumers will interact with stories in a highly personalized way (should they wish to). The ability to choose your own POV in a game or movie will continue to provide new forms of engagement.”
- Security Magazine in August 2022 summarized the main security threats they see in a Metaverse world: “9 security threats in the metaverse”:
“What are the potential cybersecurity threat scenarios that world is likely to encounter in the early stages of the metaverse? Trend Micro released which examines nine different categories of threats against the metaverse and inside the metaverse, including cyber-physical crime, financial fraud, legal implications and more. The threats are sorted into nine categories outlined below:”
“NFTs: There are integrity issues. NFTs regulate ownership of assets, but do not provide storage for the assets. This may lead to ransoming or other criminal attacks. If NFT data files are encrypted in a ransomware attack, the user will still retain ownership but they can be blocked from accessing the assets if they do not pay the ransom.”
“Darkverse: The darkverse is like the dark web, except it exists inside the metaverse. In some ways, it is more dangerous than the dark web because of the pseudo-physical presence of the users. It mimics clandestine physical meetings versus the purely online open discussion threads in dark web criminal forums. The darkverse lives inside the deepverse, which is unindexed like the deep web.”
“Financial fraud: Criminals and criminal groups will be drawn to the metaverse because of the huge volume of e-commerce transactions that will occur in these worlds. There will be many who try and take advantage of users, steal their money, and capture their digital assets.”
“Privacy issues: Privacy issues will become a major concern in the metaverse. Metaverse publishers will control all aspects of their meta spaces, collect vast amounts of user data, and monetize the collected data. Even if there are open-source metaverse worlds that users can host, the publisher who hosts them will still be able to collect and monetize user data.”
… see article for the rest.
- Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie published a lengthy article in the Pew Research Center in June 2022: “The Metaverse in 2040”. Example extracts:
“Hype? Hope? Hell? Maybe all three. Experts are split about the likely evolution of a truly immersive ‘metaverse.’ They expect that augmented- and mixed-reality enhancements will become more useful in people’s daily lives. Many worry that current online problems may be magnified if Web3 development is led by those who built today’s dominant web platforms”
“Justin Reich, associate professor of digital media at MIT and director of the Teaching Systems Lab, expressed a view shared by respondents who expect big tech companies will further exploit users, writing, ‘The term metaverse was coined to describe a corporate, dystopian hellscape where a completely financialized world is stripped of any culture and value. Advocates of the metaverse are currently trying to bring that vision into reality in the hopes of creating new digital surfaces that can be covered in new advertising and made as addictive as possible. As the physical world encounters saturation of existing advertising surfaces and data collection, augmented reality is the new frontier of surveillance capitalism. If it does come to fruition, it will be as terrible as social media is today. Questions that I’ve not seen journalists ask of Mark Zuckerberg or other folks at Meta: ‘How many hours a day are you currently spending in the metaverse?’ ‘How many hours a day do you encourage your children to spend in the metaverse?’ My hunch is that the typical Meta employee spends very little time in the metaverse, because it’s terrible. And they don’t want their children there, because it’s terrible.’”
“Davi Ottenheimer, vice president for trust and digital ethics at Inrupt, a company applying the new Solid data protocol (a method for building decentralized social applications that was created by web inventor Tim Berners-Lee), responded, ‘We should declare metaverse to only be a success if it augments the human in a decentralized human-centric model of data ownership. It is currently in danger of being co-opted into overly centralized platforms and constraints, a regression to slavery models in the guise of a proprietary ‘digital twin’ to be abused by giant companies looking to operate selfishly and above the law and deny social good. Those caught up in this abuse of rights, like industrial-era workers suffering the daily grind of soulless factory jobs and homes and vehicles, will long for an escape from the intentionally limiting artifice of metaverse. The utopianism and mysticism that drive cultural waves of ‘escape’ during times of technological upheaval and displacement are here again. There is a fundamental difference between the highly controversial technological augmentation and the politically driven escapism that metaverse development will predictably fall into.’”