/ Technology

Opinion: Metaverse? I can’t think of much worse

Facebook’s vision of a parallel online existence has left me feeling cold. How do you feel about the Metaverse?

Tech companies’ rebrands usually attract some derision, then everyone moves on. Sometimes it’s just
soon-forgotten logo changes. There was a flurry of ‘that’s hideous’ comments when Google redesigned its icons for Gmail, Meet and other apps, but that’s ancient history now.

Twitter started as ‘twttr’ and Apple’s logo, once a gaudy apple-shaped rainbow, is now an understated grey icon. But Facebook’s rebrand to ‘Meta’ has substance; it’s a signal that it’s taking the ‘metaverse’ seriously, and wants you to as well.

Enter the Metaverse

The metaverse idea has been around for years. The word was coined by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, Snowcrash. At its simplest, it’s a parallel digital universe where we’ll be able to hang out with holograms of friends, family, colleagues or even enemies in digital recreations of the pub, the office, or anything our imaginations dream up.

Digital universes aren’t new: Second Life is probably the best-known attempt at a metaverse. Companies built big presences in that game world but, although it’s still going, it was held back by the tech of the day.

During the pandemic, people fed up of the Brady Bunch-style Zoom tiles experimented with the
Red Dead Redemption 2 game for meetings, kicking back by a campfire rather than chatting on Microsoft Teams.

Party in a spreadsheet

My favourite use of an online space for connecting was the ‘party in a spreadsheet’ early in the pandemic. One evening, curator Marie Foulston opened a Google spreadsheet and watched with delight as people turned up, created rooms, chatted and, as the sun rose, said goodnight.

But for all the creativity of online spaces, I’ve lived too much of my life online these past couple of years. I never want to go to another Zoom quiz – or a Zoom funeral. So I’m not in a hurry for the metaverse to arrive.

I’ve been enjoying my life back in what is known as ‘meatspace’ – the physical world. After all, you can’t hug a hologram. But how do you feel about the Metaverse? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

I used to be on fb, but I left it and deleted all my account details because I got so sick of all the elitism, I just couldn’t find anyone even remotely like me anywhere, it was just like the various stupid dating sites, far too elite, as they always are, even those for the “disabled”, there’s never anyone remotely disabled like me.

Escaping into virtual worlds is not going to solve the many problems we have in the real world. Virtual reality will eventually take you below thinking, similar to illicit drugs and alcohol over time, culminating in a state of egocentric unconsciousness and preconceived notions and ideas.

Let us focus on the journey into above thinking, where the conditioned mindset no longer dictates the way we perceive the real world, free from all prejudice, inequality, bias, partisanship and discrimination.

I have not yet experienced metaverse, so I will reserve judgement, but I am not keen on anything connected with Facebook.

Many of us enjoy escapism, whether it is by reading fiction, watching films or playing role playing games. Some spend a great a great deal of their leisure time engaged in these activities. It’s possible that the metaverse could be rather too addictive and it might be difficult to distinguish between the real and the imaginary world.

Sarah says:
11 January 2022

It strikes me that there’s a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ approach to the impending Metaverse. I don’t feel as though I can involve myself in as much or as little of it as I like – I have to sign up and be a part of it all, or remove myself and my information completely.

I don’t like the idea of this.. it feels intrusive and a bit big brother.

Then again… change is scary and I might just be the wrong person to be asking!

Even less likely to be able to get my teenagers to do the dishwasher!!

David Oliver says:
15 January 2022

My role is finding solutions to business problems. These days almost, if not all, business processes use technology. The Metaverse is not a new concept and why it hasn’t gained traction is because of the time and effort involved with no obvious benefit. Mark Zuckerberg has the money and resources to experiment but most businesses don’t. Computer gaming is largest part of the entertainment sector where VR has been around for a while but leaders here are Microsoft and Sony have dabbled but not fully committed. I think they will be content to sit back and see what develops. However, many think that Zuckerberg was just trying to change the narrative because of the constant stream of bad press was damaging his business. With social media organisations like Facebook the number of people using the service are in fact the product, as the data generated by the people using the service is the commodity that’s sold. This is why the service is free, it lowers the bar to use but free now seems like quite a high price to pay if the data we’ve provided, often personal, are lost with unpredictable results. My advice is to wait, Apple had proved time and time again that being first to market isn’t always an advantage when it comes to tech.

One ‘business problem’ that many of us have experienced is the poor treatment of consumers by businesses, both large and small. Can the Metaverse help here, David?

Public bodies can also treat their “customers” poorly, and we normally have no choice as to who we use. At least with most businesses we can take our custom elsewhere if the don’t perform.

One of the emerging problems now is that there are far fewer opportunities to physically look at expensive goods we might wish to buy. Stores that had a range of products of varying prices, functionality and quality are closing down or going on-line, survivors are displaying fewer alternatives, and on-line-only operators are not providing adequate information to enable fully informed choices. Which? is a useful resource but rarely up-to-date enough. Upfront and after-sales service levels in certain retailers are not giving consumers the support they require. Could an independent metaverse meet these needs?

Malcolm – David specifically mentioned businesses but if the Metaverse can help elsewhere that would be useful.

I was not responding to David’s comment but to yours.