Looking for that Metaverse experience? Well, maybe you have experienced it in a way with Web 2.0 and the future of the Metaverse may not have to be fully immersed with just VR headsets.
According to some, the metaverse is a far-fetched concept, or if it materializes it wouldn’t be somewhere they’d like to be. There is, however, the feeling that sometimes the metaverse is already here, and that dismissals of it are written from within an already-existing early-stage metaverse.
Metaverses can be defined in various ways, but generally speaking, we can think of them as shared persistent virtual environments in which we interact with others and move around independently.
Like the real world, it exists objectively regardless of whether or not we are paying attention to it, and it is experienced subjectively from different perspectives by everyone within it. And, unlike a computer game, a metaverse cannot be switched off or reset by one single user.
In many ways, then, the online environment we currently navigate is a metaversal experience. Every social media platform is a virtual network that you navigate around, interacting with other users. And, you, in that case, is a virtual representation of the real you, identifiable through an image, username and uploaded data. The platform continues to exist and events unfold within it, whether or not you are logged in and looking at the screen.
These networks may not be graphically represented as artificial 3D worlds, but such 3D renderings are only one of an infinite number of aesthetic possibilities. After all, not one aspect of an online 3D world is actually 3D at all, it’s all, at source, just computer code and data.
The idea that we must be fully-immersed and experience the metaverse through a virtual reality headset, is a red herring. VR is just one type of interface from many, when, on a practical level, it doesn’t really matter which hardware you choose to interact through.
In the future, you might utilize a full-blown brain-machine interface, or you could interact through VR, or equally, it could be on a Motorola on the train home, flicking your attention from the screen in your hand to the view through the window. After all, a metaverse continues to exist regardless of which angle you’re observing it from, so these matters are a sideshow.
If our interface method is of secondary importance, then what is it that is currently lacking from our existing proto-metaverse? The answer is, ownership. At the moment, we’re leasing space, just tenants on borrowed time on wealthy landlords’ estates. We might pay financially, or it might be through attention and content creation, but either way, we’re renters.
And, what’s worse, with web2 tech we don’t even have the option of upgrading to full ownership. There’s simply no means to do so, leaving us as vassals and serfs, pumping the numbers on Twitter.
Elon Musk Stake in Twitter
There’s been some excitement lately about Elon Musk taking a stake in Twitter. He appears to believe in free speech and feel that Twitter hasn’t been upholding liberal principles, and so his influence on the social media giant might mean the plebs won’t have to worry so much about being turfed off Twitter’s land.
For sure, a benevolent dictator is better than, well, a dictatorial dictator. But still, nothing changes about the underlying model. Online, we still own nothing.
All of which underlines the importance of what comes next: a neutral, free metaverse, in which we own ourselves, our identities, our assets. This is the web3 model, this is what NFTs and blockchain technology are beginning to facilitate.
When you own your own house, you can say what you like, invite over whoever you choose, arrange the furniture in the manner you prefer, and you don’t have to worry about any overbearing authorities pushing you around or trying to have you kicked out.
As more of our time, attention and wealth migrates online, it’s essential that we have a similar capacity for free expression, personal control and decision making in the digital world too. We should not, as adults, feel hesitant or fearful about our attitudes and choices in our online spaces, any more than we would over our own dining tables at home.
This all makes hostility towards crypto, and towards NFTs in particular, a little baffling when it comes from voices who are usually concerned about personal liberty, but are comfortable with society moving rapidly towards a more digital-heavy realignment.
On the one hand, we’re being shifted away from the physical and towards online transaction, both personally and in business, but at the same time, there are people who seem to believe that when it comes to the digital, we should exist as eternal tenants, stripped of the capacity to control our own online estates.
But, if we’re to operate digitally any more than we already do, then it’s essential to transition from our current, early-iteration, proto-metaverse, to a metaverse that is disinterested and in which we can carve out our own spaces, without fear of centralized power, corrupt bureaucracies or cancellation.
Liberty and Property Rights
It doesn’t much matter whether we view our online worlds through VR attachments or on a beaten-up old Asus monitor. Of far more importance is whether or not we will have personal liberty and property rights in the metaverse, and thankfully, crypto and NFTs are ensuring that we can.