What the Metaverse is and why it matters to you

What is the Metaverse? Simply put, the Metaverse is the next mega-phase of the internet, a merging of the physical world with XR, AR and VR that is just beginning to revolutionize the way we interact, work and live.

There’s no universally agreed-upon description of the metaverse, but there are some widely recognized characteristics.

How Others Describe it

Here’s how the Wall Street Journal describes it: “an extensive online world transcending individual tech platforms, where people exist in immersive, shared virtual spaces. Through avatars, people would be able to try on items available in stores or attend concerts with friends, just as they would offline.” (The Metaverse will also require massively more computing power as well as tools and code not yet created or written.)

Google the term metaverse and you’ll find several definitions. Wikipedia defines it as a collective virtual shared space, created by the convergence of virtually enhanced physical reality and physically persistent virtual space, including the sum of all virtual worlds.

The word “metaverse” is a portmanteau of the prefix “meta” (meaning beyond) and “universe”; the term is typically used to describe the concept of a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.

Think of a massive virtual realm, one constantly buzzing with activity, where people can go and do whatever they want. They can remotely hang out with friends, create art, consume art, play games, and shop. They can visit other realms too, and their identities stay with them as they travel.

Doesn’t this sound a lot like … the internet?

The Problem with it

The problem with the metaverse is how we interact with it. Are we really who we say we are in this metaverse? Are our avatars good representation of who we truly are?

Who can say?

It’s a universe of its own. Is this beauty or deception?

In another worldview, which is suggested by sociologists is common in Indigenous cultures, each of us creates the reality that we live in through what we do. Practices such as work and rituals connect people, land, life, and spirituality, and together create reality.

A key problem with the former view is that it leads to a “one-world world”: a reality that does not permit other realities. This is what we see already on existing platforms.

The current version of Facebook may increase your ability to connect to other people and communities. But at the same time, it limits how you connect to them. Currently, you are given only a small handful of options on how to respond to some elses’ post: a thumbs up, a heart, a mad face, sand face, etc. These few preset “reactions” to posts and content chosen by invisible algorithms shape the entire experience. You can’t truly be you.

Either way, you are a part of the Metaverse in some way or another.