The Metaverse is the future that is beyond anyone company that all will make of us. All will make that of us—the importance and discomfort of this year’s Connect and the future of VR and AR. Hopefully, to get a clearer vision of how to make the arrow we just entered the best it possibly can be, ideally to benefit everyone and push this VR thing as far as we can and do it responsibly. And I’m going to warn you, some of you may think I’m being overdramatic here, and that’s okay. In my opinion, virtual reality and augmented reality, and XR in general, aren’t just some gaming or work or entertainment tools. It’s something far more critical, and we’re down a path that will almost inevitably include all of ours, and any one of them can and will have a massive impact on how the world functions entirely. If it doesn’t happen today, then in ten years, and if not, then 100 years and so on. What happens now is the fundamental groundwork for the future of everything. And either believe me on that or don’t. You don’t have to do either. And one more thing. I don’t have any direct bias against Facebook or Meta. They are a Corporation. They will do good things, and they will do bad things. I’m trying to keep this as base as possible. The largest bias is for people and virtual reality as a whole. I fully understand the good that Facebook has done for VR and developers and people. And I’ve recommended their headsets to hundreds of thousands of people at this point, people that would have never gotten into VR if it weren’t for Facebook in Oculus, but that does not mean I can’t be critical of them. Not everything has to be black and white. We don’t have to take these sides and result in tribalism or fanboyism. We can have a legitimate conversation about something that needs to be discussed and share our opinions to grow.
The background as to what spurred this shift and why. I say this is the start of the next phase. Connect 2021 was not a standard press reveal event, and I feel comfortable saying that this year’s Connect was a statement and, in many ways, kind of a land grab. This was a 90 minutes event, and the tangible announcement only lasted for about ten minutes. Total of the runtime.What about the other 80 minutes of the presentation? And this is where things get interesting rather than recap all of it.
The Metaverse is the successor to the current stage of the Internet, connecting people and their digital goods and assets, avatars profiles, workplace entertainment, and communication across every device., that be a phone, VR headset, computer, AR, glasses, or any other tech. The idea is for everything to flow smoothly and be persistent across all mediums, even something as simple as a skin within a game being accessible across any or all applications, even brought into physical reality through augmentation. And along with this vision comes new ways and norms of expression through virtual identity and the possibility for millions of new jobs all within the Metaverse. Whether creating digital goods or providing services or making videos
Using this technology, the ability to work from anywhere becomes a nonissue. Our virtual reality will be just as valid and impactful as physical reality, and physical reality can be augmented and changed in any way you see fit. This is their basic concept of the Metaverse, not the technical side and not the human emotion side, but it is a concept that I agree with. Everything. There sounds just fine, and it’s difficult to find anything in that explanation that is even possibly disagreeable unless you hate AR or VR or don’t believe in it. However, something about this whole presentation was very unsettling, and it wasn’t the bad acting or staged events, and it also wasn’t the fact that Facebook was doing it. It’s that we weren’t being told about new features coming to a headset in the next update or about an experimental Half Dome Five prototype. Instead, we were being pitched our future. We were told all the things we’re going to be able to do and how we’re going to do it and how the world would work essentially, and we were vaguely told how it’s going to happen with a bunch of buzzwords as positive as this future sounds. This wasn’t some Disney Tomorrowland. We’ve been pitched on our future before. The unsettling part is this vision is a legitimate fundamental shift in all of society, from work to play to the very way we perceive physical reality. There wasn’t anything bad here. This is already a future I have imagined and thought about in detail and even already experienced in VR, but something didn’t and didn’t feel right here. Still, it’s flying over the whole world’s head right now.
Most people don’t know the kind of impact VR or AR can have on people from an outside perspective. It’s mostly seen as a possibly Gimmicky gaming device or tool, but spend a few thousand hours in VR chat and have a relationship or really do anything in VR for long periods and even in its current early state. You know the power and personal fulfillment that VR can offer, and all of these Metaverse concepts sound so small and inconsequential when put into cute graphics with promises of jobs for everybody. But we have to remember, this technology at its core is designed to blur the lines between what’s real. Fundamentally not saying either is morally right or wrong. That’s not for me to say that’s for society to decide, but we need to proceed with passion.
The original term Metaverse was coined in Snow Crash, a dystopian Cyberpunk VR novel. That Metaverse exists in a world with crashed economics and a computer virus that gives you brain damage. Great read. You should check it out. But back to reality, Meta has committed to building the Metaverse, saying it will cost billions and require collaborations from everyone in the industry. Everyone will have to work together to build applications on a standard. It’s been said over and over again that Meta doesn’t want to build a Metaverse owned entirely by Meta, and of course, they don’t. It’s like they’re spinning the concept of a Metaverse to benefit them in the public eye. If every company built its closed ecosystem like this, it would be a massive mess, and none of it would work. Instead, they’d rather be the integration for everybody into the industry. And Meta is building the infrastructure to kickstart the Metaverse, the tools and APIs and financial backing for everyone to use and integrate with, which is dangerous in itself. I do want to be clear. I’m not going to sit here and act like I know all of the technical details because the details aren’t hashed out, aren’t public. And as John Carmack says, it’s a little more complicated when you get into the nuts and bolts. It was all fluff and vision, and what we got isn’t exactly what I imagined the Metaverse would be. The Metaverse is connected, and the pitch that we got while in concept is fine. It’s missing something significant. The Metaverse is connections we’ve been living in and growing that Metaverse slowly and organically, as a community together, the way that we want it, it’s freedom.
Our future holds for us for years now, going to clubs with live DJs and dancing like crazy with full-body tracking and expression, having actual relationships and meaningful connections across the globe, people getting married in VR, partaking in digital commerce, across platforms, creating worlds and jobs and owning our virtual identities as a good part of us and respecting others to do the same. Then Meta comes in, tells us this is your future that we’re building, and we’re no longer Facebook. By the way, we are Meta, and we’re making the Metaverse. Believe in the vision of the Metaverse that was laid out. But this is a company that, in the Responsible Innovation Principles list, puts people first. His listed last. I don’t believe any Corporation Meta should have primary, secondary or tertiary control of the Metaverse as they call it, and certainly should not be the sole builder of the infrastructure. And watching this made me realize we need some decentralized syndicate formed to build these standards open source where no one company or entity has leverage over any other. We cannot let this one slip. It’s way too much power in the hands of companies that will not put people first. The ones that will put people first are people. And this is beyond just censorship on centralized social media sites. This is giving companies our actual reality and perception of existence. If that doesn’t make you uncomfortable, I don’t know what would this is our everything. And I also don’t feel comfortable with Facebook changing their name to Meta, then pitching our future that we’re building back to us as the Metaverse in this cold, out-of-touch way, and then claiming they don’t want any control. Guys, no company pours billions of dollars into something to get nothing in return. I don’t know exactly what we can do about any of this. I mean, keep doing exactly what we’re already doing or something more drastic, like deny the name Metaverse as a community and find a new term for this thing that we can make and accept together. I guess that would invalidate their entire name change to Meta if everyone didn’t call it Metaverse. This would be hilarious, but there are obvious positives to Meta being in this space. They’re bringing a lot of money and doing things that no other company is doing, and maybe they will be the ones that bring the other companies out both for competition and collaboration.
The foundation of this thing that connects us and gives us all of these opportunities needs to be open. And if we’re going to do something, now is the time to own it and accept that we are VR, and we will dictate our virtual future, stand for something or fall for everything. But now, a much more thought-provoking hypothetical experiment. We will likely eventually be in a world where virtual reality and augmented reality become so advanced that our entire perception of physical reality is altered to a point where people can’t distinguish between what is real and what isn’t. It just is. And the way society reacts to that is unknown. Virtual reality may become so good and necessary to function within that society that people choose it over reality. And at that point, the standard constructs of society no longer stand. Now is the time to put some real thought and care into how our future is handled. We have everything to gain individual power, expression, freedom, exploration, all of these things. And we also have everything to lose. And if you think a government will save you once things go too far, governments don’t mean much when companies and corporations control how people perceive the world they live in. This is our chance to make virtual reality whatever we want. We didn’t get to choose where we were born or how we looked, or the rules in this world. But we have that opportunity virtually. Don’t let anybody control that. And also a very heartfelt moment. The brand Oculus is dead. Meta will take over all Oculus activities, starting with a slow rollout, meaning even the quest is no longer the Oculus Quest. It’s soon to be the Meta Quest. The original vision and inspiration of Oculus were to share VR and this technology as a dream and passion. And after nearly a decade, that era has come to a close. And this is to make sure the next era and the future beyond that are our eras to shape the world virtually and physically, benefit everyone, and explore and connect and express ourselves our chosen and valid virtual selves. And we have to take care of number one, which is us. Also, I thought the Servant Nexus works pretty well as a replacement.