Here’s What You Never Wanted to Know About the Future of Talking About the Future.
Do you remember back in the days? When we sat under trees in the cool evening breeze to listen to Grandpa and Grandma tell us folklore about the tortoise, hare and other unique characters in the animal kingdom.
Remember when we ran to play in the rain, and cried hot tears when Mama punished us to kneel and face the wall while the screams and laughter of our friends and neighbours tickled our juvenile ears.
Now, everything has changed and is changing, and it would seem there’s even more change to come.
‘Metaverse’ - a (maybe not so new) buzzword going around modern tech circles.
What exactly is this ‘Metaverse’? Let’s start by breaking it down, literally.
The Oxford Languages Dictionary points us to the origin of the word, ‘Metaverse’ as a 1990s English blend of ‘Meta’ (sense 3; behind, after, or beyond) and ‘Universe’. Going by this, we could simply define ‘Metaverse’ as “beyond universe”.
We could say talking about the ‘Metaverse’ now mirrors what it must have felt like to talk about ‘the internet’ in 1998 Nigeria. It must have been surreal for those who wrote letters, and waited days to have those letters delivered by the post office, to discover the new ‘email’ function, thanks to some ‘internet’.
Those who once licked stamps onto their envelopes must have been out of their minds when someone told them that some ‘invisible’ Internet could deliver their previously handwritten letters to the intended recipients within seconds.
Now, when we hear tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg talk about everyone having ‘digital clothes’ in the Metaverse, we wonder if this is indeed the future of the internet, a video game, or an uncomfortably worse version of Zoom.
It’s hard to say.
Despite the lack of specifics when it comes to the Metaverse, there is still a lot of hype around what it is, or better still, what it’s meant to be.
In China, for instance, Shanghai officially listed the Metaverse in its five-year plan for the tech industry, saying the concept should be applied in areas including public services, entertainment, and manufacturing.
Corporations like Nvidia, Unity, Roblox, Snap, and Facebook (sorry, Meta) are also fully embracing the Metaverse.
Various people have taken a shot at actually describing what the Metaverse is. We all seem to be ‘learning on the job.’
Some describe the Metaverse as an immersive virtual reality version of the internet where people can interact with digital objects and digital representations of themselves and others, as well as move from one virtual environment to another.
Sounds like a video game, but not exactly.
Apparently, at the foundation of the Metaverse are two (2) important concepts, ‘Augmented Reality’ (AR) and ‘Virtual Reality’ (VR).
AR is a blend of virtual and physical realities that represents people and objects from the physical world in the virtual world, on the one hand; yet also conversely brings the virtual world into people’s perceptions of physical reality.
This is really starting to sound like a carefully thought-out play on all our minds.
On the other hand, VR is said to be characterized by “persistent virtual worlds that continue to exist even when you're not playing.”
What exactly are we ‘playing’???
Maybe describing what to expect with the arrival of the Metaverse will help paint a clearer picture of what the metaverse is.
This seems to be the question we’ve been trying to answer from the beginning anyway.
First, a digital economy.
In the Metaverse, users are able to create, buy and sell virtual goods; or is it to create, buy and sell physical goods virtually?
This doesn’t already exist??
Maybe there IS more to it in the Metaverse.
In the more idealistic visions of the Metaverse, this digital economy is interoperable. This means that the Metaverse allows you to take virtual items from one platform to another; much like how you can buy a shirt from Balogun Market and wear it to your office at Ikoyi.
Right now, while many online shopping platforms have virtual identities or avatars on which you could try on clothes, for example, such virtual identities or avatars are only tied to that platform and cannot be used on another platform.
So, you cannot create an avatar while shopping for clothes on PayPorte (if PayPorte has this option) and move your PayPorte avatar to a Flutterwave store to buy matching shoes. But, the Metaverse might allow you to do this.
With the Metaverse, you might be able to create a persona that you can take everywhere as easily as you can copy your profile picture from Instagram to Facebook.
Next, a new and upgraded way to socialize.
During Meta’s (previously Facebook) presentation on the Metaverse, for example, the company shows a scenario in which a young woman who sees her friend at a concert, on Instagram, appears at the same concert in an Avengers-style hologram and is able to make eye contact with said friend at said concert.
So now, with the Metaverse, Meta (Facebook) describes a creation of ‘virtual’ houses, Microsoft proposes ‘virtual’ meeting rooms and we just might be able to transport ourselves from Point A to Point B, via holograms.
More interestingly, some parts of the Metaverse seem to already be in development.
In the midst of the 2021 crypto boom, the price of a digital currency called MANA began climbing the charts in Coinbase, a popular exchange for digital currencies. MANA is the currency of a virtual world called Decentraland, made up of user-generated NFTs, where plots of digital land have been sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Decentraland’s currency and land contracts run on the Ethereum blockchain. Denizens of Decentraland are constantly creating scenes and experiences for other users, like concerts and art exhibits. There are casinos where you can gamble in MANA, and real estate firms like Republic Realm and Sotheby's (yes, THE Sotheby’s - world’s largest, most trusted and dynamic marketplace for art and luxury) have acquired estate and plots in Decentraland.
All we’ve spoken about today is just a tip of the iceberg. This is a continuously developing concept, the Metaverse that is.
Despite these seemingly impressive feats and propositions for the Metaverse, critics have spoken up as regards the Metaverse concept. Some condemn the term ‘metaverse’ as yet another tech buzzword, while others describe the tech moguls backing it as opportunistic and/or idealistic.
There are also those who believe that such a ‘universe’ will have its pros and cons; and that a major disadvantage might be the inevitable creation of an easier medium for terrorism through online recruitment, easy coordination and even newer targets. Of course, the Metaverse believers are inadvertently of the opinion that we attempt a ‘regularization’ of the Metaverse through things like responsible innovation, data privacy policies, and so forth.
Personally, I sort of miss listening to my grandparents tell me about the greedy tortoise, and I’m definitely nostalgic of my memories of playing in the rain with my siblings. I’m of the opinion that we’re in quite a rush to get even further away from each other through these new technological advancements, and that we might need to focus more on improving our physical relationships first.
But, that’s just me. What do YOU think?