Human beings have had a poor track record of predicting future technological advancements. In recent years predictions of autonomous vehicles and the ratio of electric cars are behind schedule. In sci-fi, human beings were expected to have much superior propulsion technology compared to what we have now. But our space travel has disappointed nearly all science fiction written in decades past. To think, Star Trek wrote about cryogenic space travel happening in the 1990s, the Botany Bay. Alien likewise had human space travel as far more advanced. In contrast, these science fiction classics whiffed on how intelligent and capable computer technology would be in the future. They could fathom facetime calls, artificial intelligence, but they could not predict the size, speed, and sophistication of such advancements. Is the metaverse merely another human attempt to predict future technology?
Venture capitalist Matthew Ball defines it as:
The Metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.
Editor’s Note: This article is inspired by The Gospel Coalition’s attempt to navigate this issue. They give the following as examples of forerunners to the metaverse
- FOX’s Alter Ego features musical artists performing as digital avatars for the show’s judges. Contestants explain that physical appearance or social anxiety previously hindered them, but using an avatar allows them to be real. In the metaverse, people will have digital identities they may prioritize over their physical identity.
- Niantic’s Pokémon Go allows players to use phone cameras to see AR Pokémon and capture them. In the future, people may use AR glasses to simulate offices and hangouts with friends.
- Travis Scott put on a live concert within Fortnite, where players could participate, dance, and move across worlds. More than 30 million people participated, making it bigger than the Super Bowl halftime show. In the future, people may expect or even prefer virtual venues as the place to experience live events.
- Apple’s facial recognition software uses infrared to analyze 30,000 points on your face. This is what allows you to make animojis and memojis, which accurately render your facial expressions in real time. In the metaverse, people’s digital avatars will seamlessly reflect their actual facial expression, creating a simulacrum of authentic personal presence.
- Playstation 5’s controllers have revolutionary haptic technology, which enable game-makers to create eerily realistic physical sensations. In the future, haptic gloves will give you the ability to feel a digital handshake, hold a digital mug, or slap a digital high five.
- Microsoft’s PlayFab and Amazon’s GameLift use AI to host and matchmake gamers seeking a multiplayer experience. This keeps games fun, because you only compete with similarly skilled players. In the metaverse, matchmaking services might use AI-powered personality testing to create digital friend groups based on shared interests.
- NFTs (non-fungible tokens) allow you to own a discrete piece of digital property. In the metaverse, people will buy digital designer products, wearing them or using them across platforms in VR, or even in the real world via AR. Put on your AR glasses and a person or place becomes a living, moving piece of art (or advertisement).
- Microsoft’s latest Flight Simulator contains over 2.5 million gigabytes of data, because Microsoft mapped the real world and built it into the game. It has 2 trillion unique trees, and 1.5 billion unique buildings. The simulator matches real-world activity, including weather (some people flew into a hurricane just to check it out). This is called a “mirror world,” and in the future people might use these digital assets to design buildings for real-world construction or digital use only. You could buy a hyper-realistic digital property in which you live, interact, or go on mini-vacations.
Most of these are fads or, in the case of a flight simulator, a good product. But the gist is that we will have a virtual self that goes into a virtual world that is interconnected with our physical selves and physical world.
The Dominion Mandate
God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:28). This does not compute with living for a virtual reality. However, this issue is not new. The same people that struggle with the dominion mandate in face of video games will also struggle with the metaverse, but all in all the dystopian mantra, “you will own nothing, and you will like it.” is ever present in the metaverse. With companies like Facebook getting behind this concept, the corporate push for the metaverse may alienate many from joining it as we have an increasingly polarized society.
It’s difficult to tell what will substantially change with the metaverse, as human nature will remain constant. But with humanity’s poor record of anticipating advancements, this may be little more than an expensive fad that corporations are buying into.