Last updated on November 30, 2021
“This is the Oasis. It’s a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination.” Many adore Ernest Cline’s 2011 dystopian story, Ready Player One, which is set in a world where people live the majority of their lives in virtual reality. The Matrix similarly depicts a future where people are trapped in a simulated reality. But can we expect this world of virtual reality to become – a reality?
According to Mark Zuckerberg and many others, absolutely. His company, Meta (previously Facebook), is set to invest $10 billion in the metaverse in 2021. The “metaverse” is a highly immersive digital reality in which users interact using virtual and augmented reality technologies. In Meta’s YouTube video, “The Metaverse and How We’ll Build It Together”, creator Mark Zuckerberg reveals his plan for the future of the Internet. The visuals in the video seem like those in dystopian films; through these, Zuckerberg illustrates a world where “you can create and explore with other people who aren’t in the same physical space as you.” (Meta) He explains how the metaverse will transform the way that people learn, work, and communicate.
Despite the existence of virtual reality technologies today, the metaverse has not necessarily arrived yet. Many expect it to replace our current form of the Internet. Before this happens, virtual and augmented reality technologies need to improve. Additionally, the idea of a metaverse must gain popular support, something that may be challenging because Zuckerberg currently does not have much. This metaverse is not a model that will solely be created by Meta, however. Many companies, including Meta and Microsoft, are competing to create a part of this “next phase of the internet”.
However, some are expressing their concern. John Carmack, the Chief Technology Officer of Oculus VR, is dissatisfied with Meta’s efforts to create the metaverse (despite working under the company): “I have been pretty actively arguing against every single metaverse effort… I want it to exist, but I have pretty good reasons to believe that setting out to build the metaverse is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse… I just don’t believe that one player-one company-winds up making all the right decisions for this.” (UploadVR)
The successful development of a metaverse is also significant for the existence of cryptocurrency and non-fungible tokens (NFTs). In this new universe, an emphasis on digital ownership encourages investors to shift their focus to cryptocurrencies, which could be used as a payment system in the metaverse. NFTs are essentially digital collector’s certificates that can represent ownership of items such as art, GIFS, or sports highlights. For example, a LeBron James highlight was recently sold as an NFT for $200,000.
Mark Zuckerberg states that this transition to a new Internet will take five to ten years. Whether this happens or not, it is necessary to be conscious of the era our world is moving towards.