No One Wants Your Metaverse
Let’s define the future we actually do want
Enough already. This week, Mark Zuckerberg held an internal meeting at Meta (née Facebook) to announce the company’s new values. Values are part of a company’s DNA, articulated — after paying consultants millions of dollars — to be the guiding principles of a brand. They are meant to help make decisions and dictate behaviors, signal to consumers what to expect when interacting with the brand, and to make sure everyone on staff is toeing the line. (As if Facebook’s turn to the dystopian weren’t frightening enough, if you work at Meta you are now called a “Metamate.”) Mark & Meta put forth these three values to help them forge their way, and ours, into the metaverse: “move fast,” “build awesome things,” and “live in the future.”
Let’s put aside for a second the fact that these are written as active verbs, not by accident. (By contrast, most humans perceive values to be nouns: honor, trust, ambition, transparency, kindness, and the like.) But for those who are unclear what exactly the metaverse is, it is the brainchild of Big Tech: an online world anyone can access through a virtual-reality headset, in which you can interact with friends (as avatars), companies (and spend money), and even the real, physical world with some sort of altered-reality filter. Meta has invested $10B already in its development. JPMorgan, the bank, is now setting up shop in the metaverse as Onyx Lounge, where you can hang out with a tiger. For those curious, the Onyx Lounge and its tiger are located in the blockchain-based world of Decentraland — whatever any of that means.
Will this all be cool? Of course it will. It’s the evolved version of Second Life from the early 2000s, but souped-up. And compared to what Mark & Meta hope to build, this initial version is sure to look like Burger Time looks to us now — basic, simple, OG, first-gen. In five, ten, and twenty years, this could be where life happens. If Mark & Meta have their druthers, this will be where life happens. Much like Twitter has taken the place of the office water cooler, the metaverse wants to take the place of nearly everything else. It is sure to be cool. But it also sure to be a disaster for humanity, especially if the entire venture is led by the three values Meta is now rallying around.