No One Asked for the Metaverse
A small, unelected, unaccountable group of executives are the ones making sweeping decisions about how we use new technology
In his recent article in The Atlantic, “The Metaverse is Bad,” Ian Bogost takes on a question that business and technology publications have so far mostly avoided — do we, as a society, actually want a metaverse?
Put differently, are there any reasons beyond the machinations of a handful of powerful corporations and the dreary utopian dreaming of tech enthusiasts that the creation of a metaverse is a worthwhile project?
If you aren’t aware, the metaverse is the name given to the layer of virtual reality that is all but destined to soon be folded into reality, potentially subsuming it. The phrase itself is tricky to pin down. Some see it as merely a more immersive extension of our current digital life; other times it’s clearly meant to be a fully-formed alternate reality where people can live, work, play, and — crucially — spend money.
What we actually get, only time will tell.
What we know, almost for certain, is that the metaverse will not be the second coming of the internet. There is too much at stake. Too few companies with too much capital vying to be the ultimate provider of the daily escape to the metaverse. The tech oligarchy has become too shrewd about data, advertising, and power to let an opportunity of this magnitude pass without attempting to thoroughly dominate it.
Facebook, of course, has already made its plans to control the metaverse well known, even rebranding as Meta just last week. This, alone, should give us all pause about what lies beyond the headset.
If it’s impossible to know what the metaverse will look like, it’s also quite difficult to understand how its users stand to benefit.
Right now, the applications of the metaverse seem to revolve around gaming and speculation with NFTs. People will certainly develop new applications, but the details are still fairly hazy; usually, there’s a mention of applications for engineering, medicine, or education without much of an explanation as to what exactly the benefits will be. Since this is all future-oriented, people like…