Facebook has made several more statements related to its intention to become a company in the metaverse. Every time Facebook throws the word “metaworld,” right after the depression, I think of “The Snow Crash,” Neil Stevenson’s main science fiction epic of 1992 (and one of my favorite books), writes Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship.
Stevenson coined the term “metauniverse” to describe a fully reproduced virtual world into which people can “connect” with varying degrees of fidelity depending on their money, computing power, and / or coding capabilities. But people do not always use this term now, which is problematic.
Of more concern is the fact that the term is being promoted by Facebook, a company that may also be the best example of evil science fiction megacorporations (see Tyrell Corp., Cyberdyne Systems, Soylent Company, or Ready Player One’s Innovative Online Industries).
I am no more hostile to the potential of virtual worlds than to the Internet or mobile devices in their infancy; we live a digitally supplemented life every day. Through Google Maps or Roblox, we already have a digital layer of our daily lives. So why is the term now increasing? I guess we are in the plot (or perhaps prehistory) of our own science fiction episode.
If the power that Mark Zuckerberg has consolidated today was accumulated in a more familiar context, it would be considered extremely worrying. But because it was “only the Internet,” we allowed capacity to grow. If we allow this to happen again in our nascent virtual worlds, Facebook will not only control what content we read and what photos we see (which is already very exciting), but also the rules of commerce or even physics itself.
His huge stake in dominating the future in our interactions with each other is more or less reminiscent of IOI CEO Nolan Sorrento in Ready Player One – the hell he wants to “control the future.”
We have repeatedly seen how this story unfolds, both in our fiction and in our modern lives. For a long time, many saw the Internet as a great opportunity to improve the world – to democratize access to information and to demarcate the old power structures. Its openness has created communities that could reduce isolation and access like never before: open source software and businesses such as Wikipedia, Kiva, and Khan University have prospered. All of these positive innovations were fueled by the openness of the Internet, not the imposed order.
Brands already have countless ways to reach people and earn their attention, and ideally, their loyalty is actually so much that it’s hard to keep up. Your customers ask themselves, “Why isn’t this brand in my headset yet?” Does your customer really have a headset? The answer to both questions is likely to be a resounding no.
Advertising budgets have already funded a huge supranational organization that has been shown to repeatedly act against the interests of society. We must prevent the same thing from happening again. Therefore, I ask you – do not use the terminology of science fiction, not having learned the lessons it offers. It’s time to read the book.
Michael Lebowitz is the founder and CEO of Big Spaceship.
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