Metaverse! Didn’t we just struggle to understand NFTs, the brouhaha around it, its purpose and why it was the next ‘big thing’? When did the next big thing after this ‘big thing’ happen? Can we slow down, seriously? Unfortunately, no. Technological advances are happening at the speed of light, and whilst we would love to pause and fully grasp the ‘largeness’ of these technologies, our understanding just needs to keep up.
The metaverse is a concept in continuous development. However, it is loosely described by WSJ as an extensive online world where people interact with each other through their digital avatars. The word ‘metaverse’ was coined by Neal Stephenson, in the year 1992, for the science fiction novel Snow Crash, in which humans as their avatars interact with each other and software in a parallel 3D world.
A digital world that simulates reality, wherein we have our own avatars, and are interacting with people we know or strangers via complex kinds of interactions. It could be watching a concert, going for a vacation, seeing a boxing match, landing on another planet or purchasing land on virtual planets. We can access the metaverse through gaming devices, virtual reality and augmented reality devices, PCs, and mobile phones. It’s almost like plugging in to the matrix and living life through and in this “metaverse” realm.
In 2020, 12.3 million people attended a virtual concert by Travis Scott in Fortnite, making it their largest event ever. Mars House, the world’s first digital NFT home sold for $500,000 recently. Facebook recently rebranded and announced its next avatar Meta, its foray into the metaverse.
The current size of the metaverse, which includes AR and VR, is about $30 billion, projected to grow to about $300 billion by 2024. Clearly, this is the next big thing. Our collective next question should be—but why? We have a physical reality, one that has actual requirements from us—work, family, sustenance of life, pleasure and perhaps even transcendence. How does escaping into this alternate reality help us or solve problems for us?
Perhaps, this is a moment of transcendence for humanity, a chance to create a world devoid of toxicity, separation and boundaries? Perhaps a world where loneliness can be combated with ease? Or are we just running away into a parallel reality not burdened with climate change, divisiveness and maybe even Covid? A chance to live without consequences.
The metaverse has clearly been in the making since the day the word was created; it seems like a natural progression in our dependence on technology especially social media. According to a 2021 report by the Pew Research Center, 84 percent of people between the ages 18 and 29 use social media. According to a 2020 report by the ESA, 70 percent of American kids aged 18 and below (or 51.1 million) are gamers. It was a matter of time we made this digital parallel reality 3D. Whether we are using the metaverse to escape our everyday or we are creating it as our collective dream, it is only going to be successful if we all co-create and cohabit it. Parallel or real—the choice is yours.
Founder, Terrain.art, a blockchain-powered online platform