Oculus Rift's Chief Scientist Wants to Build Neal Stephenson's Metaverse (Whether or Not Neal Stephenson Thinks the Metaverse is the Future)
Confirmed: Renowned game programmer Michael Abrash, Oculus' newly confirmed chief scientist (who joined just as Facebook bought the company), sees the VR technology as The Path to the Metaverse (as his announcement is entitled): "Sometime in 1993 or 1994, I read Snow Crash," he writes on the Oculus blog, "and for the first time thought something like the Metaverse might be possible in my lifetime." So here's the curious irony: I've had a chance to e-mail a bit with Neal Stephenson over the years, and he's always distanced himself from saying the Metaverse he first described in Snow Crash was a place he thought that we'd necessarily create or use in the future: "I am just a storyteller and have never claimed nor sought the mantle of 'guy who predicts the future'", as he put it to me a few years ago.
In fact, in other interviews, Stephenson describes the future of virtual reality as probably being more game-like, than how he described The Metaverse in his landmark novel:
[T]he virtual reality that we all talked about and that we all imagined 20 years ago didn’t happen in the way that we predicted. It happened instead in the form of video games. And so what we have now is Warcraft guilds, instead of people going to bars on the street in Snow Crash... It’s just inherently more interesting to enter into an art-directed alternate world, where you can go on adventures and get into fights and engage with the world that way, than it is to enter a world where all you can do is kind of stand around and chat.
And in another interview from 2011:
The way the Internet developed, in my mind, is completely different from the Metaverse in ‘Snow Crash,’ ” he said. “I can talk all day long about how wrong I got it. But there are a lot of people who feel as though that was an accurate prediction.”
His opinion may have changed in the couple years (especially as he's jumped into game development himself), something I'm asking about now. But it would be uniquely ironic if one of the world's largest Internet companies has dedicated itself to building a vision its original creator doesn't see as the future (if he ever did).
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