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Monday, March 07, 2022

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George Djorgovski

Let me offer a counterpoint.

The original Metaverse as envisioned by the cyberpunk fiction writers (Gibson, Sterling, Stephenson, Stross, etc.) was essentially an extrapolation of the Internet, as an immersive 3D parallel world where the users interact through their avatars, but with the gaming overtones, for the literary purposes.

Somehow that degenerated into a now prevailing interpretation of the Metaverse as a gigantic collection of (interoperable?) games and social spaces, or even just calling individual games "metaverses", which makes even less sense. It is like calling one's website "my internet". Maybe this is because most people engaged in this business come from the gaming world. I think that this completely misses the point, and there is no future in it. All this will accomplish is to doom the term "metaverse" as a misguided notion that will be forgotten and/or mocked.

Instead, we will see a continued evolution of the Internet, where all of the humanity's informational content is, and where most of the human activities are, driven by the evolving technologies, including XR. There will be gaming and social spaces, of course, as there already are in the current incarnation of the Internet as a global parallel cyberspace, along with everything else that people do. And that is where the people will stay. To think that there will be a new, separate gaming and social cyberworld distinct from the evolving Internet, a gamers' Metaverse, is just plain foolish, in my opinion.

Incidentally, Zuckerberg does seem to understand this, never mind all of the usual critiques of him or his company. His record and vision give him a lot more credibility.

Martin K.

> an extrapolation of the Internet, as an immersive 3D parallel world where the users interact through their avatars, but with the gaming overtones, for the literary purposes.

I think that the literary purposes don't just determine "the gaming overtones" but a lot more of the features of the metaverse as presented in Snow Crash, Neuromancer, and Ready Player One, e.g.: speed of travel is significantly limited. Why? For one thing: it's difficult to have an interesting chase without limited speed of travel. Another example: there is only one, unique metaverse. Why? Because it would be difficult to save the whole real world if a story unfolds in and is limited to just one of a million copies of a virtual world. Yet another feature of the metaverse in those novels: it's persistent, because without actions having persistent consequences, it's more difficult to find meaning in a story. And the list goes on.

My point is: the metaverse in those novels are what they are because they serve literary purposes. I see no reason to expect that the internet will evolve into something even remotely similar: people will not accept significantly limited speed of travel in the internet; people will prefer navigating the internet without random users being able to watch them because they access the same website; people will prefer using text search to quickly scan terabytes of data instead of having to visually search through a 3D representation of that data; and the list goes on.

And by the way, one reason why Meta wants you to engage in more activities on the internet with your Meta avatar (see https://about.fb.com/news/2022/01/updates-to-avatars/ ) is of course that every time you sign-in to use your Meta avatar provides Meta with valuable data about what you are doing on the internet. It's perfectly consistent with Meta's record of tracking their users.

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