Arts & Entertainment

THE NAKED CITY – WELCOME TO THE METAVERSE!

It was bad enough adopting a logo that looks like an anorexic version of our own ABC’s, but it now seems Mark Zuckerberg’s latest corporate creation might take ten years to fully eventuate. Come on Mark, this is the era of instant gratification and a new iPod every time you blink. Who wants to wait a decade or more for a cybersonic wonderland that sounds like some fanciful Hollywood sci-fi movie?  

A lot of us are still hanging out for Uber’s flying taxis, fleets of self driving cars and one of those robotic vacuum cleaners that really works. History is peppered with promises of great technological innovation that either failed to deliver or self immolated like the Hindenburg. So should we be cynical about a promised digital layer of reality that will float all around us, totally divorced from the real world, but enhancing our lives to a degree not previously possible. You betcha! 

The ‘metaverse’, which sounds like a second cousin to the Matrix and Second Life, was originally a fictional creation of novelist Neal Stephenson who cast it more in a dystopian context rather than an enlightened view of the future. Today’s IT gurus and entrepreneurs tend to spruik it in religious, almost evangelical terms. 

Perhaps they realise what a mess that the current internet has become in such a relative short time – clogged with hackers, pornographers and all variety of predators as well as the domain of shameless narcissists, influencers and the self entitled. Whether the metaverse will rise above that predominantly sordid world and even render it impotent, remains to be seen. For many of its promoters it promises a kind of spiritual cleansing, a super high tech day of reckoning that will burst forth and release a glorious rebirth. Bring on the raptures! 

Come 2032 and it seems many of us will be spending our day swapping between various forms of reality or to quote one tech baron, Yat Siu: 

“Augmented reality will be a normal part of daily life. Virtual companions will provide information, commentary, updates and advice on matters relevant to you at that point in time, including your assets and activities, in both virtual and real spaces. These facets of reality will not compete, but instead will enhance each other.” 

 Sounds interesting (albeit shit boring) but then we learn from another source, Nitzan Mejkel-Bobrov from eBay that “without AI (Artificial Intelligence), the metaverse won’t exist; as carbon is to the organic world. AI will be both the matrix that provides the necessary structural support and the material from which digital representation will be made.” 

That’s when the alarm bells go off, it all starts to get a bit freaky and I keep coming back to the religious analogy. It could well be that the metaverse of a decade ahead will see the demise of conventional religion around the world, as we become both unflinching converts and ideological slaves to the overidding technology. 

In simplistic terms think of the dark web as hell, the conventional internet as purgatory and the metaverse as heaven. Forget about Hillsong, Scientology, the Jehovah Witnesses and every US TV preacher who promised God given prosperity. The new universal gospel will be written entirely by AI, with the help of spell check and Grammarly, and converts will flock to the Church Of The Sanctified Metaverse. 

Well at least that’s the kind of scenario we can expect in a host of coming sci fi novels and movies, as writers and filmmakers let loose with their wildest ‘future shock’ predictions. It’s good fodder for Hollywood and Netflix especially if it’s framed in the dystopian world of a Blade Runner 3. Personally the Metaverse sounds more like a hyperbolic pitch in a share prospectus than the actual pay out ten years down the track. Hey, I’m still waiting for The Jetsons to become a reality, let along the grandiose dreams of Zuckerberg and co.