It’s me: Kelly Vero, creative badass, future-gazer, game developer and general metaverse nerd. The metaverse has been around for as long as I have! It has gained more of a practical turbocharge than its whimsical sci-fi theoretics in current years and the momentum is at critical mass. But some total douche suggested that the metaverse was dead before it had even had the chance to live! I jump in my NFT Audi Quattro to investigate.
An explanation about the metaverse is necessary to propose why I think that the metaverse is very much alive (stop me if you’ve heard this one before).
The metaverse was first mentioned in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, and the cultural philosophy of the metaverse has been explored by everybody from William Gibson to Ernest Cline and even myself included.
However, what the metaverse actually is seems to evade everybody, because where there are people who believe in the metaverse and everything that it stands for, there are also people who do not accept that the metaverse exists.
So, let's have a look at the people who don't believe that the metaverse exists because they are a bit weird.
Persistent. Shared. Social. Interoperable.
The metaverse itself isn't anything new.
It is definitely a cultural phenomenon, and also heavily philosophical in its development, one might say escapist. It spans everything, from wearables to the distribution of content. It will in the future cover everything from real estate (and to some extent, it already does) through to travel and hospitality and again in some cases it already does provide this utility.
Where does this belief that the metaverse doesn't exist “yet” come from?
It's a good question. Because the metaverse is to a greater extent an open source experience, it is not technically owned by anybody. And because it's not owned by anybody, it is owned by everybody; it must therefore be controlled or whatever, by those who have the money and the resources to do so.
Writing as somebody who actually works in technology: I have worked for millions of software projects and hardware projects that have been bankrolled by outside investors and owned by technology corporations, however big or small. What I've never had a problem with, is understanding the project that I'm working on: whether it goes live, or it's dropped because it's crap. I've never been under any illusion that this project didn't exist.
So, when I see my hard working colleagues and peers in this brave new metaverse space, working tirelessly to create something that everybody can enjoy; it is a little bit pissy to read that there is a certain fraction of the technology population that does not really believe in its existence.
That doesn't make sense.
Go to Decentraland, you will see a metaverse in existence rather than a game. And you can connect to that metaverse through a variety of different platforms.
Hey, look, if you are wearing a Fitbit, you can access your statistics and find out the gamification of your particular task or goal through their dashboard. But that’s still not a game. Fitbit is without question: Persistent. Shared. Social. Interoperable.
That is metaversal isn’t it?
So I'm wondering why people believe it doesn't really exist, or they suggest that it hasn't come to life yet. This is a bit of a Schrödinger’s cat for the tech bros, sure, but not the end users and they are your audience.
This hasn’t-come-to-life-yet discussion is more of an echo chamber for the people who don't especially buy into the metaverse outside of anything around XR. Extended reality.
Recently, I've worked with a gigantic tech corporation who shall remain nameless (but you can definitely take a guess).
Whilst working with them, it became apparent very, very quickly, that outside of their extended reality research and development, they really had not planned to do anything more widespread than that.
When I asked them about whether there would be a mass adoption of what it was that they were creating (hardware, predominantly for extended reality use cases); they answered. “Well, there isn't really a metaverse unless we create it.” I narrowed my eyes and found the first opportunity to stop working with them, what would be the point?
The learnings from that experience particularly, was a little like my beef with digital fashion. The pale, male and stale higher ups are trying to make the decisions for Gen Z, where they believe products exist in their own image. Gen Z doesn't agree.
If things are being created by an open source network or by the people at large, then of course, there isn't a tech corporation that's going to recognise a metaverse as existing beyond their own source control.
You think this is a Game?
Lately, I've read a lot about the possibility that the metaverse might be dead. I was very, very surprised to read this. I was so surprised to read this as it didn't feel like it was coming from a bad place. But also it didn't feel as though or read as though it was completely accurate either. And it came from a good source. If you take a look at some of these huge technology management consultants and their annual reports, they give in to the idea of the metaverse, but only from the perspective of buzzwords and marketing. But they don’t truly believe in the metaverse; it doesn't suit their board members or stakeholders to get behind a $26 trillion sector built on, well, what is it built on? It has to be something that they understand.
But in the case of the metaverse being dead, this was troubling to say the least. And trouble seldom comes from the community it's aimed at: the open source networks, the people who believe in working towards the common goals of what they hope the metaverse will be.
No, it came from these tech creators who don't believe that the metaverse is in existence in the first place.
Therefore, if tech corporations are effectively propagandising the metaverse, is the metaverse dead before it's even been given an opportunity to be born?
I say absolutely not.
The metaverse will continue to be whatever the end user wants it to be. For some, that is a gamified platform with which to navigate, perform tasks or just have fun (so just chill out please, The Drum). For others. It is digital or system process twinning, where you are able to create simulations of existing working spaces and places. Moreover I hope that the continuation of The Sandbox and Decentraland as a place where real estate can be bought and real estate can be built on becoming its own purpose-driven platform.
So, when people say that the metaverse is dead, out loud, in public, I question their belief system as to whether they thought the metaverse was alive in the first place.
And if they don't believe that the metaverse is alive in the first place, are they exactly the type of people that we want around the metaverse? I don't really subscribe to negative propaganda for a platform that is merely trying to find its feet in a very uncomplicated way. If tech companies and particularly tech and crypto bros want to over complicate the situation, then that is their want.
But for the people who really believe in the application of the metaverse as an opportunity to do a variety of different tasks; from creating a sustainable universe for both creation and for communication, as well as awareness and simulation then you're in really good company. Let’s go in that direction.
Until then, I am going to continue my hunt for the naysayers and the pessimists and try to show them rather than tell them that their minds will be changed.
Oh, and their minds will be blown.