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Is the metaverse our digital future? Facebook thinks so. But some think Mark Zuckerberg has his head in the clouds and is getting his predictions wildly wrong.
Sarah smiles as she walks through a magical garden with her newfound friends. Next to her, Joe bobs his head as he dances excitedly at a packed Coldplay concert. Across the room, their father adjusts his headset as he tries on a shirt at a new city centre boutique.
They are all in the same room. But the family are living in different worlds.
This is what life could look like in just 10 years, according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The company has had a turbulent year. Accusations that Facebook prioritised profit over users’ welfareWelfare can take a variety of forms, such as monetary payments, subsidies and vouchers, or housing assistance. have dominated headlines. Zuckerberg is betting on a new name and project to transform Facebook’s fortunes. The future, he says, is the metaverseAn online virtual world. A combination of meta, meaning beyond, and universe. .
But what exactly is the metaverse?
The term was first coined in 1992 by sci-fi writer Neal Stephenson. In his novel Snow Crash, people escaped from the dystopian real world into a virtual 3D land.
Today, technology experts describe the metaverse as the next evolution of the internet. From Facebook to Fortnite, entrepreneurs are racing to get ahead of the game.
For now, each company has their own vision. Facebook is working on a virtual reality office called Workplace. Last April, Fortnite owner Epic Games hosted 12 million live viewers at a virtual Travis Scott concert.
But most tech enthusiasts agree that within 15 years, our avatars will be using the metaverse for almost every routine activity, from working to shopping to chatting with friends.
Is this future inevitable? The tech experts seem to think so, but not everyone is so convinced.
Most expert predictions about the future are “impossibly bad”, points out American neurophilosopherErik Hoel’s research interests are the study and philosophy of consciousness and cognition. Erik Hoel.
Cars, the cinema, electricity and telephones were all once dismissed as passing fads. Meanwhile, one vacuum cleaner boss told The New York Times in 1955 that “nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years”.
One American study collected 82,361 forecasts from 284 experts over 20 years. When the experts declared events to be impossible, 15% of them occurred. When they declared events to be certain, 25% of them never happened.
“The truth is that most futurists are attracted to speculating about the future for the same reason as science fiction writers: they like geeking out about technological possibilities and the associated metaphysicsA part of philosophy concerned with the fundamental nature of reality.,” summarises Hoel.
The best way to predict the future is not to fantasise about non-existent technologies, but to instead look at what is already happening.
A time traveller from 1998 would not be shocked by the modern world, declares one futurist. People still wear the same clothes, read the same books and talk about the same things: globalisation and terrorism. The leap from a Nokia 9800 with inbuilt email to a smartphone would not be difficult.
Hoel’s predictions for 2050 include anti-ageing technology and female-dominated workplaces. He thinks virtual reality addiction is a possibility, but not a certainty.
Is the metaverse our digital future?
Brave new world
Definitely not, say some. Mark Zuckerberg is taking a wild gamble to save Facebook’s fortunes. Most exciting new possibilities in the tech world eventually wither away into nothing. Virtual reality may be the future of gaming, but it will never be a complete substitute for the physical world.
It could be, say others. The metaverse may have begun as a sci-fi concept, but today it is more than just a crazy fantasy. Unlike the hoverboard or brain downloads, the metaverse is rooted in a technology that exists now: virtual reality. With Facebook’s money and determination, anything is possible.
Welfare – Welfare can take a variety of forms, such as monetary payments, subsidies and vouchers, or housing assistance.
Metaverse – An online virtual world. A combination of meta, meaning beyond, and universe.
Neurophilosopher – Erik Hoel’s research interests are the study and philosophy of consciousness and cognition.
Metaphysics – A part of philosophy concerned with the fundamental nature of reality.
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