Metaverse has become a new buzzword and one of the most talked-about topics in the field of information and technology in recent times. At the same time, it is perhaps the most confusing term for the majority of the people as not many people understand Metaverse’s meaning and how it will change our future. Ever since Facebook changed its name to ‘Meta’ and its founder Mr. Zuckerberg showed a deep interest to invest a huge amount of money and resources to change the internet forever, the curiosity around it has been at its peak. However, it doesn’t matter how much hype the Facebook founder has created around this term, there are several people who doubt him and see Metaverse, not as a positive development of digital technology but see it as a hazard. Now, like many other scientific inventions and technological advancements, Metaverse has two sides of the coin, and herein this blog we will try to understand the ‘Metaverse’ meaning, its future, and expected implications on humanity at large.
Metaverse in simple words is the combination of several virtual worlds where several internet technologies take users into a connected realm of virtual environments. Instead of viewing and experiencing the virtual world from outside of the internet as happens in VR, in Metaverse, the user experiences the world while being inside the internet. It sounds crazy and a little unbelievable but this is how Mr. Zuckerber described it.
Now the question arises, what would be the process to accomplish this? As per Zuckerberg, the user will experience the metaverse through Avatar, and via his/her avatar the user will be able to attend concerts, play games, socialize, party, do shopping, and even work while being in the comfort of their living rooms. Definitely, some gear will be used and it seems like Metaverse will blend augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence together to create an experience that has never been experienced before.
Possibilities in Metaverse :
Metaverse has been projected as the new revolution on the internet and part of the advancement of digital technology. It has been seen as the next big thing that will open up gates of 1 trillion of investment and completely revamp the way users interact with the internet. Take an example of a user who uses metaverse, say a person “A’s Avatar purchases a Mercedes car in a Metaverse environment and uses the same car in a game in another metaverse world. Another person purchases a pair of shoes from the Nike online showroom and uses them in a football game on another platform but at the same time fully enjoys and experiences the game seamlessly through Metaverse gear and technology. In a similar way, people can purchase online tickets of a concert and attend the concert in a more immersive way with his /her family members, companion or friends through an avatar, And remember the user will be cut off from the external world totally and will be able to experience everything very much close to reality.
Some of the common components which will make the Metaverse a reality are:
- Immersive experience,
- A virtual world is close to real-world in terms of look, feel, and experience where people can do multiple stuff as they do in the real-life
- Existence of multiple platforms among which users can jump from one to another,
- Use of Avatar as a real identity in the virtual world
- Extensive use of A/R/VR/ MR(Mix reality ) cryptocurrency and AI along with the high-speed internet.
A brief history of the Metaverse
Although the Metaverse meaning is being understood now and it has become a buzzword of 2021, however, the history of the Metaverse goes back to 1992 when a science fiction writer called ‘Neal Stephenson’ used the term Metaverse to describe a 3D virtual world in his novel ‘Snow Crash.’Minecraft has been looked upon as another game that has shades of Metaverse in it.
The gaming sector has always been fascinated by the metaverse and as early as 2003 was the year when people got the taste of Metaverse through the virtual world platform Second Life. No discussion about the Metaverse in gaming can be complete without mentioning Fortnite. This famous game holds virtual concerts and virtual social events and gives opportunities to players where they can create their own custom experiences and even monetize them.
If we move the clock to 2018, a movie named ‘Ready Player One which was directed by Steven Speilberg is often considered as the first movie that clearly depicts the Metaverse.
However, there have been other movies that have got shades of a metaverse in them. Some of these are-Minority Report, Avatar, Wreck-It Ralph, Her, etc.
More about Metaverse experience
Metaverse will not be a small platform and if it does happen as some tech enthusiasts believe, it will be huge and it will require a layer of several 3D virtual worlds well integrated with each other. Furthermore, it will provide opportunities for users to move and jump between different immersive worlds seamlessly quickly and it will be so huge that the line between the real world and the virtual world will become invisible. You will be doing several things that you do in the real physical world and experience them differently but with joy. For example, you will be part of a concert where you will experience the music along with your friends through your virtual Avatar. This concert can be totally virtual or a physical one as well where your friends will be present there physically but you will enjoy with them through your Metaverse Avatar
Since billions of people will be using this (As Mr. Zuckerber believes), the economic activities will be in billions. It will attract trade and the exchange of money in the form of cryptocurrency(or any other form of money exchange). Mark Zuckerberg explained to the media persons at the launch of Meta that humans moved from verbal communication to writing, from there to phones, then to computers, and then to smartphones and now we have Metaverse, which is the next step in digital technological progress.
Metaverse will have an astronomical impact on various parts of our lives. It will be mammoth in size and every walk of life will get the opportunity to benefit from Metaverse. Some of the immediate effects will give benefits to :
- Gaming Sector
- Social Life
- Business Communication
- Tour & Travel and many more
Why be afraid of Metaverse if it’s so promising?
Elon Musk, the famous businessman and a leading mind of the 21st century is one of the first people who has given the opinion that mankind should be wary of the Metaverse as it can eradicate humans from the face of the earth. The reason behind his fear is the use of artificial intelligence in the Metaverse. Metaverse is meant to be a digital technology entity uncontrolled and unregulated by any private or government authority, similar to Facebook and Instagram which are unregulated social platforms. As a result, there is a strong fear that if it is used without caution, it may cause severe harm to humanity.
According to him, there are multiple threats that will come with Metaverse. The first is that it can be used by smugglers and terrorists to do illegal tasks such as endangering the national security of nations and many other illegal and anti-social activities can happen in Metaverse.
We have already witnessed the scenes where the major technological companies’ CEOs (Google, Facebook, Apple) had to be present before the US congress committee due to allegations of privacy infringements and election fraud. There has been a demand to regulate social platforms and the internet. In Metaverse, these concerns will be even more serious since the user’s whole identity will be on the internet, and hackers can breach the systems and steal the information.
Since the use of AI will be extended the technology can reach a point where it can endanger whole humanity. It seems like a far-fetched idea but the way the technology is progressing, we cannot write off this threat as well. It might not happen very soon but eventually, our own technological progress can lead us towards it.
There are more concerns regarding the fate of future generations as some of the opponents of Metaverse believe that the future generations will not get to enjoy the real interactions and experience the real beauty of the physical world. Apart from the physical health issues like not being physically active and being obsessed with digital technology and the online world can lead to grave psychological issues for the whole of humanity. These anticipated issues are not far from reality and can really cause severe damage. We already see people spending more time on smartphones, laptops, and other smart devices than they do with humans.
Metaverse is exciting and full of opportunities, however, it has shades of uncertainties and fear as well. Over time, we will learn how it changes the technological world and impacts humanity. The Metaverse success or failure will also depend on how humans use and regulate it. There are many questions regarding Metaverse use, evolution, and regulation that require serious debate. Technology has been discovered by humans, and we are equally responsible to make sure we use it to our advantage and not harm ourselves.
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