You often see in many science fiction movies and shows such as The Matrix, Black Mirror, or Ready Player One, a virtual reality network that all human beings are connected to. These virtual realities are often fake worlds where people have superhuman powers. They are often portrayed as escapes from the harsh real world. Could such an existence ever happen? The social network tech giant Mark Zuckerberg not only thinks that such a world is on the horizon, but he has also invested heavily in creating one. He calls it “The Metaverse” and insists that the Metaverse will be the next stage of the internet.
Zuckerberg envisions this metaverse version of the internet to be a network where people are connected by more than just their screen. In the metaverse, people would have avatars that inhabit a virtual world. People in this network would therefore be able to do things that are impossible to do on our current internet. For instance, a person in South Africa could go to a virtual concert alongside a person from China. Or a person in Australia could dance with a person in Italy. Simply put, the metaverse supposedly will allow people to interact on the internet with more of a bodily “presence.” This may sound like a world merely made for entertainment purposes but Zuckerberg insists that it would be more than that. The metaverse would also connect people from different workplaces together to be on a sort of conference call in which people can be more present to each other than just seeing a video of a person on your screen. Another way of thinking about the metaverse would be as the next best thing to a teleportation device. Zuckerberg hopes that the metaverse will enhance the sense of human presence on the internet as opposed to using your phone to navigate a grid of apps.
Obvious questions and objections immediately arise when thinking about such possibilities. For instance, if people are already superglued to the internet, wouldn’t enhancing their experience in a metaverse network further disconnect them from reality? Zuckerberg argues to the contrary saying that the metaverse instead offers people a better, healthier, experience of the internet by enriching presence and space. Speaking about this concern Zuckerberg stated: “I don’t think that this is primarily about being engaged with the internet more. I think it’s about being engaged more naturally.” Another factor to consider is that there are also limits in technology. We may not have the technology to create a metaverse capable of being so enthralling. The metaverse may end up failing like Nintendo Wii. Zuckerberg, however, seems to believe that technology is just about ready to begin creating the virtual realities envisioned by movies.
Zuckerberg says that he plans on unraveling more about the metaverse within the next few months. Although his vision may seem lofty, it is nevertheless worth considering given the massive and sustained success of his Facebook social network for such a long period of time. If somebody were to create a metaverse, Zuckerberg could certainly be a man capable of doing it given that Facebook already hosts 2.89 billion people that use it regularly. Using his Facebook network and influence, he may be practically able to funnel millions or even billions of people into the metaverse. Given that the internet already commands such power over our lives, it may be that most of the world already has a foot in the door to the metaverse.