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  • Writer's pictureFiona Prior

Cyberspace, the Metaverse ...

Updated: Sep 23, 2021

The nerd in me gets so excited when I read descriptions like the following:

Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts... A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding. (William Gibson ‘Neuromancer 1984)

Well, Cyberspace was grand, but we are now coming to terms with our new 'Metaverse', a term Mark Zuckerberg rocketed into the everyday idiom earlier this year by announcing to his employees that Facebook’s overarching goal was to now bring the communities, the commerce, the creators, the virtual realities into a ‘bigger idea’, by bringing the Metaverse to life. Ambitious? You bet.

image: courtesy of WIRED

For a little cultural history, the term ‘Metaverse’ was first coined by the author Neal Stephenson in his novel Snow Crash’ 1992. It described that place where humans, as avatars, interacted with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that used the metaphor of the real world for it activities. The difference? While Gibson initially kept his Cyberspace behind the screen and our personal reality remained in our flesh and blood world, Stephenson extended our actual definition of reality to both sides of the screen; to a convergence of physical, augmented, and virtual reality.

Do note, many gamers already use avatars in their gaming activities. It is everyday. The more mainstream addition would be, say, instead of meeting on a Zoom call, we would all meet in a virtual room in the guise of our personal avatar. A more value-adding application still, are the navigate-able virtual worlds for people with disabilities, designed to enhance those areas the user wishes to experience.

Over 400 million dollars has already been invested in the Metaverse. Additionally, and seemingly prompted by Zuckerberg’s announcement, is that an additional 40 million is being invested into the space monthly in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) ... and NFTs have become increasingly mainstream. Christie’s, that hallowed institution, auctioned off a piece of digital art by Beeple via NFT that sold for more than $69 million. (Forbes)

image: 'Everydays: The first 5000 Days' (collage) by Beeple

So far so good except for, well, Zuckerberg. The data that equates to dollars and influence this mega business leader already obtains from those of us who venture into his online domain is mind boggling, but this convergence would have those data boffins who are forever mining our personal preferences, online journeys, buying habits, daily online activities, shared conversations, community memberships … essentially knowing even more about us than we do about ourselves!

The upside? The potential of the Metaverse is really exciting, quite possibly marking an evolutionary step for our species by widening our concept of what reality is and how we inhabit our lives.

Welcome Earth 2.0? Maybe :)

AND THOSE SUBMARINES? Peter Jonson brings us his first impressions of the new deal, along with the opinions of senior journalists gleaned from last Saturday's press ... and it is a deal that just keeps giving with regards to media coverage! More here

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