The’metaverse’ is a new utopian boondoggle for tech billionaires
Look at all of our internet billionaires attempting to flee the world to absolve themselves of accountability for their nefarious impact. Anything to avoid confrontation with the workers they exploit or the victims of ethnic and religious strife aided by their platforms. Elon Musk is digging into the planet, and now Mark Zuckerberg is withdrawing into a virtual “metaverse.” Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are launching themselves into space; Elon Musk is burrowing into the earth, and now Mark Zuckerberg is fleeing into a virtual “metaverse.”
You might be wondering what a metaverse is.
Late last year, Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook data scientist, accused the company of knowing about – and failing to prevent – attempts by heads of state and other political actors to manipulate and mislead their populations, resulting in political instability and activist harassment, and possibly preventable deaths. Instead of dealing with these issues right away, Zuckerberg decided to try to rebrand his platform – which is currently awash with tyrants and conspiracy theorists, as well as pictures of your adorable baby niece who you’ve never met because your sister read something on Facebook that led her to believe that Covid is a hoax. The vaccinated people like you are carrying a tracking device in your arm – into an idea plucked from a 30-year-old science fiction novel.
Meet Sophie Zhang, a former data scientist at Facebook who is coming forward to expose how Facebook is failing to combat state-backed political manipulation https://t.co/IG47ldQwdE
— Julia Carrie Wong (@juliacarriew) April 12, 2021
Despite satirizing notions that are now accepted literally and with great excitement by current tech visionaries, Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which originated the term metaverse, has been tremendously influential in Silicon Valley circles. The book imagines a realm that combines the real and the imagined, a physical world enriched by virtual constructs and feelings, and an environment expanded and improved by the creative abilities of tech workers. According to Zuckerberg it’s “an embodied internet,” a physical world accessed through pricey technology such as VR goggles where you can buy products that don’t exist, play games, and talk to virtual representations of real people a lot of bots. If you haven’t seen Ready Player One, consider a giant, never-ending Sims game mixed with Pokemon Go, an invisible world of connection and engagement that surrounds you but that you can’t see or participate with unless you have the right technology.
Their response to a dissatisfying reality is to ignore, blank out, and flee rather than endeavor to provide stability and security for all.
Of course, it’s not just Facebook. Despite never genuinely functioning and creeping a lot of people out along the way, Apple, Google, and other businesses are investing a lot of money in the virtual and augmented reality technology and infrastructure needed for the metaverse. Of course, despite the fact that the entire concept – living in a consequence-free space of your own imagination, physically and psychically removed from your fellow citizens to frolic with avatars and phantoms – is philosophically and psychologically unacceptable.
Also, read – Can the Metaverse Help Live Sports More?
An industry that has screamed vehemently about the genuine problems of the real world in which it operates, such as San Francisco’s homeless population, while also attempting to avoid paying taxes that would help create the housing and social services needed to care for the less fortunate. This is an understandable goal for a company that thought its employees were too valuable to take regular public transportation to work, so it developed special buses to bring them directly from their homes to their job. Of course, their response to a dissatisfying world is to avoid, evade, blot out, replace, and escape rather than wade into the muck and endeavor to bring stability and security to everybody.
The shattered earth will not be repaired by Jeff Bezos’ idea of living among the stars.
As much as these self-proclaimed geniuses would like to believe they are creating something completely fresh, there is precedent. When power-hungry rulers reach the limitations of their abilities to rewrite reality to their liking, they frequently construct simulacra that are more suited to their delicate sensibilities. Despite the leaking, swamping, and flooding that his employees and guests had to contend with, Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria converted his castle into an operatic fantasyland with a variety of water elements. Or Marie Antoinette’s fictitious peasant village, in which she imitated country life. There were no plague or crop failures, only endless cottagecore clothes and frolicking young lambs. Or, in the case of our former President Trump, cropping images from his inauguration to fill in the gaps in the crowds. What type of world is Zuckerberg going to build? One may picture a world without congressional hearings. One, one assumes, is drenched in the blood of slain Burmese.
Of course, the metaverse has a utopian glitter to it. The prospect of overcoming one’s physical limits in order to interact with fresh ideas and populations and exchange information and resources is intriguing. These were, however, the same delusions that led to the current state of social media platforms. They planned to spread democracy and liberty! Instead, they’ve been hoarding wealth while dismantling labor unions, sowing confusion through the spread of conspiracy theories, and providing the ideal setting for harassing, bullying, and tormenting the already weak.
Like the rational objections to Elon Musk’s plans to colonize Mars, the reasonable answer to the idea for a Facebook-facilitated metaverse should be: shouldn’t we heal this planet first, before we go off to create – and then likely destroy – others? But it will be our task to clean up after the billionaires – the job of people who can barely afford real estate, let alone virtual property, as usual.