The Metaverse concept is made up of shared three-dimensional virtual spaces within a perceived virtual universe, where the Internet has evolved into an augmented reality almost indistinguishable from reality itself. What problems could this new technology bring? How in danger is reality as we know it?
The comparison with the Matrix is not at all random. Those who saw the movie will remember the plot: a dystopian future where almost all human beings have been enslaved by machines and artificial intelligence. With their minds connected to a virtual reality where they spend their daily lives unaware that they are used by machines to obtain energy.
The difference with the metaverse that is coming is that we will have the ability to create those worlds where we want to interact with other people and they will not be created by machines to deceive us. That is, we will be aware that they are not real worlds and that our true body is safe.
At least that’s what Mark Zuckerberg promises, who this week announced the new name of his virtual reality service: Horizon, which will focus on digital interaction within a metaverse where users can play, interact, exercise, and even work.
«We are talking about a corporeal Internet: instead of looking at a screen, we will be« inside ». It will be more natural and vivid: screens cannot connect the entire human experience, they cannot provide the idea of presence, ”said the owner of Facebook and – his now parent company – Meta.
«There will be avatars (a graphical representation of the user): with that, we are going to represent ourselves in the metaverse. We will live with representative images of ourselves. It will be much richer than the experiences we have today, “he added.
How will all this be accomplished? Well, Morpheus would tell us that no one can tell us what it is like, that we should see it for ourselves. And in this case, to see it and experience it, we must have a virtual reality viewer, similar – in the first instance – to the Oculus.
Metaverse is control
Supported by the brilliant ideas of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard ( Simulation and Simulation ), the management team of the then Wachowski brothers produced a narrative that served as a kind of warning against the control systems that use semiotics and avatars to influence our thought patterns.
And while those deeply involved in the augmented reality (AR) and virtual (VR) space perceive the rise of the real metaverse as a positive advance in harnessing the power of computing, some have begun to ring the warning bells.
Privacy, tracking (both physical location and eye-tracking), access, and the opportunity to monitor us – as Zuckerberg puts it – ‘from within’, are issues to consider. In fact, virtual land grabbing has already begun, with Meta (Facebook) pioneering many other companies that will surely come before many have realized what is happening.
And if the metaverse is control, the advancement of artificial intelligence and brain-computer interfaces could put that control in hands beyond human capabilities – just as in the Matrix, where that control is so effectively exercised by machines. as chilling.
The Rise Of Hyperreality
Baudrillard suggests that the world we live in has been replaced by a copied world, where we seek nothing more than simulated stimuli. This has been called hyperreality: a paradigm that explains, among other things, the cultural condition of the First World West.
Consumerism, due to its dependence on sign value, is the contributing factor for the creation of hyperreality. It tricks the consciousness into detaching itself from any true emotional commitment, opting instead for artificial simulation, and endless, fundamentally empty-seeming reproductions. Essentially, satisfaction and happiness are found through simulation and imitation of the real, rather than through reality itself.
The interaction in a hyper-real place like the proposed metaverse finds its most precise analogy in a Las Vegas casino, where the sensation of going through a fantasy world is given, where everyone contributes to the illusion. The decor is not authentic, everything is a copy, and the whole experience feels like a dream. which is not a dream, of course, is that the casino keeps the money, and one is more likely to hand over that money if one does not realize what is really going on. In other words, even if one intellectually understands how a casino works, one’s own conscience believes that gambling at the casino is part of the “unreal” world. The interest of the decorators is to emphasize the appearance of the facade of the whole, to pretend that the whole experience is unreal.
Addiction to illusion
If we consider recent world events, in a way, this was — like Agent Smith’s catchphrase — unavoidable. The COVID-19 quarantine made everyone imagine such a world. A world where we can be the best versions of our imaginary selves without leaving our homes and doing things that we can only imagine doing.
However, the effects of this prolonged isolation also increased people’s anxiety, insomnia, and, above all, addictions.
With this in mind, that human beings are so prone to addiction in today’s world that disconnecting is still an option, what happens to us when that refuge is impossible? Just imagine the level of addiction we would have in a metaverse in which stimulation, pleasure, and social connection are multisensory, omnipresent, and immediate.
Dysmorphia, anxiety, and depression will be equally pervasive and urgent. At this point, there is no treatment. There is no way to stop and get off this train. We would be thrown into this world from birth without the ability to recognize its virtuality and make the intentional decision to disembark. The speed at which life happens would make it impossible to opt-out.
So welcome to the metaverse. We are literally creating our own Matrix, which we would be pathetically waiting for Morpheus to come calling with a red or blue pill (blue like the Meta / Facebook logo) to save us.