There’s always a technological development lauded as the ‘next big thing’ that will change our lives forever, after huge financial expenditure, of course. One such is the metaverse which, according to Gartner, will not reach the ‘mature’ phase of its evolution before 2030. The Badger admits to having an objective scepticism about the metaverse, ostensibly because ‘next big things’ often fail to meet their hype in anything like the forecast timescales. Development of the software, systems, and platforms for the metaverse is, of course, progressing apace, but that’s rather different to it ultimately being embraced by the masses because it provides tangible benefits to their lives.
During a social meeting recently, a tech-savvy millennial asked the Badger to answer the following three questions about the metaverse using the simplest possible terms: What is it? Will it happen? What about it will matter most to the average member of the public? An academic treatise can be written for each answer, but the Badger kept his answers, below, as simple as possible.
What is it? To borrow from Deloitte, the metaverse is, in the simplest of terms, the internet but in 3D, with facilities that provide users an immersive, 3D, virtual experience when engaging with virtual environments or other users. It’s a 3D virtual world within which virtual incarnations of a user can interact with simulated environments and other people for social or work purposes without being physically present.
Will it happen? Eventually…perhaps. Aspects of metaverse technology have developed in online gaming over the last 25 years, and Microsoft, for example, has implemented avatars and meetings in virtual reality into Teams. However, that’s still a very long way from a coherent metaverse that changes everyone’s life, especially when the legal, regulatory, data security, and privacy issues with it are much more profound than with the internet and online world that we currently know.
What about it will matter most to the average member of the public? Trust. If the lessons from rampant online evolution over the last 25 years are not learned, then the same mistakes will be replicated and amplified in the metaverse. Today we are generally more careful with our personal data and privacy, and more conscious of online security, rampant mis/disinformation, abuse, commercialisation, and the weaponization of information. If trust is not the starting position for the metaverse from the outset, then it will be just another ‘next big thing’ that irritates rather than benefits our lives.
The Badger told the millennial that others have different answers to these questions. They just nodded and said ‘It will be dominated by those who want to manipulate or control us. If I don’t trust it, I’m not going to participate’. If this view is widespread amongst millennials, then the metaverse may stall. Time will tell.