Will the Metaverse change humanity as we know it? Will the Metaverse be the ultimate extension of human cognition? Will it become the agora of our dreams (and, of course, nightmares), capable of completely changing human perception? Have you already started?
Let’s start with the last question: Yes, the foundation is already laid. Smartphone sensors, social media, digital devices, and digital computer companies topping the Fortune 500 list shape humanity’s new cathedrals, religions, and tribal chambers. These technologies and the beginning of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, and society based on AI 5.0 have changed humanity more in the past fifty years than it has in the past thirty thousand years combined. And this is only the beginning!
In 1974, in a thought experiment, philosopher Robert Nozick conceived a virtual machine capable of providing every conceivable pleasure and experience. Nozick posed a provocative question: If we had a choice, would we prefer the reality machine? Nozick concluded that we would probably not choose a machine, and argued that it was better to experience the ups and downs of this physical world than to experience the endless artificial emergence of a simulated machine.
But a lot can change in 50 years. In 1990, 16 years after Nozick and a year after Tim Berners-Lee first conceived the World Wide Web, Steve Jobs called the personal computer “the brain bike,” and we embarked on synthetic races.
Recoding human needs for stories
What would we choose now if we had the choice between real, physical or virtual, AI-powered digital infinity? The answer is that we have already chosen. We are now all digital magicians, scientists, and beings of a large and ongoing virtual social experience, which interact and stimulate each other’s mind and body with a variety of experiences and emotions completely indistinguishable from experiences in the “real” physical world. It happens on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, crypto-enabled NFT, Fortnite, Second Life, Decentraland, and countless other online social platforms and networks. Metaverset (or Metaverset) is simply the final extended form of a dream and a decision already made. As our technology advances so rapidly, we’re really moving toward digitizing humanity through artificial intelligence and inventing the metaverse – a future more like the one shown in Ernest Kline’s Ready Player One, where digital reality allows us to experience just about everything!
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While the Metaverse is the culmination of the past 50 years of technological development, it will also offer entirely new and unique ways to think and dream about humanity’s obsession with bigger and bigger stories. This will include new ways of interacting, communicating and expressing, marking a new chapter in our centralized and decentralized socio-economic cultural history 4IR, Web3, and Society 5.0.
Stories have underpinned human culture and civilization for several millennia. They teach us to speak, read, write, comprehend civil laws, create Magna Cartas, and craft our identity. Through them we learn about language, psychology, belonging, ownership, and a sense of right and wrong. They define the narratives of our lives, our societies, and, more generally, circular social and economic patterns, laws, and economic ethics. Like the poems of Homer or Milton, today’s Metaverse will go down in history as a force that determined the course of civilization, an island in the archipelago with a complex human history with epic, comedy, and tragedy, along with the invention of fire, wheels, computers, the Internet and now the Metaverse!
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Just as we begin to implement “real-world” aspects of the Metaverse, from virtual landmarks to digital twins of cities, we can also be confident that our experience will connect the real and the virtual in the Metaverset, changing our narratives. In the physical world, unlike the way the internet and social media have changed, not just how we collect information, but how we take that information and fit it into our personal stories. However, the Metaverse also gives us a new opportunity to change these narratives, new ways of dreaming (and we have nightmares), and strengthening and eliminating the shortcomings of the current Internet paradigm.
Artificial intelligence dreams or wretched Pandora’s box?
The pioneers of the Metaverse revolution have undoubtedly been and will undoubtedly remain those who connect physical and virtual experiences.