The metaverse is evolving from fiction to reality

Thirty years ago, science fiction writer Neal Stephenson invented the concept of the metaverse. Now, he is intent on building it in real life. We must hope that his constructive exploits are more uplifting than his imaginary fears: the metaverse he portrayed in the 1992 film. Snow crash it was an escape route into an alternate virtual world from the hellish landscape of 21st century Los Angeles. The novel’s main character, Hiro Protagonist, lived in a shipping container, worked as a pizza delivery man and tried to survive in a brutal anarcho-capitalist world disfigured by menacing monopolists, economic collapse and environmental degradation.

Yet in a video call from his Seattle home, explaining his current thinking about the metaverse, Stephenson lays out a much happier theory about future uses of technology. “Snow crash it’s both a dystopian novel and a parody of dystopian novels, ”he says. “And I am increasingly convinced that technologies, with a few notable exceptions, are not really dystopian or utopian; people are.”

Whether the metaverse is a good thing or a bad thing will depend on how we develop and use it. Stephenson sees the metaverse of real life, as opposed to its imaginary creation, emerge as the next great computing platform, a kind of next-generation “3D Internet”. He is enthusiastic about his possibilities as a new, deeply immersive means of communication and entertainment that will open up “new categories of experiences”. But the metaverse will only fully thrive if it’s decentralized, interoperable, and not dominated by a few large corporations, as the current Internet has been. He himself is working on the latter problem, attempting to build “the ground level for an open metaverse”.

Nowadays, the mere mention of the metaverse is enough to provoke a jaw-dropping derision. Meta (formerly known as Facebook) tied its business reputation to the evolution of the idea and did it bet more than $ 10 billion on reinvent virtual reality. For the time being, however, founder Mark Zuckerberg’s poorly pixelated avatars aren’t setting the pace.

However, others also scream at the long-term potential of the metaverse. In March, Citi predicts that 5 billion people could use the metaverse by the end of this decade, transforming commerce, art, media, advertising and healthcare. CB Insights also predicts that the metaverse could become a $ 1 trillion market by the end of the decade.

Stephenson says he’s not paying much attention to what big corporations are doing. Instead, he is focusing on the creative possibilities explored by an expanding army of game developers using ever more powerful engines. The gaming industry, according to him, has already introduced billions of players to new experiences in three-dimensional virtual worlds, thus creating a huge market. From all that intellectual ferment, the future metaverse will evolve.

Though shy about the details, Stephenson is developing his own experiences in the metaverse; a kind of multimodal prequel or sequel Snow crash. It rejects those who see computer games as nothing more than an escapist fantasy. Every society since the dawn of time has sought distraction and entertainment, albeit in different forms, he insists. Neanderthals painted cave walls while the 19th century bourgeoisie listened to great works and now we play computer games. “Why the hell were they painting walls when they might have been out stabbing mammoths?”

One of the big problems for the metaverse will be how to ensure that all of these different worlds interact. Several companies are working on this challenge, including Lamina1, a blockchain start-up in which Stephenson is president and chief creative officer. These companies aim to provide the underlying infrastructure, smart contracts and payment systems that will make the metaverse interoperable. So, for example, in the future it will be possible for users to carry their avatars from one domain to another, taking their virtual identities and possessions with them, although they may have to check their lightsabers at the door if they enter a medieval role. . play.

As with many blockchain companies, it’s not entirely clear how Lamina1 will make money. Can Stephenson turn prophecy into profit? He is the first to recognize that it is difficult to anticipate the future. “The reason entertainment is such a fascinating industry is that you never know,” he says. “Not even the most informed people can predict what it will be.” He seems convinced that something fascinating is finally emerging in the metaverse, 30 years after imagining the concept. But as always with the creative process, it may require a temporary suspension of disbelief.

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The metaverse is evolving from fiction to reality – MagicTech