Concerns about Metaverse, the new virtual reality

Noble Pettayil Babu

In 1992 when the internet was still something new, American novelist Neal Stephenson described virtual reality: a virtual world, where people would use digital avatars to live, work and play online.  He called it “Metaverse” – a blend of meta meaning Beyond and verse from the Word Universe. Today the tech giants like Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook are racing to claim the Metaverse, a virtual universe that will coexist with the physical one. Facebook has even changed its name to “Meta”.

Metaverse may sound like an ideal place to spend time, especially now when the pandemic has locked us down. In fact, when human contact seem to be one of the casualties of Coronavirus, enter Metaverse with a promise to revolutionize our lives to become an extension of the physical world. But do we need it? Do we need an imaginary world controlled by Tech giants?  Will it make our life better or will it manipulate our perception of reality?

 Metaverse is a technology-based augmented reality space, that could change how we live and interact forever. In the Metaverse, instead of only watching our screens you’ll be experiencing all of it. You will be doing your actions yourselves digitally along with other people who are a part of your life. In other words, imagine during the period of the pandemic, you were under lockdown step far away from your family, how did you stay in touch with them? Through video calls. We all know that as a family sits together plays your favourite cards game, and enjoying each moment of life, is left out. In Metaverse, you can meet your family in a virtual space you can play cards game in a digital Avatar. Actual movements and conversation can take place this is what the Metaverse offers.

Video games have had for a while now. Metaverse also will include some of the gaming elements, but it’s not going to be only some kind of a video game. It will be cyberspace, where reality meets imagination. The characters will be real human beings and the world will be entirely fictional will be made up of virtual elements which are parallel to real life. At least that’s what the proponents of the Metaverse.

According to Mark Zuckerberg, Metaverse will be like a teleportation device, when you can explore the virtual world while we physically present at home. It brings us to another question: how many virtual worlds will be? Will there be one Metaverse or different Metaverses?  Different companies are producing their virtual worlds now. Facebook wants to be the biggest one but it’s not the only one in pursuit. For instance, Apple currently working on an advanced virtual reality. Reports say it could revolutionize the Metaverse experience. Google is set to be working on an innovative augmented reality device. This way all will create a separate and unique Metaverse platform. Microsoft has also joined the race of creating a digital world called Mesh, which will incorporate virtual experiences directly into the Microsoft team.

Before denying it, we have to ask some questions about how they will operate it. Does the Metaverse ensure privacy? Is it an inequitable space? How safe is the Metaverse is going to be especially for children?

Metaverse can change the world for the better, but actually, it can also overstep its purpose. It can become a tool for predictors to commit crimes online and get away with it. It can become a dangerous and unhealthy escape from reality. Metaverse is made to make you forget reality to escape the uniquely human elements of life, like hugging a child, having lunch with friends, stepping into a new house. These all staples of life and they cannot be replicated online; holograms cannot replace human relationships. Sensory experiences cannot replace real emotions. The Metaverse cannot become a second life, it acts best going to be an imprisoned reality.