What Is The Metaverse? Inside the Alternative Reality That Could Change Our Lives For Better Or Worse

The “Metaverse” is being hailed as the next big thing in technology. Experts predict it be bigger than the Internet, more immersive and have a much greater impact on our lives.

That’s one of the reasons why billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta (formerly Facebook), seems to want in on it. (So much so that he’s even changed the name of his company to Meta.)

But Zuckerberg may not have the total control over this space. Quietly, hundreds of developers have already begun making a Metaverse of their own – and this Metaverse is decentralized and user-centered.

What Is The Metaverse?

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What is the Metaverse, exactly? In essence, it will be a new way to interact with the Internet. So far, we accessed the internet through screens, either on our desktops or mobile devices.

The Metaverse aims to create something entirely different – digital spaces that would look, and feel just like physical spaces. It will leverage elements of augmented reality, enabling them to be part of our physical spaces. (Story continues below.)

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VR goggles — such as those developed by Meta’s Occulus — are a step towards that experience.

Techno Utopia or Dystopian Hell

While the concept of the Metaverse is easy to grasp, its implications are not.

It should have a huge impact on our lives, and it’s to be expected that people still have divergent views on what that impact might be.

Currently, views on the metaverse are divided into two camps.

There are the techno-optimists that point out all the advantages of the system — and there are those that think it would through the world into a dystopian style disaster.

On the plus side, imagine a world where we are not constrained by physical spaces. A world where we can travel wherever we want instantly. Indeed, the technology is already taking steps towards that goal.

On the other hand, there are those that view the metaverse as a dystopian hell, a Matrix-like trap that will divorce people from reality.

For instance, Louis Rosenberg, a pioneer in alternative reality tech, has written that AR could be used to “make reality disappear” by creating a system where users can’t just opt-out.

This means AR, more than any form of media to date, has the potential to alter our       sense of reality, distorting how we interpret our direct daily experiences. In an augmented world, simply walking down the street will become a wild amalgamation of the physical and the virtual, merged so convincingly that the boundaries will disappear in our minds. Our surroundings will become filled with persons, places, objects, and activities that don’t actually exist, and yet they will seem deeply authentic to us. — Louis Rosenberg in Bigthink

Imagine Facebook – now Meta – trapping you in the world of their creation? Now that’s scary.

The reality is this: the technology shows great promise, but it must be used responsibly. 

Whatever your view may be on the Metaverse, it is likely not a good idea to let one company control it.

A Decentralized Metaverse

I’m betting on the Davids to build a metaverse better and sooner than the Goliath – Alexis Ohanian

This is where the need for a decentralized metaverse becomes so critical and, already, programmers are seeking decentralized solutions by utilizing blockchain technology.

Indeed, that is what the Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is betting on. He envisions a metaverse that will be “much more organic, rather than this sort of top-down Facebook imposed one.”

“Right now, there is this amazing bottom-up movement to create the metaverse. A lot of it is happening in the crypto community,” he said recently.

The metaverse, Ohanian believes, will be too large for any one company to build, own and control.

“They have no shortage of great engineers, but I’m betting on the Davids here, to build a metaverse better and sooner than the Goliath,” he said.

He compared Zuckerberg’s vision to that of AOL recalling that, “Way back in the day, AOL created a great walled garden, where you could experience their version of the internet.” But, that didn’t end so we’ll. And, the distinction between the Metaverse and Zuckerberg’s metaverse could be compared with “going online and going on America Online (AOL).

Ohanian believes that although Meta (previously known as Facebook) has some advantages in the short-term, long-term…it won’t be able to compete with the spontaneous efforts of thousands of developers.

A Crypto Metaverse

This is where blockchain comes in. If the metaverse becomes decentralized, blockchain and crypto will play a key role in it.

Of course, should Zuckerberg’s meta be in charge then, the metaverse becomes a centralized service and hence, there is really no place for crypto in it. There’s no reason why Zuckerberg couldn’t just force everyone to use his tokens on his platform. In fact, he already tried with Libra.

However, in decentralized systems, blockchain serves an important function as a public ledger, both for financial and non-financial information.

It’s no surprise that Metaverse tokens posted double-digit gains on the day Facebook rebranded into Meta.

Specifically, gaming cryptos have already benefited considerably. One of these projects is Decentraland, a virtual game that gives users the ability to buy and sell land in it. In fact, Decentraland sells tiles of the virtual space as NFTs, some of which go for thousands of dollars.

However, the space is still really speculative, and investment in it is risky.

Blockchain Social Media

Still, developments that enable decentralized networks could be a boon for cryptos in general. This appears to be especially true for Solana.

In fact, Ohanian himself will invest $50 million in a project that could give Facebook, the social media network, a run for its money. Last week, he announced partnering for a $100 million investment in Solana blockchain social media.

The decentralized social media protocol would run on the Solana blockchain network.

Why Solana? Its network offers smart contract functionality similar to Ethereum. And, Solana actually works. Meaning — the network currently allows for 50,000 transactions per second. Not bad considering Ethereum’s stands at just 15. The speed has a huge impact on the cost of transactions which is one of the reasons why Solana is currently experiencing such a huge boom in its NFT market.

Raj Gokal, COO at Solana Labs, says that the project would empower users and creators.

“Web3 turns users and creators into owners and stakeholders, a change that can’t come soon enough to social media,” Gokal said in a statement.

“Social media in the metaverse will be a collection of millions of self-sufficient communities,” he continued.

There are obvious implications for free speech in this technology. Social media without centralized control means that there’s no platform that could simply ban users whenever it wants.

That–along with other uses of this technology–so far point to a future in which the internet would become increasingly more free. Let’s hope this trend continues.

 

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