Some observers – most notably IT guru Matthew Ball – believe that the true form of the metaverse is that of a parallel world where you can basically do anything. To this extent, the metaverse is not (among the others):

  • Online videogames, because they only serve the “gaming” purpose. In the “real” metaverse you can play, but it is not just about that
  • A virtual world for hanging out, like what “Second Life” used to be – because it lacks features such as the existence of a shadow economy and user-generated worlds
  • A social in 3D, because it is not just about communicating (or bragging about achievements/vacation, for what it matters)

The metaverse utopia is that of a unified world where basically everyone can be present at the same time and do everything he pleases – also changing the his metaworld. This metaverse is supposed to be completely separated (or just loosely related) the the brick-and-mortar universe, running on cryptos and including trade of fully digital items or services.

Yes, it is more or less like the Matrix, with the difference that – hopefully – there is no evil all-controlling PC exploiting us as living batteries.

It is a utopia: it has dethroned cyberpunk anarchy as vision of the future. Instead of disorder, there is some sort of “new capitalistic order” (all is ruled by normal crypto transactions) that resembles an enhancement of the current world.

I am aware of the fact that utopian visions should be treated as utopian visions, but still I am rather skeptical about the possibility that a unified metaverse could ever be realized.

  • We would need incredible computing capacity able to elaborate actions and interactions of billions of avatars at the same time. This is ok, but I guess that once we have reached such a level of technology advancement, we will have gone beyond the metaverse and embraced a new medium we cannot even imagine now.
  • The metaverse will have to be more interesting than analogic living. This is basically what makes people consume media. Creating a system of incredible complexity must be an enhanced form of our reality, that convinces us that it is better to move past it and embrace digital living. For what it matters, I guess this is pretty much possible – at least given the level of Minecraft consumption by the younger (a total of 68 million years of gameplay in 2020).
  • The one metaverse platform will have to be incredibly versatile, incredibly usable, incredibly easy. To suggest a geeky comparison, it reminds a little bit of Microsoft introducing Windows 8, (un)able to switch from normal PC interface to some tablet-like thing. Someone compared it to glueing a toaster to a fridge. In order to work, it will have to look like an enhanced version of real life (and we go back to point 2); and this implies that…
  • We really have to understand what would be the purpose of creating a system as complex (or even more complex) as the analogic universe. We heard it: the metaverse is a place of freedom, where you can be what you want. But – wait! – this is also what old-school, real-life, industrial capitalism promised! Then other factors intervened: most notably, some people became too wealthy (and some others became too poor). As the one metaverse is no other than a form of digital capitalism, we can safely expect that this might happen.
  • We should develop a metaverse political system accepted by everybody. It didn’t really work in the socialist-capitalist-dictatorial-open-closed-theocratic-anarchist real world since humanity existed, and it is hard to imagine how it would work in the e-space. We see the problems that “traditional” socials have at creating common rules for all the planet; since the metaverse resembles real-life interactions and sociability more closely, the importance of these rules will be even more pivotal and close to actual political rules. The one, perfect political system might work if everyone thought alike, but this would mean that the one metaverse implies conformism to function. It is more of a capitalistic distopia, than a digital utopia.

Possibly we will have different metaverses regulated by different systems (who is the ruler, by the way?). Alternatively, we might have one metaverse with different political systems – but still, this would have to work better than the real world, always in the hope that the different political systems don’t start cyber-attacking each other.  

Yet – no worries. Any of these elements are really still decades or even centuries away.

For the time being, we just need to avoid the Windows 8 phenomenon. Facebook is rebranding as “Meta” and wants to create “The Metaverse”: this is great, but it also bears the risk of becoming a meta-version of the Microsoft fiasko.

In the foreseeable future, the most efficient way of consuming the metaverse is that of separated systems. We can have metaverses for gaming, for socializing, for speculating, for working, for building, for making art. A metaverse can be present in more sectors at the same time, but no metaverse can really do everything at 100%. Fortnite, for example, has a version for killing and another for socializing, increasingly specializing in events – but for building eVillas I would rather go somewhere else.

Also – I would rather organize a business meeting on the Facebook VR Rooms, than on Minecraft. Sandbox is relaunching with an obsessive concentration on “buying land”, but to be sincere after a long business day I would rather go for more socialist views of the metaverse, where propriety of eLand is shared. But this is just personal taste, I guess.