The storming of the Bastille on July 14th, 1789, was not announced by a formal invitation beforehand: the revolutionaries simply gathered in front of the fortress and attacked it. The assailants didn’t even bother to send a heads-up to the king (no pun intended).

The episode is considered the first act of the French Revolution: an epochal event that shaped the form of modern states until today. It is a matter of history that pivotal events – and, in particular, revolution – happen without warning.

The Storming of the Bastille

One could even argue that it is in the nature of revolutions to unfold without warnings. As such, one could also grow sceptical about all the foofaraw preceding the “upcoming Metaverse revolution”. It’s not just Mark Zuckerberg rebranding his social website as “Meta”: the Metaverse is everywhere. Among the millions of articles, on Forbes an article of January 13th, 2022, claimed that “we continue to embark on what’s being pegged as the fourth industrial revolution”. Stock advising websites keep on tipping stocks about the “Metaverse Revolution”, with the trading portal eToro even launching a “MetaverseLife Smart Portfolio”, acting as a sort of “Metaverse ETF”. One could go on forever – and the substance is always the same. The Metaverse will change the way we interact, work, date and yadda yadda.

Now – it’s safe to assume that the Metaverse is a great opportunity, but whether it will be the “revolution” some people are claiming is all but certain. Sure: there is a growing demand for meta-based interactions, given the fact that an entire generation has grown up playing meta-based games such as Minecraft (with an even more intensive application during the lockdown). Possibly, the metaverse might be able to substitute some old-fashioned rituals such as international conferences (don’t tell the doctors) or in-person staff meetings.

But does this justify the claims of an outright “revolution”? I guess that the nature of revolutions is often misperceived. We tend to believe that they happen when something innovative is invented, and then such innovation changes the rules of the game. In other terms, the innovation is introduced by some avant-garde, and the avant-garde gathers enough power to change social hierarchies.

This conception is partially true, but also partially wrong. Point is: in order to succeed, a revolution is needed. The most evident example is the English Industrial Revolution: we traditionally assume that inventions such as the flying shuttle and the steam engine made work more efficient, creating a bunch of new rich fellows (the “industrialists”) that progressively sidelined the old nobility.

Still, in other interpretations the Industrial Revolution in England happened because of labor, land and wood shortage. There were no means of increasing productivity, if not by introducing more efficient technologies into the economic system. No growth would have been possible within the older realm: pastures were used up, and forests were not growing fast enough to be cut and turned into ships – used for commerce. To this extent, see the work by social-epidemiologist Richard G. Wilkinson, whose annalysis of the English Industrial Revolution is one of the most original ever published.

The English Industrial Revolution

The most interesting debate is therefore: how much do we “need” the Metaverse revolution? It would be great to reform some forms of interactions that are time-consuming, polluting and require physical presence; but from here to the point of claiming that all the internet is to be scrapped is a long shot. If I want to send an email or an SMS to my partner – I will send an email or an SMS. Possibly, I would make a call.

Just think about how often you use the Whatsapp video function in professional calls. Some people do (the world is a very diverse place), but most don’t. Voice is enough.

Not to mention the fact that SMS basically represent a regression in terms of communication: they convey less content compared to voice call. The advantage? That they don’t require the contemporary presence of the other person.

Why going then all the way to the Metaverse for a simple message? Also, the other person might need to be present: SMS beats the Revolution here. We might still leave a recorded Metaverse message – a little bit like Princess Leia and her holographic message recorded into R2-D2. Had it been 2021, she would have sent a voice mail.