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Metaverse? Try Meta-Worse

Written by: Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Are you all excited about the metaverse?


As Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) said in the movie Jurassic Park, “... your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

New technology ideas are exciting, but it’s not hard to spot likely problems with the metaverse. For the sake of discussion, since there are several daffynitions floating around, we’ll call it an alternative, digital world aided by augmented reality, virtual reality (VR), and video. That seems to be how most people, including Mark Zuckerberg, are defining it.


Timing is everything


As an aside, weird how the name change & all the details dropped while Facebook was in trouble with regulators, no?


Obviously, the metaverse idea had been in the works at Facebook for some time, because campaigns like that take time to roll out, so it wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing. But. At this point, these sorts of things can’t be assumed to be coincidences.


Suspicious timing doesn’t in and of itself mean that Metaverse is a problem. But it is a little… weird.


Technical difficulties


I won’t go into a lot of detail here, but various tech writers on sites like Vox and Wired have pretty good primers on why things you buy for your avatar on one platform won’t necessarily magically migrate to another.


If the point of the metaverse is to be able to access a variety of worlds, the tech needs to be able to support your avatar in the same way across all of them. It’s not there yet. And we run the risk of bifurcated tech like we have now, where Apple users are locked into the Apple OS and Android to Android, without the ability to overlap.


All your attentions are belong to the platform*


*In days of yore, this was an Internet joke (all your base belongs to us.)


Do you think social media companies use a lot of your data now? Do you think there’s currently a privacy issue? Just wait until the companies track all of your details on how you change your virtual environment, what types of backgrounds you choose, and what your avatar buys.


Think ads are invasive now? Bless your heart, as the southerners say. That’s likely nothing compared to the metaverse. Facebook is a public company, and it needs to rack up the $$. They (and other social media companies) currently sell your attention to advertisers in this world, so just imagine how many more ads are coming to the metaverse.


There you are, virtually attending a concert of a band you love. Three seconds in, and here comes an ad for the band’s merch. And if you don’t buy it, you’ll see that same ad over and over, at whatever timing the algorithm has decided is optimal.


If you do buy the merch, you’ll get ads for similar items for other bands. Or invitations to other concerts that will be held at the same venue, or other places where the band will be performing. Not to mention the shoes that you were searching the internet for, unrelated to the concert. Whether you’ve already bought them is irrelevant, you’re going to see them just as you do now.


Boy, that virtual experience sure is fun! Especially when it’s interrupted over… and over… and over… by ads. You’re not going to be able to use an ad blocker, either, at least not if you want the “full experience”, however, the platform defines it.


Or you’re “visiting” that beautiful beach in the Caribbean… you can’t feel the water or smell the sea breeze, but it looks nice, right? Close enough! Except when your view is blocked by you guessed it ads.


I predict that there will be a way to remove ads, just as there is now by paying for an ad-free experience.


Inequality here we come!


The other aspect to monetizing the metaverse is selling the technology gear that makes it a reality. For instance, those ridiculous headsets for VR viewing. You didn’t think those are going to be given away for free?


It’s highly unlikely you’ll have much of an enjoyable experience in the metaverse without paying for it. Maybe there will be a free trial period like many apps run today.


Or you’ll see a free version of the metaverse where the characters are all 3D stick figures and the settings look like they were dredged from the bad old days of Paint.


I’m guessing there will be tiers. In the free tier, everything looks like shit. You’ll be able to buy low-end headsets that make any environment look terrible. For the best experience, you’ll need a high-end headset and a high-end platform subscription. So, as usual, those with less money will lose out on the experience.


Companies keep innovating tech that looks cool but doesn’t actually make our lives better. Just more shiny things to dangle in front of us.


Struggling to keep up with the Joneses not only in person but in the metaverse as well? You won’t have a lot of time to think about why your boss is making 600x more than you are but you keep being asked to do more at the same salary.


You won’t have time to notice that the usual bad actors continue to try to set people against each other so they can continue to make money. There are plenty of organizations that benefit from this kind of thing, and not all of them are social media companies.


Why it’s worse


As you can see, there are plenty of probable issues with the metaverse. As problematic as they are, I think there’s one that’s even worse. The metaverse will likely be even worse for the human brain than our current social media ecosystem.


All of us humans are still using brains that developed eons ago in the African savannah where we spent our days hunting, gathering, foraging for food, and hanging out with our besties and family, in small groups of about 150 people.


We didn’t have screens of any kind, and - here’s the important thing that tends to go unrecognized in our lone wolf bootstraps culture - we survived by being social. We teamed up to overcome our food sources, and we teamed up to defend our villages against predators or marauding tribes. Our brains operate best when we are social.


Social media, despite the name, does not permit us to be social in the way that our brains need. While 21stcentury technology may insist that texting and pushing buttons is social, the human brain does not.


We need to be social and be connected with other people and yes, that includes introverts. They require fewer friends, but they still need some. Lack of connection causes depression and other issues, and the metaverse will not satisfy the human brain’s need for society.


Nonverbal presence is much more important than words when we’re communicating with other humans (and with many animals as well). Yet with digital avatars, we won’t be able to see the expressions on someone’s face. That will just increase the number of failed communications, hurt feelings, polarization, etc.


But my freedoms!


If you decide you want to spend the money and give up more control of your data and attention to join the metaverse whenever it actually rolls out, that’s your choice. Just make sure you’re still spending time with people in real life and doing the things you enjoy in real life too.


Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and visit my website for more info!


 

Jennifer Jank, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Jennifer “JJ” Jank works with women who are making the leap from employee to an entrepreneur through courses and a book to be published in February 2021. She also helps businesses build their online credibility through eBooks, testimonials, and articles.


JJ holds a BA in Physics from Rutgers University and an MBA in Finance from New York University. She is a Certified Financial Planner ™ professional. Currently, she’s the President for Women Leaders Forum in Coachella Valley and the webmistress for the Palm Springs chapter of AAUW. She is also a speaker on various topics, including personal finance and entrepreneurship.


JJ has been published in Journal for Divorce Financial Analysts and Coachella Valley Weekly, among others.

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