Fact or Fiction?
It’s 2045. You wake up and log into the OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), the high-tech virtual world where everyone plays, works, and meets new people. Of course, the OASIS is nothing but a fictional invention by author Ernest Cline, in his 2011 novel Ready Player One, which was also adapted into a movie in 2018.
However, it’s possible that this reality won’t always be considered as such a far-fetched concept.
Formerly known as Facebook Inc., the company behind the social media giant Facebook, Meta Platforms Inc. kicked up a storm online as they announced, in October 2021, that they would be focusing on developing the « metaverse », a super advanced virtual reality world where people would be able to chat and play games with the help of augmented reality headsets.
With the emergence of remote learning and working, the virtual world has become more present than ever in our lives, in order to face the Covid-19 pandemic. People who were used to waking up at 6, taking the train to work and taking the opposite trajectory to go home in the evening, were now waking up 5 minutes before and sending emails in their pyjamas.
The Metaverse has even launched 3D meeting spaces called « Spatial Meetings », alternatives to Zoom meetings, which take place in the virtual world, around a virtual table, where participants take the form of avatars. But ironically, this pushes us even deeper into an immaterial world. Straying away from material reality seems like a natural evolution, considering the speed with which technology is evolving. But the pandemic seems to have kick-started the initiative.
The Beginning of the End?
« Meta », meaning « beyond » in Latin, seems like an appropriate name for a true breakthrough in regard to the way we may live in the future. In Yuval Noah Harari’s book Homo Deus, published in 2015, the historian and professor states that: « Neural networks will be replaced by intelligent software which could surf both the virtual and non-virtual worlds, free from the limitations of organic chemistry. After 4 billion years of wandering inside the kingdom of organic compounds, life will break out into the vastness of the inorganic realm, and will take shapes that we cannot envision even in our wildest dreams. After all, our wildest dreams are still the product of organic chemistry. »
Professor Harari seems to be pointing out that our brains and consciousnesses are bound to be transformed into hybrid-like entities, considering the direction in which technology is evolving. Our restrictive biological bodies will be upgraded and will resemble computers more and more. All in all, humanity will become the technology it creates, and they will evolve side by side.
As such, it’s possible that Meta Platforms Inc. are only spearheading the search.
The Dawn of a Dystopia
The Maze Runner. The Matrix. Mad Max. Hunger Games. Black Mirror.
The dystopian genre has always been popular whether it be in books, movies, or TV shows. Consuming media allows us to escape reality, to live vicariously through fictional characters. But who would want to escape into a post-apocalyptic world? I would. And so would millions of other people. Although what was reassuring until recently, is that this was all the fruit of someone’s imagination (with some inspiration from real life probably). But the accuracy of dystopian media is becoming less fiction, and more foreshadowing. Our world doesn’t look much like Back to the Future 2‘s flying-car filled world, but Netflix’s 2011 TV show Black Mirror on the other hand, delivers a chillingly realistic depiction of how humanity could evolve alongside technology.
In this case, does life imitate art or art imitate life? Or are writers just really good at predicting the future?
Today, the race between big stakes like global warning and technological advancement (since taking measures to slow global warming doesn’t seem to be world leaders’ biggest priority) is in full swing. Will humanity be able to outrun its problems with the help of technology, or will its efforts be in vain?
A Win for the Wealthy?
Even if virtual reality could revolutionize the world, for now, it seems to only be reserved for people who can afford it, but chances are it will become progressively more mainstream and accessible.
Today, billionaires like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk have enough power, wealth, and privilege to explore the limits of humanity by travelling to space for fun and even starting to develop space tourism, which is a problematic idea in itself. Why spend trillions of dollars for the development of an activity that will not only be reserved for the richest, but will also cost so much to the environment? Earth has a long list of problems that need to be addressed before the matter of space colonization should even be put on the table.
Concerning the Metaverse and all its variants that are sure to emerge, I believe that the best thing we can do for now is sit back, hope for the best, and uncover what the future holds for humanity.