The metaverse and virtual reality are rising. Now, there are concerns about what the future has in store for humanity.
Would you rather explore the universe or live in virtual reality? A reality that your brain perceives as real where you could be anywhere, with anyone, doing anything at any time.
Questions like this are being asked more and more these days.
So, what is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is how we interact with technology. It is a 3D version of the internet where people use 3D avatars to interact with a 3D virtual world. It is often associated with a new digital realm to which most social and professional activities migrate.
These virtual worlds will continue to exist even when you’re not playing. And they don’t require to be exclusively accessed via VR or AR.
A virtual world like Fortnite or Decentraland can be accessed through PCs, game consoles, and even phones.
The metaverse industry, fueled by the pandemic keeping people at home, is growing fast. But a serious issue is whether one company will eventually emerge as the dominant force, such as Google, or Facebook.
The industry is still in its beginnings. But experts believe it will go mainstream in the next 5 to 10 years.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is working on the Metaverse and has recently renamed his social networking company, Meta. Google has been working on metaverse-related technology for years now, and Apple has its own related devices in the works.
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Technologists’ dreams of a time when our virtual lives play as important a role as our physical realities have started to take shape.
Metaverse can serve a purpose as a way to socialize, learn, play, shop, exercise, create, and much more.
In the metaverse, people would spend lots of time interacting with their friends and colleagues. And so we would also spend money there on wearables and objects for our digital avatars. As a matter of fact, people are already doing so.
Investors all around the world are buying up plots of land in the metaverse, sometimes for millions of dollars. Why? Well, mainly because there’s a profit to be made.
Some predict that by 2030 a large proportion of people will be in the metaverse in some way. While some will simply use it only to fulfill work or educational obligations, others will live the majority of their waking hours jacked in.
This virtual realm can make some people’s lives more enjoyable and interesting. People can get together with friends and even meet new people. As far as education and learning, the metaverse could allow for a more focused and interactive environment for learning different subjects like physics and astronomy. Doctors will also take full advantage of the emerging technology. The doctor might see you for an appointment, or even surgery. Holographic images and VR technology are already helping train first responders in how to treat victims of heart attacks. Military vets are learning to treat their own PTSD by putting on a headset and, with a therapist at their side, going back and revisiting the moment they were injured or traumatized on the battlefield.
However, the metaverse technology can have a negative orientation. It has the potential to become so addictive that people use it to escape. They might retract from interaction in the real world, and this can have a physical and mental effect over time, such as depression and anxiety. And then there’s the disadvantage of information privacy. In the metaverse, companies can use our interaction to get a hold of us.
There’s a lot of good and bad in the virtual reality, just like in the real world.
What does the future have in store for us? Are we going to explore the real universe or live in the metaverse?
The metaverse could be the answer to the fermi paradox. Where are the others? Why haven’t we found aliens yet? They could be already living in their own metaverses, which could be the reason why we haven’t found other civilizations yet.
The distance between stars is too vast for humans to handle, and cosmic radiation is a serious threat to our bodies. So, it would make sense if we started to make use of the metaverse. We could explore the universe using avatars or surrogates.
While Metaverse’s key promise is “presence”, one of the biggest challenges for companies creating the metaverse is figuring out how to engage all five human senses. But in the future, this will be a problem of the past.
Maybe, in the future, humans won’t have to choose between the real world and virtual reality? What if we could live in both realms?
Humans will someday be independent of planet Earth, and start colonizing other solar system planets and moons. But because it’s in human nature to want more, we may have to colonize other planetary systems, eventually, and so on. You might ask yourself why spend eons crossing vast gulfs of empty space to look at mostly dead rocks when virtual worlds that are arbitrarily dense with information and activity are possible?
Being aware of the vast distances between stars, we could be living in a virtual world while on the journey to another star. During such an interstellar voyage, there could be an option to pop out into the real world whenever something interesting is encountered, or just to see how the universe is doing.
Charles Stross in his book Accelerando goes this way, but to a greater extreme of ditching the bodies and making tiny spaceships that are just a computer running a VR simulation with peoples’ minds uploaded in it. This means that even if the physical body is destroyed in reality, you in the digital world will continue to live in the metaverse, retaining your personality, behavioral logic, and even memories in the real world.
But then if you uploaded your mind into a computer and constructed a spaceship around that computer, the spaceship would essentially be your body. One might think that there would be no need to colonize other planets as these entities would be capable of living in space itself.
However, the need to spread out might still exist, just so a single supernova or gamma-ray burst doesn’t wipe us out.
Humans are getting closer and closer to the technological singularity, a time when the rate of technological change is so great that the effort to keep up with the change will overwhelm us. People will face a whole new set of problems that we can’t even imagine.
There will come a time when the abilities of a computer overtake the abilities of the human brain. Humanity may be fully replaced by artificial intelligence. But I like to think that humans might be replaced not just by AI, but by some hybrid of humans and machines.
If other civilizations are similar to ours but older, we would expect that they already moved beyond the singularity. That means they wouldn’t necessarily lie on a planet in the habitable zone. Such civilizations might prefer locations with little electronic noise in a dry and cold environment, somewhere in space, where they could use superconductivity for computing and quantum entanglement as a means of communication.
This might explain the lack of evidence for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations. Why would they use “primitive” radio waves to send messages?
Future humans will be very different from us, and probably not flesh and bone anymore. But whether our future is tied to the metaverse or reality, is still hard to figure out. Maybe these realms will coexist. We might even see a merge between them.
However, as long as humanity needs resources from the physical layer, exploration will not stop.
But then, here’s Ray Kurzweil who puts it like this: “We didn’t stay in the caves, we didn’t stay on the planet, and we’re not going to stay within the limitations of our biology.”