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The metaverse is just a new word for an old idea

I have spent much of my career, both in Silicon Valley and beyond, insisting that all of our technology has history and pre-history, and even though they are organized and organized, those stories are actually disjointed, competitive and contradictory, competitive storytellers. And with meaning.

Metavers, who have graduated from a specific term in less than a year to a household name, is an excellent case. Its metamorphosis began in July 2021, when Facebook announced that it would dedicate the next decade to bringing metavors to life. Introducing the company’s concept, Metavers was a surprise: an immersive, rich digital world combining aspects of social media, online gaming and augmented and virtual reality. “The defining quality of Metavers will be the sense of presence – as if you were there with another person or somewhere else,” wrote Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, “reaching one billion people, hosting hundreds of billions.” A dollar of digital commerce, and supportive jobs for millions of creators and developers. “By December 2021, a series of other major American technology companies, including Microsoft, Intel and Qualcomm, had unveiled all their metavars plans, and by January There seemed to be a metavers angle, no matter how unlikely or trivial: haptic vests, including air conditioners to create your own local climate; avatar beauty makeover; a virtual delivery van for your virtual home.

With the involvement of Meta (née Facebook) and the abundance of shopping in our daily lives, its current complex status as a social media platform has been discussed. More meticulously-more peacefully-discussed conversations about what metavores can or should take in terms of technical capabilities, user experiences, business models, access and regulation, and what purpose it will serve and what needs it will meet. .

“Stories have a simple temptation that introduces technology as brand new.”

This is a good conversation. But we will remember if we do not take a step back to ask what the metavars are or who will make them, but where it comes from – both literally and figuratively. Who invented it, if it was really discovered? And what about previously created, imagined, augmented or virtual worlds? Now how can they tell us about how to create metavars, its dangers and its possibilities?

There is a simple temptation in stories that present the technique as brand new, or at least it does not relate to a long, complex history. Seen in this way, the future is a place of discovery and possibility, rather than something closely connected with our present and past. But history is more than just a backstory. They are backbones and blueprints and maps of regions that have already passed. The history of technology, or the ideas it embodies, can provide better questions, uncover potential flaws and lessons already learned, and open a window into the lives of those who have learned it. Metavers – not as new as they appear – are no exception.

So where do metavers come from? A simple answer – clear and systematic – is that it comes from Neil Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow crash, Which describes the computer-generated virtual world made possible by software and a worldwide fiber-optic network. In the book’s 21st Century Los Angeles, the world is full of chaos, social inequality, racism, racism, gated communities, surveillance, hyper-capitalism, febrile mega-corporations and corrupt policing. Of course, the metavars of the novel are also messy. It is also full of social inequalities and extreme capitalism. Not everyone there finds their way. For those who do, the quality of their experience is determined by their kit capacity and their ability to afford bandwidth, electricity and computational horsepower. Those who have the tool can have extensively personalized digital rendering. Others should do with simple flat sketches purchased from the shelf – “Brandy” and “Clint” packages. Perhaps we should not be surprised that many who read the book saw it not only as advanced science fiction but as a critique of the final stages of capitalism and the techno-utopian perspective.

In the three decades that have passed Snow crash As published, many foundations of Stephenson’s virtual world, such as social networks and artificial intelligence, have come true. And metavers, like other ideas embodied in the cyberpunk tradition, are constantly finding their way into the wider conversation. As it has been featured in recent movies Ready Player One And Free cow, And it has shaped most of the digital landscape in which we now find ourselves. However, I think there may be more than just metavars Snow crash And its current recovery.

In fact, today’s conversations around Metavers remind me of a lot of conversations about Second Life about 20 years ago, started in 2003 by Philip Rossedell’s Linden Lab. Rosedale is very clear about how she was inspired. Snow crashHowever, it is also clear that Burning Man’s journey in the late 1990s was shaped forever by his thinking about the virtual worlds, their inhabitants, and their morals. Second Life was to be “a 3D online world created and owned by its users”. It was a huge success – it dominated the news headlines and the conversation. Companies and brands fought to establish themselves in this new domain; We had conferences and concerts in Second Life and Church. In the early 2000’s, millions of people flocked to the platform and made a living there. Anthropologists studied them *; Policymakers and politicians debated with him. And the realities of a full-featured virtual world quickly clash with regulators and policymakers; Concerns about fiat currency, money laundering and prostitution have surfaced.

However, I think there are also earlier histories that can inform our thinking. Before the second life. Before virtual and augmented reality. Before the web and the internet. Before mobile phones and personal computers. Before television, and radio and movies. Before that, a huge iron and glass building had been erected in Hyde Park, London. It was the summer of 1851, and the future was on display.

Arc lights and hydraulic presses (powered by hidden steam engines), electric telegrams, a prototype fax machine, mechanical birds in artificial trees, submarines, guns, the first life-size and living sculptures of dinosaurs, Goodyear’s vulcanized, Even public toilets. Each display, spread over a glazed glass enclosure of 92,000 square meters, was a three-story value alcove with red bunting and symbols announcing the country of origin – like Crystal Palace, dubbed by a satirical magazine.

It was a whole world dedicated to the future: a world in which almost anyone could be immersed, educated, challenged, inspired, titillated or provoked.

The extraordinary event was the brainchild of Prince Albert, the beloved wife of Queen Victoria, the greatest display of works of industry in all nations since it was formally known. It will feature over 100,000 exhibits from around the world. The Queen herself will attend at least 30 times. In her opening remarks, she outlined her agenda: “I am keen to promote the cultivation of all the arts that are stimulated by peace between nations and which in turn contribute to world peace.” The era of empire may already be falling, but the great performance emphasizes power and vision for Britain’s future. And what a modern, industrial future that will be, even if it requires colonies around the world to happen.

Of course, London was already a city full of exhibitions and exhibitions, where you can visit wonderful and fantastic places. Charles Babbage was part of Merlin’s Mechanical Museum, with many of his automata. Others favored the Holy Land and the diorama of Paris. The great performance was different because it had scale and the power of empire behind it. It was not just a spectacle; It was a whole world dedicated to the future: a world in which almost anyone could be immersed, educated, challenged, inspired, titillated or provoked. It was not small pieces and fragments, but a big, majestic, compelling statement.

In his day, there were many critics of the great performance. Some are concerned about the ancient elm trees in Hyde Park that seem to contain themselves in enormous structures. Others were all concerned about the tensile strength of the glass. In the newspapers, it was ridiculed for months, with one politician describing it as “one of the biggest humbugs, scams and nonsense”. In the Houses of Parliament, some questioned Prince Albert’s intentions, citing his position as a foreign prince and suggesting that the Great Demonstration was merely a propaganda exercise to promote and perhaps cover up the rise of immigration to Britain. Still others indicated that the Great Demonstration would attract pickpockets, prostitutes, and spies, and that an additional 1,000 police officers would be called to the scene.

Surprisingly, alarming warnings were raised, and for a sunny summer, people from all over Britain – taking advantage of the rapidly expanding railway network – flocked to the huge glass house in the park. Organizers set an entrance fee to the shilling, which made it accessible to the British working class. “See the world for the shillings” was a typical summer stay away.

A surprising portion of the literary and scientific community of the time found its way to Crystal Palace. That roll call includes Charles Dickens, Charles Dodson (who will become Lewis Carroll), Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, Michael Faraday, Samuel Colt, Charlotte Bront, Charles Babbage, and George Eliot. Dickens hated it: it was just too much materialism, and his most recent biographer claims that his experiences there shaped his subsequent work. On the contrary, Bront લખ wrote, “It seems that only magic could have accumulated this mass of wealth from all corners of the earth – as if no one but a supernatural hand could have arranged it in such a way, with such glitter and the amazing power of contrast and effect of colors.” ” Dodson had such a moment when he entered Crystal Palace. He wrote, “The impression you get when you go in is amazing. It looks like a sack that encloses with a drawstring. “

And then, in the same way, the Great Exhibition closed its doors on October 15, 1851. In its five-and-a-half-month period, it is estimated that more than 6 million people visited Crystal Palace (at the time), Britain’s total population was only 24 million). In his short life at Hyde Park, the Great Show also made a significant profit of £ 186,437 (over $ 35 million today). Some of them bought land in South Kensington to create London’s current Museum District. Another part is an educational trust that still offers scholarships for scientific research. The Crystal Palace was disassembled in the winter of 1851 and moved to a new location, where it will continue to perform all sorts of wonders until it reaches the smoky iron skeleton caused by a catastrophic fire in 1936. And if fancy takes you, you can still visit the Great Exhibition today through a virtual tour organized on the Royal Parks website.

The Great Exhibition marks the beginning of more than a century of world fairs – places of interest and wonders that, in turn, will shape the world around them. In the United States, these world-building activities include the 1893 Columbian Exhibition of the World, also known as the Chicago World’s Fair – an entire city with over 200 purpose-built structures, showcasing a variety of technologies, such as white washing and a shiny, fully electric kitchen. Is. Dishwasher, electric chicken incubator, seismograph, Thomas Edison kinetoscope, searchlights, Morse code telegraphy, multiphase power generator, walkways and the world’s first ferris wheel. In less than six months, a quarter of Americans will attend the World’s Fair.

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