The metaverse will not be part of our daily lives any time soon and when it does, it will be much different than what we currently think. Here are three reasons why:
- The COVID-19 pandemic illustrated how much humans want real-life interaction
- The demand for a metaverse is being driven by businesses and not people
- The creation of the metaverse is not following a disruptive technology path
An important lesson from the pandemic has been that, while we have relied on technology to navigate COVID, we still strongly desire face-to-face interaction. Research conducted during the pandemic found that the surge in screen time was overwhelmingly associated with negative effects on physical and mental health. Many people, including me, have experienced firsthand the effects of virtual burnout and Zoom fatigue. If necessity is the mother of invention, is the metaverse actually something we need?
The current demand for the metaverse is coming from everywhere–big business, startups, and governments—but the end user. Facebook has rebranded as “Meta”, the South Korean government recently launched its new metaverse alliance, and Softbank is leading a $100 million funding in metaverse and NFT-focused startups. Apparently everyone—except the end user—knows that the metaverse is a good idea and this seems odd. What minority group is already living in a metaverse? And, when’s the last time a big innovation was so obviously a good idea to so many businesses?
Jules Verne dreamed of “heavier than air,” propeller-driven flying apparatuses, and Arthur C. Clarke envisioned a sheet-of-paper-sized “newspad” for reading world newspapers electronically, but how closely did either of those resemble the airplane or the iPad? Their predictions weren’t wrong, but they weren’t exactly right either. Futurists have theorized about technological wonders yet to come as long as the Sci Fi genre has existed, but seldom has reality matched their visions. The rule, not the exception, will win out here: the metaverse may materialize as a place where we interact, but likely in a much different way than we’re currently imagining.
The technology needed to support the metaverse is still years away, so we won’t be seeing results any time soon. It seems presumptuous to think we can accurately predict the metaverse. Regardless of what form it ultimately takes, we are a long way off from the metaverse becoming the new reality. For now, it will remain an aspirational fantasy for bigwigs to debate and bid on while someone else, somewhere else, quietly builds the next big thing.