Metaverse or Metaworse

A good book gives you intimate access to an author’s experiences or take on the world. Theatre tickets provide a front-row view (sometimes literally) to a playwright’s story. At home, an entertainment system remote allows you to visualize living another life, often in another time or reality.

Consuming media in these ways changes us to some degree. After all, when the last page is turned, the curtain falls, or the credits roll, our mind’s eye combines what we’ve seen, heard, and felt with our own personal life experiences. But the described experiences we explore via traditional forms of media are generally aimed at a broad audience, which limits the influence of books, plays, TV, and the big screen.

When exposed to traditional media, we also typically remain in our own worlds, where we don’t personally experience the narratives that we are told—we only imagine experiencing them through the described experiences of others. And when presented with “a story of others,” consumers generally need to accept and embrace what they see and hear to be fully engaged and seriously influenced.

The boundaries of media influence, of course, have been pushed in the digital age by developers of interactive videogames and multimedia platforms like Second Life, which allows users to vicariously live an alternative existence by controlling a digital avatar (an animated representation of themselves) that interacts with other user avatars in an online world. Social media interactions—which are manipulated to some degree by big data platforms seeking to keep consumers engaged—have also increased media influence, and not always in positive ways. In recent years, for example, society has experienced an epidemic of customized realities that, as recent events clearly show, have become a real threat to peace, order, and good government everywhere.

So, with all the above in mind, ask yourself the following question: What would happen if the remaining constraints on media influence were magically eliminated? Imagine not having to give yourself over to storytellers because you can be the central protagonist in narratives customized to keep you engaged. Now think about what would happen if the storytelling wasn’t locked down in print or celluloid, or even time, but instead was infinitely variable.

Welcome to billionaire Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for the so-called metaverse, which shouldn’t just concern investors.

Zuckerberg cofounded Facebook as a Harvard student in 2004. He then built it into the world’s most influential social media platform by acquiring dozens of companies. Major acquisitions included Instagram (US$1 billion in 2012) and WhatsApp (US$19 billion in 2014), which, along with the launch of Facebook Messenger, gave Zuckerberg control over four of the most downloaded social networking and communications apps, not to mention their data, which his company aggressively monetized via targeted advertising sales.

Thanks to its domination of social media, Facebook’s market capitalization topped US$1 trillion last June. But in October, the company committed its entire brand to creating an alternative to reality and real-world commerce by changing its name to Meta Platforms, Inc. Although many of the company’s shareholders didn’t realize it at the time, a new strategy was warranted. After all, as Facebook stock was soaring last year, Apple released an operating system update for iPhones that allowed users to block advertisers from using their device ID.

Apple’s move to offer more consumer privacy protection, which Google now plans to follow, at least to some degree in two years, created two challenges for Meta’s primary source of revenue. The first, as company COO Sheryl Sandberg explained during the company’s Q4 earnings call, “is that the accuracy of our ads targeting decreased, which increases the cost of driving outcomes. The other is that measuring those outcomes became more difficult.”

Investors are now questioning Zuckerberg’s plans for the future, which is why his company’s stock value tanked more than 45 per cent in February. But despite being knocked off the top 10 list of largest global companies, Meta is still forecast to generate well over US$100 million in advertising revenue this year. And if things go as planned, the company formerly known as Facebook will regain its lost glory by building and controlling a digital alternative to reality.

For Zuckerberg’s vision to be realized, the metaverse experience needs to be seamless, immersive, relatable and, for mass markets, social. But that’s his plan. And if successful, Meta will dramatically expand its revenue streams by taking a cut of an explosion in sales of new digital goods and services while significantly increasing its ability to study and influence consumers and sell their changed behaviours to advertisers. The latter is the focus of this article because Zuckerberg’s idea of a brave new world is being built by the same people who helped create some of today’s major social problems.

Master of the Metaverse

The metaverse already exists in various forms. After all, in dictionary terms, a metaverse is simply a virtual reality space in which users can interact with each other in computer-generated environments. At the very least, this is what most experts expect from Web 3.0, which will clearly impact business by enabling remote and office-based work to exist simultaneously. Within the next few years, as Bill Gates recently predicted, “most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids—which I call the Hollywood Squares model, although I know that probably dates me—to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars.” And the potential upside for business is obvious, since the metaverse could help restore corporate cultures (think virtual watercooler time) that have become unglued during the pandemic.

But Meta’s plans go well beyond Zoom meetings on steroids. According to Zuckerberg, in the not-too-distant future, personal avatars will be as common as today’s social media profile pics, although he expects you will want different avatars for interacting in different virtual environments related to work, socializing, and fantasy play. And what he has in mind isn’t anything like Second Life, where consumers express creativity and socialize via avatars that they simply watch interacting with other user avatars. Indeed, the defining quality of Zuckerberg’s vision is a manufactured “feeling of presence.” You won’t watch avatars interact in the metaverse. Using technology ranging from VR headsets to suits of electric skin, you will inhabit 3D representations of yourself that use your expressions and gestures while enabling you to perceive virtual worlds and virtual world interactions as if they are real.

“You are really going to feel like you are there [in the metaverse] with other people,” Zuckerberg says in a promotional clip that shows him interacting with colleagues as they play cards in a space station. “You will see their facial expressions, you’ll see their body language, maybe figure out if they are actually holding a winning hand [if playing cards], all the subtle ways that we communicate that today’s technology can’t quite deliver.” That last bit is an understatement, which is why Meta is spending billions of dollars to develop advanced VR technologies along with the world’s fastest super-computer.

Life Imitating Fiction

The word “metaverse” was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 book Snow Crash, in which a pizza delivery boy escapes his dystopian existence by living as a warrior prince in a virtual world. The concept was popularized by the 2018 movie Ready Player One, which was based upon Ernest Cline’s compelling 2011 book about a virtual world fortune hunt that offers consumers reason for hope. And the general idea can be traced back to earlier works of fiction such as William Gibson’s 1982 short story “Burning Chrome,” and his 1984 book Neuromancer.

According to an Atlantic article by Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Initiative for Digital Infrastructure at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, some credit for where things are going should also go to Morton Heilig, who became the father of virtual reality after patenting the Sensorama machine in 1962, and even Plato, for giving us his allegory of the cave. Either way, the convergence of four categories of digital technology (see Figure 1) is now allowing big tech to turn fiction into reality.


Figure 1: Convergence to the Metaverse

Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions will drive growth in VR goggle sales along with peripherals such as haptic gloves, armbands, and body suits with sensors designed to enhance the metaverse experience. If Zuckerberg’s full vision comes to pass, implants might even become mainstream (the firm has funded research in this area). But the economic potential goes well beyond VR equipment sales.

In addition to immersive gaming and hangout spaces, metaverse content providers will create VR shopping centres, entertainment complexes, sporting venues, and vacation destinations (with varying norms). Big-name brands ranging from Nike to Gucci have already started planning how they will stock the shelves in virtual malls and retail outlets. Big-box retailers are also serious about catering to avatars. In addition to selling virtual versions of its consumer goods in a virtual store, Walmart’s metaverse strategy reportedly includes launching its own cryptocurrency. Even restaurant chains are busy developing metaverse expansions. McDonalds, for example, aims to enable consumer avatars to order food in a virtual restaurant for delivery to their real-world counterparts.

Simply put, thanks to non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which provide ownership rights to digital property, there will be digital versions of everything you can imagine (including pets, art, and weapons) on sale in the metaverse—where consumers will pretty much be able to do everything they do in the real world (work, network, socialize, date, play, shop, exercise, bet, trade, learn, influence, travel, create, communicate, etc.).  And whatever they choose to do, they will be able to do it in style by dressing up their digital personalities in digital versions of the latest fashion trends.

The metaverse will also spawn a bevy of professional services. Zuckerberg envisions teleporting providers that will enable metaverse travelers to instantly jump between virtual locations, including private “unreal-estate,” meaning virtual properties. Ironically, despite the ability to teleport, location will probably still play a major role in determining the value of metaverse real estate. Last year, one bullish NFT investor reportedly paid almost half a million dollars for a virtual plot in the Snoopverse, an interactive world being built by rapper Snoop Dogg on The Sandbox platform. As Rolling Stone noted, “Snoop is currently building a digital recreation of his real-life Diamond Bar, California mansion, wherein he’ll throw exclusive, members-only parties.” Keep in mind that land value is also driven by scarcity and some existing virtual worlds limit how much real estate will be available, so metaverse development could prove analogous to the development potential of Manhattan 400 years ago. This virtual market is already big business. Developers like Republic Realm are creating portfolios of digital land parcels diversified across several metaverses to spread the risk of market acceptance. According to Euronews, “unreal estate” sales in just four existing virtual worlds—Decentraland, The Sandbox, CryptoVoxels, and Somnium Space—will be about US$1 billion this year.

Whatever happens on the metaverse development front, there will be a vast array of new job categories that operate within it as employers look to mass-customize the user experience. Virtual world real estate developers and agents will be joined by metaverse bankers and accountants, property architects, developer studios, ad agencies, and design engineers. There will be consultants to enable metaverse commerce and entrepreneurship, not to mention lawyers to settle IP disputes and other legal conflicts. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. Want a digital stylist for your boring avatar? No problem. Need help planning a virtual space event with live entertainment and maybe a few AI-powered guests? You will be covered. Spending too much time online? Book time on a virtual couch with a psychiatric professional specializing in virtual addiction. And that’s just the clean stuff. Services targeting our baser instincts will find their way into the metaverse, too.

Dematerialization will also enable metaverse entrepreneurs to find new ways to remove price premiums that consumers have typically accepted for time, place, superiority, or scarcity in the real world. Now you can finally have a front-row seat with your friends at a Drake virtual concert—and so can everyone else. You could have a one-on-one (AI-enabled) discussion with Abraham Lincoln or Elvis Presley. Or you could sit with Warren Buffet as he contemplates investments.

On the technical side, the metaverse will drive investment in cloud services and online payment systems, including platform-specific cryptocurrencies, points, and tokens. An explosion of tools will enable everything from hosting custom virtual meetings to supplying avatars with real-life facial expressions. There will be growth in computing software, hardware, and chips. Anticipating a major increase in demand for processing power, Intel is developing technology to allow consumers to visit the metaverse using the collective power of devices connected to their home network. The firm is also reportedly spending US$20 billion to build chip plants to supply metaverse-related demand.

Meta isn’t the only company aiming to cash in on the emerging mass market for immersive online experiences. There will be competition from China’s Tencent (WeChat, QQ, Qzone), which has major investments in communications platform Discord, not to mention Epic Games, creator of the Fortnite gaming platform, which allows users to compete against each other in a massive online battle for survival or invite friends to visit their own virtual islands, and Roblox, a cross between a videogame and a social media platform that enables users to create their own avatars while interacting and playing each other’s games.

China’s ByteDance, which owns TikTok, signaled its interest in the metaverse last year when it bought Pico, the world’s third-largest VR headset company. The firm already has a metaverse-like app called Paiduidao (Party Island) in trial. Alphabet’s Google and China-based Baidu also plan to get in on the action, as does Apple, which bought a virtual reality event broadcaster named NextVR in 2020. Apple is reportedly working on VR headsets and Apple Glass AR glasses. And as noted by GeekWire, Apple’s acquisitions of Turi and Xnor.Ai provide AI technology and could enable facial recognition and machine learning to occur on inexpensive headsets or glasses rather than in the cloud. This so-called edge computing would improve the user’s experience. (To relate Apple’s approach to the metaverse to Figure 1, the firm’s direction is from the top right-hand corner—computing hardware, and software, including AI.)

And then there is Microsoft, owner of Xbox Game Studios (best known for Minecraft), which already supplies manufacturers like Toyota with augmented reality training solutions using its HoloLens 2 headset and Azure cloud offering. Industry watchers expected Microsoft to give Meta a run for its money as a major provider of metaverse content, hardware, and services even before its recently announced plans for a US$68.7-billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, owner of major videogame franchises such as Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. If finalized, the deal would make Microsoft the no. 3 game-maker behind Tencent and Sony. Consistent with the top left-hand corner in Figure 1— content—Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella sees games as central to the development of its metaverse. Games are also a lucrative starting point. According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nadella intends to make their existing 2D games into 3D environments.

We are in the early days. Existing versions of the metaverse are underdeveloped and fragmented. Nobody knows how things will play out. There could be several metaverses that users jump between without difficulty—which would require the major players to cooperate so that data, avatars, and virtual purchases are portable, and transitioning between metaverses is easy and seamless. More likely, there will be several separate and distinct metaverses, at least early on. But we could end up with one metaverse which provides several destinations, all built on a closed platform controlled by a single company. In other words, Zuckerberg could very well create his own “walled garden,” where Meta’s ability to monetize users won’t require anything from Apple, or Google, or Microsoft, or Amazon, or anyone else, aside from addicted consumers.

These are the commercial aspects of the metaverse, which have been dominating headlines because the economic impact could be astronomical—a global market opportunity of up to US$12.5 trillion, according to Goldman Sachs. But the potential for Meta—which currently has 3.6 billion monthly users on its existing platforms—to gain a supercharged ability to influence consumers also needs serious attention.

Metaverse or Metaworse?

Meta is a Greek word meaning “beyond,” so let’s consider the implications of Meta’s strategy for company stakeholders. Zuckerberg’s metaverse play is a multibillion-dollar gamble that could flop, which is why investors have been reportedly asking for more independent oversight of related investments (expected to top US$10 billion this year). These calls are not unreasonable, and not just because investors remember large bets that have failed before, most notably Meta’s cryptocurrency initiative. But while the timing of Meta’s rebranding may appear as an opportunistic attempt to “change the channel” amid a torrential downpour of marketplace headwinds and negative sentiment, the strategy didn’t take shape overnight. At the very least, it dates back to 2014, when Facebook paid US$2 billion for VR headset manufacturer Oculus less than two years after fate introduced its founder—a former journalism student named Palmer Luckey—to legendary videogame developer John Carmack (Doom, Wolfenstein 3). After being impressed by a duct-tape covered prototype that Luckey designed as a hobbyist, Carmack joined Oculus and helped turn it into a tech-world darling.

As Greg Kumparak explains in the 2004 TechCrunch article “A Brief History of Oculus,” Facebook’s acquisition of Luckey’s passion project met with some resistance in the gaming community, but it didn’t stop the company from reviving the VR genre. And while Luckey left Meta in 2018, Zuckerberg now has over 12,000 talented individuals working on building the metaverse, including Carmack as an advisor. And as CNBC reports, over the last three years, Meta’s Reality Labs, which includes the Oculus division, has had no problem spending about US$25 billion while generating just US$4 billion in revenue as it tries to ensure that the future of online interactions is dominated by Zuckerberg’s company.

According to Fortune, not everyone at Meta is convinced that trying to control the development of the metaverse from the top down is the right way to go. “I want it to exist,” Carmack reportedly said at Facebook’s Connect conference last October, “but I have pretty good reasons to believe that setting out to build the metaverse is not actually the best way to wind up with the metaverse.” But despite calling Meta’s vision a potential “honeypot trap for architecture astronauts,” the tech-industry legend noted that Zuckerberg is convinced he can make it happen, “so enormous wheels are turning, resources are flowing, and the effort’s definitely going to be made.”

And the guy who gave us Facebook clearly knows where he wants things to go. Late last year, Meta opened the virtual door to its Horizon Worlds (HW) platform, allowing Oculus Quest users in the United States and Canada to visit a work-in-progress version of Zuckerberg’s virtual world development that has been likened to the OASIS environment in Ready Player One, where reality equals imagination.

In just a matter of months, the HW platform has attracted hundreds of thousands of users, who have been busy creating more than 10,000 different immersive worlds of their own. To date, the numbers have reportedly been multiplying tenfold month after month. And that growth doesn’t include users of Horizon Workrooms, a virtual environment for meetings, conferences, and presentations.

As things stand, Zuckerberg has already started to monetize the on-ramp to the metaverse. In addition to its HW platform and Quest 2 headsets, Meta has its MetaQuest store that offers dozens of VR games and apps for sale. These include massively multiplayer online titles for people to play against one another or alone. Other experiences on offer range from virtual movie nights and sporting events to exercise classes and job simulators (that put you to work alongside robots).

But how the metaverse unfolds will be determined by numerous factors beyond Zuckerberg’s control, including the attitude of third-party developers, competitors, regulators, and users. Serious technical challenges also exist. As noted earlier, existing virtual environments not owned by Meta would need to be re-written for users to easily move from one to another easily. And as Second Life creator Philip Rosedale has noted, the number of people who can currently be online in an HW space is limited while facial expressions are difficult to discern, and audio is not great. Meanwhile, headsets are bulky and look more than a little goofy. Avatars frequently float around without legs. Delays in image rendering can even make users feel nauseated. The list of issues is long.

Simply put, to achieve Meta’s vision for Internet 3.0, the user experience needs a major upgrade. But given Zuckerberg’s control of Meta, along with its cash reserves of over US$62 billion and free cash flow of over US$39 billion last year, he might just succeed at becoming the de facto leader of an alternative world. In effect, he would have converted an asynchronous 2D social media near-monopoly into a synchronous, 3D virtual reality, one that just might be more populous, powerful, and productive than many countries.

As a result, the metaverse represents a revolutionary opportunity for investors, brands, and advertisers. But while there is clear economic potential, the social costs of a virtual Old West could easily outweigh the benefits. After all, society risks being fed a steady, addictive, and customized mix of real, surreal, hyper-real, unreal, and manipulated content by forces seeking to monetize the three elements that it takes to brainwash people–perceptions of identity, belonging, and injustice—like never before.

Meta and Consumer Behaviour

Meta’s motto used to be to “move fast and break things.” And under Zuckerberg’s leadership, it did.  As former Facebook product manager Frances Haugen noted in a Time magazine interview last year, individuals in many parts of the world lack disinformation immune systems, and the speed with which Facebook brought social media to them proved irresponsible and spawned an increase in violence in some countries. But Haugen’s decision to expose how Meta systematically put profits over user safety wasn’t about speed alone. According to the whistle blower, it also stemmed from a company-driven evolution in marketing that was responsible for numerous negative social outcomes, including declining mental health for teenagers.

When launched, social media was about association and communication, and early solutions addressed these needs fairly well in relatively harmless ways. As explained in the IBJ feature Surviving Big Data’s Zombie Apocalypse,” issues related to user addiction, dysfunction, and manipulation came later, after consumers embraced platforms like Facebook and oppositional marketing (meaning the use of consumer data in ways that conflict with the interests of consumers) took over from traditional data-based marketing, which had generally aimed to extract value in concert with the interest of consumers.

Marketers have long used cognitive and social psychology to influence consumer behaviours. Social media platforms reversed this process by using behavioural psychology and behavioural economics to increase engagement and trigger purchases with a variety of approaches. For example, they might display red sweaters or shoes for people who generally buy red products while enabling impulse buying via a simple click. But this came with social costs, since it is much easier to increase social media engagement by using algorithms that inspire hate than it is to promote compassion or empathy. And since digital habituation precedes cognition, systematically using user data to trigger impulse buying has created an epidemic of dissonance, a disconnect between cognition and behaviour, which is at the very least unsettling.

With the metaverse, where consumer spending on digital products and services could eventually approach or exceed spending on physical world products, marketing may well take a similar path. Indeed, there is a real risk that the culture and principles that formed and guided Facebook and Instagram will continue to drive Meta to downplay public safety concerns while developing marketing practices that work even more powerfully against user interests.

The initial marketing focus will be on attracting users and getting them to spend a lot of time in Horizon Worlds. But the focus will shift to value extraction. And this will likely be done by systematically and simultaneously working on users’ perceptions and their behaviours while changing context continually. This evolution of marketing (presented graphically in Figure 2) would break new and dangerous ground in oppositional marketing.


Figure 2: Traditional Marketing vs. Metaverse Marketing

The needs people have in the real world will be satisfied in new ways in the metaverse. And since metaverse marketing will operate on both the perceptions and behaviours of users simultaneously, dissonance will increase. Why did I spend that much on a digital car when I am having trouble paying for my actual car? Why did I buy a digital home when I am still saving for a real one? Consumers will be caught in a perpetual cycle of rationalization as they try to find consistency between their perceptions and actions where the perpetual tweaking of reality by the metaverse makes this pursuit very difficult or impossible. This will lead to new mental health challenges.

Furthermore, as anyone who has tried on an Oculus headset can attest, the metaverse has the potential to supercharge user engagement by offering an intense social experience detached from reality. In this immersive and addictive environment, people will seek common virtual cause with like-minded individuals, just as they have done on social media, and whatever shared societal perceptions of “truth” and “right” remain will likely fragment even further.

Oppositional marketing will find new ways to motivate users, too, with subtlety and perhaps nefariously, by monitoring behaviours, social psychology, and physiology (e.g., heart rate and pupil dilation). Pioneering AI, AR, and VR researcher and entrepreneur Louis Rosenberg recently noted, electronic life facilitators “will be the next generation of digital assistants like Alexa and Siri. But they won’t be disembodied voices; they’ll be anthropomorphized personas customized for each user. And because the metaverse will ultimately be an augmentation layer on the real world, these digital elves will follow us everywhere, whether we’re shopping, working, or just hanging out.” While the elf could resemble a caring friend, it won’t really be there to look after users as much as to steer them to benefit the platform and its advertisers.

Some metaverse users will find it impossible to distinguish between the real and unreal. Others won’t even try since they will be able to live in a customized alternative reality with social engagement based upon their biases and perceptions. The way a person had previously thought reality should have been working to benefit him or her, will finally seem to work that way. No longer anchored to reality, untethered users will be dependent on the metaverse for their very identity, which could create profound and dysfunctional change.

Are We Ready?

The book Ready Player One doesn’t make it entirely clear if dystopia preceded its virtual OASIS, but it does say it is “a pleasant place for the world to hide from its problems while human civilization slowly collapses, primarily due to neglect.” As life imitates this fiction, we are entering complex territory with plenty of unknowns. Although the future is cloudy, Facebook’s evolution to Meta could very well prove to be a defining moment in the history of technological development.

More than a few business models and industries will be disrupted. Will you need to buy from Amazon if your purchases can be made in the metaverse? Will you need cable or streaming services like Netflix if you can visit a virtual theatre or, better yet, go for a swing with Spiderman? Will you need your bank if Meta provides a virtual alternative? And while this market disruption will bring plenty of opportunities, there will also be negative outcomes as Meta moves fast and breaks things in a bid to create an addictive environment that allows it to manipulate consumers using both content and context.

Reality isn’t a business model or emerging technology, and breaking our connection to it is a dangerous game that places users of the metaverse on a very high wall—where Humpty Dumpty is our collective avatar.

The metaverse will be irresistible because it will be believable when offering alternatives to our challenging real-world existence. But while escape from one’s troubles can be cathartic, reality isn’t a business model or emerging technology, and breaking our connection to it is a dangerous game that places users of the metaverse on a very high wall—where Humpty Dumpty is our collective avatar.

Simply put, the world as we know it is at risk of being disrupted by Zuckerberg’s ambition. This sounds like déjà vu (we might call it “déjà VR”), but the outcomes could prove to be much worse than the ones delivered by Facebook. And when issues emerge, they could prove difficult to fix, especially if AI engines are the only ones that really “know” what is going on in the alternative world of alternative realities at any point in time. Obviously, as Frances Haugen noted when discussing her role as a social media whistleblower, any new influential technology with the potential to divide people still further “deserves public oversight.”

Regulators around the world are aware of the damage that social media has done, but they are stuck playing catch up to varying degrees as the ground shifts again. Ideally, they will collectively and proactively nudge metaverse architects in positive directions rather than waiting to act from behind one more time. Areas requiring attention range from maintaining competition and data portability to defining rights for the ownership and usage of VR data, including physiological and behavioural biometric data. There are hate speech, accessibility, and privacy issues to be considered. The metaverse’s potential for exploiting free labour, along with possibilities for discrimination, subjugation, harassment, and assault in VR spaces, also needs attention. Taxation principles could also be reassessed with attention paid to data flows, storage, and use, not to mention bartering. Most social media users happily provide their data to use apps and platforms, but this is a value exchange that will dramatically increase in the metaverse and could warrant taxable consequence.

As suggested by the allusion to Humpty Dumpty earlier, human welfare and the foundation of democracy are on the line. Clearly, now is the time to assess, formulate, and prioritize sensible policy objectives to ensure the metaverse is a positive development using detailed situation analysis, industry input, market research, and maybe even public hearings.

But while regulatory oversight of metaverse development is clearly warranted, it isn’t guaranteed to happen, not to mention succeed at mitigating the risks if attempted. If society can’t depend on regulators, only the collective will of individuals stands in the way of further disruption. After all, despite all the money that is being invested in the metaverse, it can’t become a destructive force without consumers submitting to its allure, allowing value to be extracted from their cerebrums in exponentially more harmful ways.

So, are you ready? Can you resist the ability to transcend your earthbound shackles when doing so offers artificial meaning that feels exactly like the real thing? If not, perhaps it is time to look at what is happening around the world as the epidemic of customized realities intensifies, and then consider what Aldous Huxley had to say when he wrote about his Brave New World: “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

About the Author

Ian Gordon is a marketing management consultant and principal at Convergence Management Consultants Ltd., where he specializes in helping companies manage customer relationships and solve strategic….Read Ian Gordon's full bio

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