Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The Metaverse and Mixing Realities Inside Our Minds

In Ernest Cline's 2011 book, Ready Player One, the protagonist, Wade Watts, distracts himself from his tragic, apocalyptic surroundings by connecting to the Metaverse - to a place called the Oasis. An old laptop, haptic clothing, 3D headsets and a personalized Avatar all help him escape into an alternative digital reality. People in the Oasis can become someone new, different and better.  In the Oasis, one can dress up, change voices, change genders, create new personas and drive nice cars.  It is a sensory explosion of sounds, physical touch, avatars and 3D immersive experiences.

One of the many interesting concepts to come out of this book is that characters go into deep financial debt in the physical world to enhance their digital lives.  Metaphorically speaking, they starve in the physical world in order to feast in the digital.  They re-prioritize their financial investments from the earth to the digital Aether to improve their status and experiences there.

There are digital-driven alternative realities like Cline describes in his book, and there are story-driven alternative realities.  For example, propagandist today have learned that by sharing the same stories and messages across tv, talk radio, social media, social engineering campaigns and information operations, messaging platforms and YouTube they can create echo chambers, or information bubbles that form alternative realities in the minds of an audience.  The propagandist can make people believe in an alternative reality - on the cheap.   

Soon, a digital world, not to dissimilar to the Oasis, will be enabled as a result of  Web 3.0 technologies.  These technologies are quickly emerging and will provide humans with yet another collection of alternative worlds to live in.  It seems likely that our minds will embrace these new digital worlds, and that the lines between the physical and digital will increasingly be blurred.  I can foresee people shifting their life priorities from the physical ecosystem to the addictive opportunities within the digital. That does not mean it is good for humanity, rather it speaks to our human vulnerabilities.

The common denominator in all of these different realities is our mind. Whatever our mind believes is real - is for us. If we believe propaganda it becomes real, or if hyper-realistic and immersive digital experiences convince our minds - it becomes real for us.

I can imagine a time in the future when people in the physical world will change their home addresses from the earth to the digital Aether to better align with their interests, priorities, addictions and mind-generated-realities.

Kevin Benedict
Partner | Futurist at TCS
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.