МОСКВА, 25 ноября 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.
Immediately after the release on 28 October of the presentation of the «Metaverse» in the speech of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the RUSSTRAT Institute gave a brief assessment of the socio-psychological reality of the future, which, if it goes on further in the same way, mankind will soon be spending all of its time in.
It was pointed out that the «emigration» of people to an alternative reality — with the illusion of personal presence, the creation of an alter ego in the form of an avatar and ample opportunities for communication — will be warmly supported by Earthlings who are tired of the restrictions due to COVID-19. Although in fact it will mean a transition to unlimited control over human thoughts, feelings and emotions.
People resettled in the Matrix will not even notice that in reality their bodies are placed in cells, they wear disposable clothes and eat synthetic food under the watchful eye of «Big Brother».
It’s time to talk about the «Metaverse» in more detail, because in reality everything will be even worse. Let’s figure out what the future is prepared for humanity under the term from Neal Stephenson’s fantasy novel and what pitfalls could not be dissimulated even by a Hollywood-optimistic presentation of Zuckerberg.
Brave New World
So, let’s imagine in general terms how exactly the «Metaverse» according to Zuckerberg will be arranged.
The whole world around us will turn into a mixed reality. It will «seamlessly», in real time, weave physical objects and phenomena with entities from the virtual world.
On the one hand, it will be augmented reality (AR) — that is, our current world, but fully digitised and filled with hologram simulations. On the other hand, it will be augmented virtuality, in which a real person will be able to live among entirely digital constructions. Both realities will flow into one another and will be indistinguishable for the human senses and consciousness.
A fundamental point: The «metaverse» is not an escape into the world of illusions. This will be a new form of interaction with the local world — living real life in a «more advanced» body, as if it has additional sensory organs. When, for example, a person can instantly find themselves anywhere on the planet (and subsequently — also in the visible Universe) in the form of a photorealistic copy of themselves and actively act there through it, and not just contemplate its beauty.
At the very beginning of the presentation, Zuckerberg caught the audience on this hook, saying the key words: «It’s not about spending more time on screens, but about making the time we’re already spending better.» And he enhanced the effect with several eloquent visualisations, two of which are of particular interest.
In the first one, two teams of real people play basketball, each on their own playground, posing as holograms for each other. In the second example, the tester in AR glasses moves around a real apartment while seeing its exact virtual copy with information about every object around, including behind the walls. In fact, we are dealing with prototypes of combat systems of the future.
This world promises a lot of tempting things to a person. First of all, indeed, it is a complete sense of presence — thanks to the tools already invented, but not yet implemented: sensors, detectors, servers, high-speed networks, etc.
People indeed will stop spending their lives at the computer — they will start moving (within the framework of an individual «simulator»), interacting with objects, gesticulating, talking and physically communicating in a mixed three-dimensional world. And it will be even more natural for human nature than typing on the keyboard or moving the mouse.
It is important that for this not only trivial AR glasses or sensory gloves will be used, but also «neural interfaces» that involve «unused neuro-motor pathways» in the human body. As Zuckerberg put it, «you’ll be able to send a text message just by thinking about wiggling your fingers.» If we think well, it’s about the fusion of the human brain and the computer, which opens the way to the creation of androids based on living people.
Such full involvement promises tremendous opportunities for communication, including intimate ones, as well as for work, education, games, training and hobbies, including traveling «from Ancient Rome to planet Saturn”. But in order for all this to be completely different from the «grey routine», a person in the Metaverse will have a chance to «mould a new self».
They will get a photorealistic avatar with recreated body language and full presence effect, and it will be possible to change it freely. And in addition — a whole set of accessories-imitations: from a personal home (a mansion near a lake on the background of snow-capped mountains, of course) to a personal wardrobe with clothes. Plus, it will be possible to transfer your things from the physical world to virtuality (through digitisation). And — emotions, emotions, emotions everywhere…
This is where the «carrots» end, and another reality begins.
«You will pay for it»
The first discouraging fact is that the Metaverse is doomed to reproduce the modern globalist economy and its commodity-money relations with all their disadvantages, including the widening gap between the poor and the rich.
Of course, this is presented under the slogan «the widest opportunities for successful creators»: from developers of new worlds to pop stars who collect millions at virtual concerts. But it is already clear that you will have to pay for everything. Moreover, judging by Zuckerberg’s hints about «low prices» and a wide customer base, everyone will pay. Plus the ubiquitous advertising, about which he spoke much more frankly.
It’s easy to assume that the HD version of your avatar, decent clothes, a normal basketball, and even more so a cozy house will cost serious money in the Metaverse. And separately, for very big money — a view of a mountain lake from it. That is, status consumption will not disappear anywhere, and it will be available to very few.
To open new levels of «reality» or download an update of the old ones, you will also have to fork out. An extension of the flight to that cloud over there, a fresh lesson with that instructor over there, a bonus trip to the bar with that girl over there — everything will be by subscription. If you have no money — sit in the «lower worlds» and look at how life rushes past you.
In short, everything is like today — except that you will have to earn also there, in the Metaverse. This can be considered a fait accompli, because the «advantages» of working in a virtual environment listed by Zuckerberg indeed smell an «agenda». Like saying that such work will create an ideal environment at home, that it does not depend on the place of residence, that people will have to sit in traffic jams and harm the environment less, and so on «blah, blah, blah» … In general, long live the eternal lockdown, yes, death to tourism and the carbon economy!
At the same time, the Facebook founder admits that the new reality will require a completely different approach to property and law issues. Calling things by their proper names, billions of people in the Metaverse will own nothing. Their real things will be devalued as devoid of meaning and gloss. They will spend the last pennies earned by real blood and sweat on sets of bits and bytes. And in order to throw any of them out, there will not even be needed a switch — it will be enough to catch them violating the user agreement and slap them with an eternal «ban».
All of this will raise control over society to an unprecedented height. We are talking not only about some «new forms of governance», but also about «privacy and security». These euphemisms hide the lifelong binding of a person to an authenticated account and the constant verification of identity.
All of this is not our invention, but the slips of the tongue of the participants of the presentation on October 28. At the same time, it is not necessary to believe that the Metaverse will be «on the right side of the barricades» just because Zuckerberg is being scolded by Time — just look at the composition of the current «Independent Oversight Board» of Facebook: it’s exactly these people who are promoting the «agenda».
By the way, on the website of the Facebook Reality Labs division mentioned during the presentation, you can find an interesting article entitled «Problems versus dilemmas: The complex trade-offs produced by social settings”. Its author Margaret Stewart, using such specific formulations as «difficult choices» and «optimisation», talks about «combatting unreliable information about COVID-19″, and also about tracing potential suicide victims and those who have suffered a «mental health crisis» using Facebook artificial intelligence.
It’s scary to imagine with what efficiency the Metaverse will begin to trace «unreliable persons» if they are connected to it not through current browsers, but at the level of neural interfaces…
The Walking Dead
In general, the Zuckerberg Metaverse is not only total control, but also an extremely rigid separation of humanity into castes of privileged «creators» and superfluous «losers». The first ones will possess the real wealth of the new world — no, not genuine physical things, but the opportunity to polish their shine with expensive holograms and see their structure through the latest brand of glasses. «Losers» will become food for them.
The brains of both, however, will be purged by the pseudo-philosophical nonsense of various gurus, who are already smartly selling their things on the Oculus headset platform: that «your true self lives here without regrets, without anticipation, without resistance,» etc. so that the erasure of the real person goes like clockwork.
But worst of all is that billions of people will long for entering this sparkling Matrix. Firstly, because the «naked» physical world, without AR and holograms, will seem to them a grey backward wilderness — there will be no work, entertainment, movement and life prospects in it. And secondly, because it is possible that it will become deadly.
It is unlikely that Zuckerberg quite accidentally mentioned the Arizona Sunshine shooter as one of his favourite «quarantine» games, the action of which (like several other Oculus games) takes place in a zombie apocalypse. Will the «losers» without money for a cool avatar turn out to be the very zombies that the holograms of «creators» and other “discourse mongers» will start shooting right on the streets of cities?
However, even the “post-humans» or «Metanthropos» from the 1928 book on eugenics, who despise the current Internet, social networks and mobile phones, are doomed to get stuck in the Metaverse. After all, without it, their real feelings will seem insufficient to them, like a blind cripple. Their physical money will not have circulation. And their palazzo on Lake Como will turn into «just a location» that can be honestly earned by any lucky person who shot a couple of walking dead.