Like it or loathe it, the manufactured extensions of reality that we find in our computers are part of life now and they are going to keep changing as our ideas of how they might be useful continue to evolve. Science Fiction writers have for decades imagined parallel realities which co-exist with our Earthly physical reality which require technology to support their manifestation. The internet and advances in 3D graphical processing means we are 'virtually' at the point where this becomes 'real' on a large scale.
The idea of parallel, synthetic realities has been called 'the metaverse' by various authors and commentators over the years. While there is no singular, concrete meaning for the term since it is a concept that is in it's infancy in many ways, the gist is that metaverses exist alongside our physical universe and either add extra depth to it or can be entered into mentally by people in order to experience a totally new form of reality.
So on one end of the spectrum we have what might be thought of as advanced virtual reality systems and on the other we have much less complex types of systems such as we find in the digitisation of art and 'things' that NFTs on blockchain technology are making possible. These two 'ends' of the complexity spectrum are not mutually exclusive, in that the simpler end of things can also appear within the more complex virtual worlds too.
NFT Art Explosion
The huge market for collectables and digital art that has exploded in the last 18 months is just the beginning of what will likely become an ever more common part of life for many people - namely, the integration of services and features which are designed to exist just as happily in virtual realities as they do in our normal physical reality. The uncertainty and excitement around the potential uses for this technology is part of what has been driving prices of NFT art collectables so astronomically high.
According to Opensea.io, one of the world's largest marketplaces for trading NFT collectables, the Cryptopunks series of NFT art images has traded for a total of 546,970 ETH (the native token of the Ethereum blockchain. At current market prices for ETH, that is equivalent to around $1.9 Billion US Dollars - not bad for a bunch of low resolution jpeg images that outside of the NFT world no-one would bat an eyelid at! There are numerous reasons why people are willing to pay so much money for NFT collectables, but hype surrounding the future integration of the internet into more of our lives is no doubt a key aspect.
A core part of the psychology of many people has them competing and always wanting to stand out from the crowd. It seems that for some the thought of missing out on an opportunity to own a piece of art history and to possibly show it off in virtual worlds, free from dirt and the noise of Earthly reality is too much to resist! Of course, there are many more positive motivations involved too; not least that artists have notoriously found themselves living in poverty, despite their amazing contribution to life - so NFTs provide a way for art lovers to directly support the artists they value the most and that speaks to us in deep and powerful ways. People want and need art, so the technology supports us to support the creators of that art in new ways!
The Shape of The Metaverse
In some ways the metaverse is simply a sea of data that describes objects, events and possibilities - which we interact with and which may or may not be tied to real life timespace in a useful way. Games can exist that are entirely fabricated, with no tangible connection to physical reality except that the players do actually have human bodies and are interacting with the game from that human basis. This is really not much different to Virtual Reality games that already exist.
Perhaps the more relevant and interesting possibilities lie in the conjunction of the data based realities with our own daily lives. We already generally enjoy having large music collections which are totally digitally stored on electronic devices. Metaverse features allow us to literally own the rights to pieces of music via NFTs and smart contracts, plus to possibly present them in performances in our own unique way. Perhaps the DJs of tomorrow will have 24/7 running parties in a virtual space that they check into now and again to keep things moving - while they go about their normal daily lives or play normal live gigs too!
While all of this is very exciting to many people, there is also clearly a huge danger involved with such ideas. We are human, with human needs, bodies and feelings that are tied to a physical planet and universe. The more we are disconnected from being grounded in life, the more we run the risk of losing personal power in real life and this may cause serious problems for some people.
Personally, I am happy to limit my involvement with 'the metaverse' to exploring NFT art, music and maybe some gaming too - since I love all of these and the interconnectedness of the internet allows me to create experiences that genuinely add something to my life. That being said, nothing the internet has to offer can come close to the experience of dancing till the next morning in an edgie club somewhere to the music I love the most with other souls of a like mind and heart!
Life is all about the vibes and so my advice is to think carefully about the balance in our lives as this new technology develops further. A positive metaverse will add to our lives in ways that we enjoy, but we need to take personal responsibility in order to ensure that the pitfalls do not overpower us in significant ways!
If we don't take steps to shape the technology then it will be left up to the world' corporations to do it most likely and they are not really known for putting people's real needs first!
It is absolutely clear that military/gov/banking organisations are already intending to use AI and blockchains to try to 'manage the world' in ways that don't feel good to many of us. At the same time, however, the rest of us have great tools at our disposal too - so it is, as always, up to us to shape life as we need it to be and to be sure that we don't fall foul of soulless intentions along the way.
Someone collecting NFT art, making profits and using the technology as a fun way to share creativity with others is in some ways a world apart from someone who fully trusts a corporate system that is designed to manage every aspect of their lives! The former is an innocent exploration of technology and the latter is something akin to 'The Matrix' plotline or even 'The Terminator'! As the famous quote says "The best way to predict the future is to create it!".
What are your thoughts on 'The Metaverse'? Let us know in the comments below and please do join us in the new Hive community - The NFT Symposium, too.
Wishing you well,
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