Illustration by Timothy Chiu.

Beyond the Hype: the Metaverse

With technology reaching new heights year after year, is this really the future sitting just years ahead? Or is it simply an unrealistic dream of science fiction turned into a buzzword for attention and investment funding?

May 9, 2022

The Metaverse, sometimes referred to as cyberspace, is an Internet that goes beyond social media, Zoom calls and entertainment, offering a completely immersive experience for every user. Once participants enter the Metaverse by putting on some sort of virtual reality (VR) headset, they find themselves in a completely different reality. Users create and customize every aspect of their characters. They are then free to explore: from sports events with unlimited capacities to real musical performances streamed from reality to playing the main character in your favorite movie, the limits of the Metaverse are your imagination. Tech evangelists have shied away from suggesting that in the next couple of decades, everything we do will be done through a headset.
With technology reaching new heights year after year, is this really the future sitting just years ahead? Or is it simply an unrealistic dream of science fiction turned into a buzzword for attention and investment funding?
Companies like Meta — a recent rebranding of “Facebook” — have begun investing billions of dollars into making the Metaverse idea a reality. Since private companies like Meta are highly specialized in data collection and effective monetization of their users, piping each user's stream of consciousness directly to Mark Zuckerberg is a frightening idea for many.
A world designed and owned by for-profit entities would undeniably prioritize money over humanity. Instead of extending the reach and capability of humanity, a private Metaverse would run on algorithms designed specifically to keep users engaged and online. These are issues that already exist on social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram and Facebook, where algorithms are designed to keep users from putting their phones down. Other companies like Robinhood gamify investing, profiting off large trading volumes from retail investors, a majority of whom lose money. Given these conditions, building an additional layer of society on a for-profit Metaverse only stands to amplify the exploitation of its users in ways we have not even begun to consider.
This is why a Metaverse that is not only designed, but further owned and operated by its users is mandatory. Decentralization places power in the hands of all individuals over any central authority. The entire system is empowered through principles of open-source — where anyone can contribute to or share their own unique ideas with a community. With very few restrictions, code is free to use, modify or extend however you may like. A decentralized Metaverse architecture promises to keep our immersive cyberspace pro-individual empowerment rather than prioritizing higher profits.
Today, societies are plagued by countless social issues of inequality and privilege. Those born in countries with “weaker” passports are frequently denied internships, jobs and other opportunities simply because of convoluted and overly-complicated immigration processes, regardless of their talent, skill or perspective which could be used to better the world. A public or inexpensive education is out of reach in the first place for most parents around the world, making it hard to provide each child with the attention they deserve.
Is the idea that we could solve some of these issues through the Metaverse too improbable to believe? That future jobs, instead of requiring expensive and unattainable visas for most living in the global South, could be conducted entirely on the Metaverse? After all, with the Metaverse the largest obstacle in hiring overseas would be merely shipping a headset to an employee's front door. Instead of sending paychecks through slow and high-fee institutions, money could be received at the speed of a fiber-optic cable from anywhere in the world. Parents could count on an essential right to put food on the table and provide for their children’s education, conducted online and through the Metaverse by the world’s most qualified educators.
Today these are mostly dreams of technologists and science fiction writers alike, imagining a better-connected digital world for us to live in. The actualization of it will undoubtedly be built by the current generation of kids, teenagers and college students. To that end, it is up to us to build one that respects rather than exploits its users. With the Metaverse, we may have the chance to define a finer society: rejecting systematically ingrained issues like ableism, sexism and xenophobia and instead creating a space that is inclusive, diverse and collaborative from the ground up.
Corban Villa is Deputy Web Chief. Email him at
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