What is the Metaverse?

This is the first in a series of articles that crosses the line between striaght technology and the social, political, economic, and cultural implications of the wide-spread use of that technology. I will start on the topic of Metaverse. I feel that an important basis of the technology is laid out in Tony Parisi's "The Seven Rules of the Metaverse".

The Metaverse is all the hot new rage right now. It combines all of the latest technical advances that most people don’t understand with the promise of unlimited socialization across the world.

But really, what is the Metaverse. The answer is very dependent on who you ask and when you ask it.

The World Wide Web is based on a concept of (2-dimensional) desktop. Text, graphics, and other visual content exists within defined boundaries and optionally as layers, much like papers on a desktop. The Metaverse conceptually extends that to a 3rd dimension. Rather than seeing all non-overlapping objects (read the discussion in Flatland by Edwin Abbott Abbott), each object occupies a volume of space and obscures or exposes other objects.

Depending on the hardware you are using, you may be able to “step” into the space or just view it as 3D objects on a display as is the case for many console or video games. Tony Parisi postulates (The Seven Rules of the Metaverse) that in the Metaverse content should be responsive to the display the user is using. When using a 3D headset, the user will have the full 3D immersive experience. When the same content is viewed using a flat-panel display. It will appear as 3D objects projected onto a screen.

The technology necessary to make the Metaverse work exists. A number of companies and open source work has created the necessary infrastructure to enable shared distributed objects

Most of the development has been solved through games (“World of Warcraft”, “Everquest”, “Minecraft”); social media sites (Facebook, WhatsApp, SnapChat, and Second LIfe); electronic payments (PayPal, Square, and various crypto-curriencies); and marketplaces (EBay, Etsi, and OpenSea). There are a couple of examples of avatar-based interactions in Moziila Hubs and from the early days of the Web - Cybertown. There is integration and interconnection work necessary to accomplish the task, but the work is not rocket science. The work is not the development of underlying technologies, but the integration of existing technologies to produce the desired result.

The creation of raw “land” will happen within the next five years, probably sooner. It may even be this year. So what is holding back a fully functioning Metaverse? The technology is present, there are working simplified examples and prototypes, the consumer acceptance is large enough, and consumer-priced equipment is available for sale.

What a fully functioning Metaverse needs is a social structure, a compact for existence, and definition of relationships. This is normally done through government by the residents, by imposition of a powerful and accepted ruler, or corporate management. At the current time, there is no widely accepted existing government, no powerful ruler, and no corporation that people are willing to accept.