The Metaverse: A Journey of Promise and Adaptation
Nov 17, 2023
The concept of the metaverse, a digital realm where users can immerse themselves in extraordinary experiences and endless possibilities, ignited excitement just two years ago. Prominent figures like Mark Zuckerberg envisioned a world where individuals could connect, work, and play in ways previously thought impossible. However, as time passed, the metaverse dream faced the harsh realities of technological limitations and challenges.Initially, the metaverse promised seamless integration of the physical and digital worlds, enabling activities ranging from remote surgery to social gatherings in simulated space stations and enchanted forests. The future seemed limitless, with a Meta Connect promo video in 2021 depicting a world free from the confines of the real world. The concept was exhilarating, especially during the global pandemic, which oscillated between fear and monotony.Yet, the journey toward realizing the metaverse has been marked by hurdles and disillusionment. The envisioned fluid virtual bodies turned out to be rudimentary cartoon avatars, and the Oculus headsets proved unwieldy. Accidents and injuries occurred among enthusiastic users trying to navigate the real world’s physical obstacles while immersed in the digital one. Furthermore, Meta’s Horizon Worlds platform failed to meet its user targets, with notable companies like Disney and Microsoft withdrawing their support.However, the metaverse concept remains alive and well, with ongoing technological advancements promising a brighter future. Mark Zuckerberg, at a recent Connect event in September, emphasized that the metaverse is not merely a destination but an evolving process. He suggested that the existing world is already somewhat “meta” as it blends the physical and digital realms, and the boundaries between these realms will gradually blur into what we call the metaverse. Screen interfaces will evolve into immersive headsets, physical objects will integrate with interactive holograms, and our mundane reality will transform subtly into something more remarkable, almost unnoticed.The definition of the metaverse has become somewhat vague and tautological. Some say, “Whatever Meta does is the metaverse, by definition.” This adaptability in the face of challenges and changing circumstances resembles the way religious eschatologies are reinterpreted when prophecies fail to materialize.In the case of the metaverse, the comparison can be drawn to the theological concept of “inaugurated eschatology.” This belief posits that the metaverse is both “now” and “not yet.” The glories of the metaverse are still on the horizon, but we can already catch a glimpse of them in our current reality. Just as believers can enjoy a taste of paradise in the present and anticipate it in the afterlife, the metaverse is an evolving narrative that absorbs failures and continues to promise a brighter future.The most compelling aspect of the metaverse lies in its potential to bridge the digital-physical divide mediated by screens, offering a more seamless connection with reality. However, the search for salvation in the future might overlook an equally profound source within us – the human imagination. Just as Christ’s words, “The kingdom of God is within you,” suggest that paradise exists in the present, our inner world, shaped by hopes, fears, daydreams, and nightmares, is a limitless source of inspiration and creativity.This inner metaverse, always accessible and free, is where the seeds of invention and innovation are sown. It has given rise to all our religious and technological longings, including the metaverse itself. Even amid the constraints of the physical world, this virtual realm within us is available, offering experiences as thrilling as we desire, without the need for expensive headsets.