The Great Reduction: Futurist Gerd Leonhard’s take on virtual reality, sims and the Metaverse
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The Great Reduction: Futurist Gerd Leonhard’s take on virtual reality, sims and the Metaverse

Post summary: The so-called metaverse is the latest and the boldest attempt to replace human relationships and experiences with highly monetizable simulations, reducing complex human life to data feeds, fancy graphics and AI-fuelled convenience: Consensual hallucinations sold as ‘human empowerment’. We should be careful what we wish for – such as to live in an ultra-convenient, amazing new world where we can be anyone and do anything – as we may find that our new virtual dwellings may seemingly allow us to gain a few new riches while endangering our very humanity and leading us away from real happiness.

“The metaverse is a hypothesized iteration of the internet, supporting persistent online 3-D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets” (Wikipedia)

“The metaverse will feel like a hybrid of today’s online social experiences expanded into three dimensions or projected into the physical world” Facebook’s Meta Announcement.

When Covid19 struck in March 2020, my work as a Futurist and Keynote Speaker was changed forever. Instead of traveling to some 100+ events per year, and speaking to / with actual people, I now do what I call ‘Keynote Television‘ i.e. I present virtually, remotely, via video. While I really enjoy this, as well – and I have spend a lot of time perfecting it – I really miss the feeling of being in front of a real-life audience, with all that entails, and all the messiness it can include. One look at the room in front of me tells me everything I need to know to change my story and delivery, and better connect with people. Try that on Zoom:)

After having done some 150 online events in the past 18 months, I have come to the conclusion that doing virtual talks is neither better or worse than doing real-life events – it’s just a different beast altogether. It’s television, basically, and it opens up an entire new world of possibilities.

Enter Virtual Reality and the so-called Metaverse, takings us way beyond online video calls, Zoom and Skype, into a world where we can gather virtually, without the need to travel (and spew more CO2), without the need for a body and without all of our real-life impediments. Using photo-realistic avatars and augmented reality glasses we can transport ourselves into a world that can be created entirely to our liking, where we can be anything and meet with anyone. A world without limits, a world where we work, live, play, meet and communicate. Kind of a world of ‘artificial humans’ (as Samsung boldly calls their new super-realistic avatars, Neon).

On the one hand, being a bit of a geek, I can see the how exciting this could be, and of course as a futurist I know that technologies will keep evolving at exponential pace no matter what anxieties we may have, and yes, every time there has been a major step forward in how humans use technology to see or shape the world, there have been pundits that warned of the ‘end of humanity’ as we know it. Point taken. Luddite hat ditched.

On the other hand, I sense that a new era of seriously reductionist ‘innovation’ is ahead. Sure, confusing fancy simulations (including deep-fake videos) and clever algorithmic content with real-life is a problem that already manifests itself in social media (such as the Instagram-fuelled fear of not looking as amazing as the other teenage girls that show off their makeup in your feed). Addiction to mobile devices and real-time services (what I have called the rise of the Sofalarity before) is already widespread, as well – but what VR and the Metaverse is capable of will be exponentially more impactful.

More…

Reference: Gerd Leonhard