2022 Lane Reports

How Will the Metaverse Impact Society?

Tuesday, February 1, 2022 9:00 am
by Marc J. Lane

How Will the Metaverse Impact Society?

By Marc J. Lane

Neal Stephenson, in his 1992 novel Snow Crash, imagined a 3D virtual world in which people could interact not only with each other but also with artificially intelligent agents, a “metaverse” in Stephenson’s parlance.

Today the metaverse is realistically within reach. Bringing together a network of virtual worlds, it will include mixed reality, the Internet, Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, blockchain and video games.

Facebook, now rebranded as Meta, is committed to contribute to the metaverse’s construction. Already, its Reality Labs division employees 10,000 employees, about 20 percent of the company’s workforce. Facebook, along with Apple, Google and Microsoft, is likely to profitably connect our physical world to our virtual world, potentially shaping our society, our politics, and our culture. Whether that proves to be for good or for bad remains to be seen.

Mark Zukerberg’s optimistic vision is compelling:

“Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face --just by putting on goggles in your home.

This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.

These are just some of the potential uses. By working with developers and partners across the industry, together we can build many more. One day, we believe this kind of immersive, augmented reality will become a part of daily life for billions of people.”

With a permissionless system of blockchain-enabled products and services, creators and builders should bring to life a virtual world where people can gather to work, convene, play and socialize. Users, businesses, innovators, disrupters and other stakeholders of every size and stripe should enjoy improvements in efficiency as decentralized technologies cut out middlemen and develop more sustainable and cost-effective content and products.

And let’s not underestimate the metaverse’s potential to drive positive social change. The convergence of technology and the real world should accelerate our ability to accept one another as we are, stripped away of unconscious biases. Since the environments we create will be limitless, working conditions, employee satisfaction and customer experiences should dramatically improve. And we should be able to express ourselves in intuitive and democratic ways we have never tested before.

With all these benefits, inevitably come risks. Big Tech’s antitrust drama will continue to attract the Federal Trade Commission’s attention. The tension between the industry and Government centering on privacy rights, freedom of speech and online harms will inevitably lead to greater public debate about shared standards and protocols. Ultimately, the public and its representatives will decide who gets to own and regulate the metaverse.

Let’s be sure to actively participate in that debate. We owe it to ourselves, to our children and to each other.

If you would like to become a leader in the newly emerging virtual world, we invite you to let us help you. Please contact Marc Lane in confidence at mlane@marcjlane.com or 312/372-1040.

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