Zuckerberg's Metaverse is yet another tasteless billionaire fantasy

By TORI D'AMICO
On November 3, 2021

Photo courtesy of Anthony Quintano, Wiki.

Facebook is rebranding to “Meta Platforms Inc.” as founder Mark Zuckerberg moves the company towards more interactive internet experiences. Though it was announced at the end of June, “Metaverse,” Zuckerberg’s new plan for a 3D virtual reality program, is taking the internet by storm this week.

I can’t imagine something less productive for our society than another billionaire finding a way to escape the troubles of our physical reality. Elon Musk is launching himself into space and Zuckerberg is trying to convince his massive consumer base that a VR with its own economy is what they need in the midst of a failing one.

“So I don’t think that this is primarily about being engaged with the internet more,” Zuckerberg said in an interview with The Verge. “I think it’s about being engaged more naturally.”

Using the internet to create an alternate self, lifestyle and environment doesn’t sound like a natural use at all. But Zuckerberg told The Verge that living our lives on a 2D screen is not “how we process things,” and that it would make more sense to be able to hologram ourselves onto a business partner’s couch.

The question of accessibility is one that is immediately raised for me. Zuckerberg says Metaverse can make life easier for people who don’t want to live in cities, but who could possibly afford the Quest 2 headset to enter his virtual reality? His solution is augmented reality glasses —because Snapchat Spectacles were such a lasting hit.

Facebook received poor reviews on their attempt at implementing $300 Oculus VR headsets into workrooms, National Public Radio (NPR) reports. Maybe Zuckerberg’s plan for a digital economy is the solution here, too.

Or maybe, like many news sources speculate, it’s his way of escaping government crackdowns on his media monopoly and lack of action toward vaccine misinformation spread on Facebook. Congress is actively working on attempts to limit Facebook’s reach in future endeavors.

“A thriving metaverse would raise questions both familiar and strange about how the virtual space is governed, how its contents would be moderated, and what its existence would do to our shared sense of reality,” Casey Newton writes for The Verge.

Zuckerberg not only wants Meta Platforms Inc. to develop this technology, but looks toward a future where every company operates within the metaverse. From this interview, I’m getting the sense that Zuckerberg may believe virtual reality is a genuine replacement for the real one  better, even.

“People will hang out, you’ll be able to really feel like you’re present with other people, you’ll be able to do all kinds of different work, there’ll be new jobs, new forms of entertainment,” Zuckerberg said to The Verge.

I wish Zuckerberg would place his energy, and money, somewhere other than diving further into our digitized world. This is his business, one that is thriving, but I feel he’s losing touch with what humanity actually is.

Interacting with holograms of each other is not a “more natural” experience than travelling to see family, and virtual community spaces are not better than going to a real library. I do not foresee a world where every person can afford to partake in the metaverse, and I fear the idea that they could destroy communities in the real third dimension.

 

vdamico@ramapo.edu

 

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