While I am quite a techno-enthusiast and a fan of emerging tech wizardry, I am not keen on a virtual world as a way of existence. It’s all hep and geeky when used for specific and specialized purposes in a controlled environment. It is scary as an extension of our personal lives, infiltrating our homes.
I am all for virtual robotic surgeries or a few global corporate off-sites, maybe simulated training but I don’t want a virtual holiday or have children don avatars and hone online personas. I would rather have my son scuba-dive than wear virtual reality (VR) glasses to “experience” the ocean world.
Technology is already out-of-hand in our social spheres. From fake news to fake videos to cyber crimes and bullying to physical and emotional consequences, how will we handle the ensuing psychological crisis? How do people, the sensitive ones, the children, navigate the thin line between reality and virtuality? The more we should be connecting with nature and the world, returning to our roots, and being grounded, the more we are rushing towards self-imposed cubicles and flights of fantasy.
Isaac Asimov feared the robots will take over humanity and it’s happening now as we become mental robots, manipulated by make-believe worlds. The threat is not from artificial intelligence but from our eroding intelligence. Aldous Huxley’s Soma is in our veins; it’s the digital dopamine. George Orwell’s exposition of mind-reading state surveillance and propaganda is larger than we can ever imagine. Every data, every bit and byte, is leaving indelible digital footprints. Dystopian fiction is no more fiction. Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is reflected in increasing infertility, oocyte cryopreservation, exorbitant surrogacy industry, all in the name of female choices.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 came true long back. Reading is now a forgotten pastime and censorship is a more common term than ever. Now, we binge-watch web series, stuffing our mouths with popcorn and processed food, and our minds with the images created by others. Slowly, we will lose our ability to think and imagine. As we cruise at top speed to emulate the world in Phillip Dick’s Minority Report, we will succumb to the Metaverse in the culmination of all our dystopian nightmares. Taking a spin on the question by Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, will future cyberpunk generations wonder Do Humans Still Dream of a Material World!
The logo of Metaverse is the Infinity symbol. It invokes a universe that keeps us in a hyperloop. Enter at your peril for there is no visible escape route.
Fun fact: The term was coined in Neal Stephenson‘s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where humans, as avatars, interact with each other and software agents, in a three-dimensional virtual space that uses the metaphor of the real world.