Silicon Valley's metaverse will suck reality into the virtual world — and ostracize those who aren't plugged in
- The metaverse could usher in a new era where we live more in the digital world than in reality.
- AR glasses will be ubiquitous as they become necessary to shop, work, and live, just like the internet.
The metaverse has been peddled as a futuristic place where we all — sitting in our living rooms with goggles strapped to our noggins — can interact, buy things, date, and more in a virtual world.
But what if, in addition to being a place, the metaverse also represents something else: a point in time when we live more in the digital world than we do in the physical one?
Such a moment is a long-held theory among the augmented reality community, including Louis Rosenberg, a 30-year veteran of AR development and the CEO of Unanimous AI.
"The nomenclature aside (i.e. what you actually call this transition moment), I am absolutely certain that this point in time will come," Rosenberg told Insider. "And it will not be good for humanity."
Although virtual reality and AR are both key aspects of the metaverse structure, it's AR glasses that will become ubiquitous within 10 years, replacing the cell phone as our primary means of interacting with digital content, he said.
That's the moment when the lines between the real and digital worlds will blur more than ever before.
"Once you present a virtual object that is indistinguishable from a physical one, that's the last step," Rosenberg said.
FOMO will drive people into the shared virtual playland
We've seen points in time like this before, Rosenberg said, like how the printing press revolutionized how we share information or the telephone how we can communicate across distances.
Fast forward to the smartphone age, and "we use our phones more times than we speak to our spouse," Vipp Jaswal, CEO of Interpersonal Intelligence Advisory — a consulting firm that looks at human behavior across real and digital platforms — told Insider.
The metaverse will similarly usher in a new kind of technology, one that will become necessary to operate in society. We'll date, work, live, buy and sell things, and play virtually, Rosenberg said.
"You'll go to the store, and you won't be able to see the prices on things" if you don't have AR glasses, Rosenberg said.
Shaan Puri, founder of the startup Stealth and former Twitch product director, recently pondered on Twitter if the metaverse itself is the point in time and is the name given to the transition moment when the virtual landscape becomes more "real" than the natural world.
—Shaan Puri (@ShaanVP) October 29, 2021
He also likened that moment to the singularity theory in the world of artificial intelligence, which posits that the time could come when AI becomes smarter than humans.
But Rosenberg said the metaverse is not the name given to the point in time. It more so marks it, since it's an evolutionary stage where we as a species will seek socialization in this next iteration of the internet.
With that reality comes what we've been discussing for months: that social media's woes will be amplified in this futuristic virtual world. Polarization, divisiveness, and misinformation will grow tenfold, and the metaverse will facture reality, experts previously told Insider.
Experts agreed that our collective push into the metaverse is worrisome for that reason, as is the reliance we will have on such a fake landscape.
"Being in this metaverse will be a bigger part of our lives than being in the outside world," Rosenberg said. "And there are all kinds of things that are terrifying about that."
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