Fiction’s Metaverse Is A Nightmare. Why Does Zuckerberg Present His As A Fairytale Dream?

Mark Zuckerberg is in a hurry. Running like a steed to plant his Meta flag in the metaverse, he is vigorously pushing his virtual-ware in “an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it.” In Meta, people can connect as avatars and be transported to digital versions of various places and time periods.

According to the Verge, the social media giant intends to hire 10,000 people in Europe and spend $10 billion to become a metaverse company, overseeing Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Oculus and other entities in the next five years.

The Metaverse — A Utopia Or Dystopia?

In the 1992 Snow Crash novel by Neal Stephenson who coined the term, bored folks have forsaken the real world to live in the computer-generated universe of virtual reality. Snow Crash, both a cyber-drug as well as a computer virus, bleeds into reality, infecting the persons behind the avatar. Referring to a digital drug for denizens of the metaverse, the book is meant to warn us off this burning pit rather than inspire us.

Perceived by some as being rooted in a dystopian, the metaverse is represented by totalitarian capitalism, a political and economic system that seizes absolute control of fundamental resources and destitutes everyone it excludes.

Yet, like it or not, we will not be able to escape the metaverse. We now see the world racing towards the metaverse which encompasses AR, VR, new digital, immersive, social spaces and gaming platforms like Fortnite, Roblox, and Zen Racing. Online marketplaces like Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and Somnium Space, are diving into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and the cryptocurrency space to cut a slice of the virtual pie.

Parallel Worlds And The Future Of Brands

Nike, Sephora and HBO are building AR and VR experiences to engage customers. Using Wanna’s technology, Gucci released virtual sneakers that can only be worn with AR. Luxury car makers including Maserati, Aston Martin and Tesla have launched virtual vehicle models in Tencent’s Game for Peace. Coca-Cola, Anheuser-Busch and Crockpot are enticing customers to own digital items using NFTs on blockchain technology.

Taking the catwalk to the models, high end fashion label Balenciaga blazed a phenomenal 3D web-based virtual trail for fashion shows by launching their Fall 2021 collection inside a futuristic fusion of volumetric capture and video game called Afterworld: Age Of Tomorrow. Models were captured on Polymotion Stage Truck, a state-of-the-art mobile volumetric video and avatar creation stage, in partnership between Dimension, Nikon, MRMC and Microsoft.

What does the metaverse mean for brands? Game tech such as Unreal Engine and Roblox will unleash new ways for brands to create realistic avatars in imaginative environments to experiment, build stories, enhance customer experience and launch products in sustainable ways.

The Zuckerverse Is Not The Future Of The Internet

Despite immense commercial possibilities in the metaverse, many are skeptical of Facebook’s motives. Contributing Columnist, Mike Eglan feels that “in reality, Facebook’s ‘metaverse’ really should be called the ‘Zuckerverse’- it’s the vision and pet project of the company’s CEO, personally. It’s the dream of a brainy introvert on the spectrum who’s awkward with people and wants to wear goggles all day, take the “blue pill,” and live in the Matrix. But that’s not what real people will want. It’s not the future of the internet.”

Why is Zuckerberg in such a hurry to rebrand? The social media giant is one of many damaged brands seeking to salvage itself from the mud and mire:

· In 2003, the largest tobacco company on the planet, Philip Morris rebranded as Altria after its Malboro cigarettes were inextricably linked to killing its users.

· Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC in the 1990s after fried foods were deemed to put people at a higher risk of developing diseases.

· In 2000, BP rebranded itself as Beyond Petroleum after it became evident that fossil fuels like oil were warming the planet.

There are several driving forces motivating Zuckerberg to abandon ship and pursue the metaverse. Pure hubris aside, Zuckerberg needs to pivot into the escape hatch of a virtual universe to distance himself from Facebook’s wasting reputation filled with chock-full of scandals.

The Facebook Papers, a trove of internal Facebook documents, reveal that the company has privately and meticulously tracked real world harms such as violence, sex trafficking, and according to United Nations’ findings, contributed to genocide in Myanmar. Whistleblower Frances Haugen has confirmed that Facebook has been systematically ignoring some of the more horrific human rights violations, especially in countries outside Western Europe and North America. Yet the company chose to ignore warnings from employees of the cocktail of dangerous contents exposed to vulnerable communities.

Can Zuckerberg Own The Metaverse?

No one entity can own the metaverse. Yes, Zuckerberg is attempting to build a virtual universe, but he cannot own it nor will it be the metaverse. Why?

· As with Facebook, it is likely that Zuckerberg’s Meta will be a fortress keeping a minority people in. Not an open platform or one true metaverse for all people.

· Users will want the freedom to interact with each other for play, work, education, social interaction, using thousands of virtual online spaces, worlds and platforms in 3D virtual reality spaces.

· Competitors will have proprietary and exclusive platforms. Created with artificial scarcity, users will leap to exciting platforms.

Zuckerberg’s PR stuntery could be a mere hifalutin science fictional offer where an escape from realities into the “beyond” is somewhat familiar to the offerings of space-crazed Bezos and Musk.

By renaming Facebook to Meta, the tech titan hopes to find salvation as the metaverse hero and sink his fangs deep into the virtual investment pie. If Zuckerberg’s new stunts serve any purpose at all, it is to highlight that a virtual reality future is coming like an avalanche at us, with massive impact on brands and the way we live and communicate.

Ironically, while Zuckerberg is trying to distance himself from the toxicity of Facebook’s reputation, he may well succeed in contributing to the greater evil of a metaverse dystopian that we are all being warned about.

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Strategic Art

Strategic Art

Lin is a business consultant, creative director, copywriter, corporate trainer with 20 years experience in advertising, marketing and communications.