Technology and innovation
the metaverse: pushing the boundaries existence
September 13, 2023
Much of the history of humanity is a series of attempts at pushing the boundaries of our human experience— our constantly evolving identities and means of self-expression, our new ways of connecting with each other and organizing societies, as well as our search for meaning through religion, science or philosophy.
The trajectory of the most significant scientific discoveries and technological innovations tell this story clearly too: the marvels of transportation, the biological and astrophysical discoveries, the leaps in telecommunications, and the evolution of commerce and trade.
These respective quests reflect an intuitive understanding that there’s more to us and more to experience beyond the confines of our bodies and minds. They reflect a truth about a universe in constant expansion through all the different forms that it assumes.
The Metaverse is the next iteration of our longing for a more expansive human experience.
It promises to push even further, and in some cases obliterate, the current boundaries that make up our map of our reality and define our existence.
To illustrate what I mean, let’s explore three areas.
IDENTITY and SELF-EXPRESSION
Our capacity to live life to its fullest is often limited by our physical attributes, gender, race, possessions and social status. We never seem quite satisfied with the DNA cards we were dealt. Most of us never feel quite tall, slim, fit, or beautiful enough. We wish we were funnier, cooler, less socially awkward, more outgoing and interesting in general. Cultural norms and biases turn our bodies, looks, gender, race, and sexual orientation into currencies that dictate our place in society. Ultimately, this powers racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination and inequities.
In a world where we show up as our avatars, identities become more fluid and societies hopefully more inclusive. Your avatar could be a close representation of yourself or a more creative projection. We will also have infinite options for the artifacts we use to express ourselves– fashion, hairstyles, hobbies, art, and all the things we buy and collect to project our identity. In short, in this new world we get to show up as whomever we want– a human being, fairy or unicorn.
CONNECTION and BELONGING
Human beings are social animals. And it’s no surprise that many of our inventions are driven by this longing to connect with people and find the communities where we truly belong. All the innovations in telecommunication and transportation have made the world incrementally smaller. The internet created new ways to broadcast ourselves and ideas, as well as communicate, build communities, and lead revolutions with people thousands of miles away.
The Metaverse will bring us even closer. The sense of presence that is currently missing in most of our digital interactions is one of its greatest promises. Virtual reality will enable us to share experiences with people with a greater sense of presence, shared space and even the feeling of touch through haptic feedback. You could take a yoga class with your best friend who moved overseas, follow your favorite band on a world tour, go to a music festival with college friends, or even walk down the aisle with a parent too old or sick to attend your wedding.
WORK and TRADE
Work is a very important part of the human experience. It’s a means to contribute to the collective and reap financial and social benefits for our respective contributions. Work is also a way for us to escape boredom, pursue mastery, achieve self-actualization, and give our lives a sense of purpose. Over time, work evolved to be less physically demanding so we can leverage more of the things that make us most human: our intellect, emotional intelligence and creativity. We’re constantly trying to transcend the physical and geographical boundaries that limit our ability to be more productive and collaborate with others.
The next frontier of work in the Metaverse promises even more flexibility in terms of what we do for work, how we use our time, who we work with and where we work from. Thanks to advances in robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence, work will demand less of our physical and cognitive capabilities, and more of our creativity and emotional intelligence. The future of work also promises more peer to peer exchanges, making it easier for more people to become entrepreneurs and for creators to keep bigger portions of the rewards for their respective contributions to society.
Ultimately, technology has always merely been a tool to scale human behavior and quench our thirst for a more pleasant and expansive human experience. So the best way to predict the future isn’t to understand technology but people.