February 07, 2022
The online virtual reality experience that almost every tech giant today wishes to commercially exploit may not catch on
The Guardian view on social media’s metaverse: it may remain science fiction | Editorial
In the 1992 sci-fi dystopia SNOW Crash, the author Neal Stephenson imagined a bleak 21st century where the collapse of the global economy had seen governments fall and their power replaced by a few giant businesses. The book is notable for prescience, anticipating the adoption of what was then seen as outlandish technologies like the wireless internet, cryptocurrencies and smartphones, as well as the rise of the gig economy. But it is the book’s prophetic vision of “the metaverse” that has revived interest in the work.
That is because Stephenson described the online virtual reality experience that almost every tech giant today wishes to commercially exploit. Last October, Microsoft announced that users of its Teams online meetings app would be able to turn themselves into avatars – the term Stephenson popularised in Snow Crash – to encourage users into virtual interaction. Days later Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, rebranded his company as Meta, with a focus on the potential for virtual worlds.
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