Will the Metaverse(s) change humanity as we know it? Will the Metaverse(s) be the ultimate augmentation of human perception? Will it become an agora for our dreams (and, of course, nightmares), able to transform human perception entirely? Has it already started?
To start with the latter question: Yes, the groundwork has already been laid. Sensors from our smartphones, social media, digital devices, and the digital data-driven companies that top the Fortune 500 comprise the new cathedrals, religions and tribal spaces for humanity. These technologies and the onset of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4IR, and the AI-driven Society 5.0 have seen more change in humanity in the last 50 years than in the previous 30,000 combined. And this is just the beginning!
In 1974, in a thought experiment, philosopher Robert Nozick visualized a hypothetical machine capable of providing every pleasure and experience imaginable. Nozick asked a provocative question: If given a choice, would we choose the machine over reality? Nozick concluded that we probably wouldn’t choose the machine, arguing it is better to experience the highs and lows of this physical world than to experience the artificial, never-ending high of the simulated.
But a lot can change in 50 years. In 1990, 16 years after Nozick and a year after Tim Berners-Lee first conceptualized the World Wide Web, Steve Jobs famlously called the personal computer the “bicycle for the mind,” and we were off to the artificial races.
Recoding the human need for stories
What would we choose now if presented with a choice between the real, physical finite and the virtual, digital infinite powered by AI? The answer is that we have already chosen. We are all now digital magicians, scientists and subjects in the great ongoing virtual social experiment, interacting and stimulating each other’s brains and bodies with multiple experiences and feelings that are completely indistinguishable from experiences in the “real” physical world. This is happening across…