My grandmother recently encountered a robot in a restaurant… moreover, it brought her food. In a world where technology is constantly improving, and things are becoming increasingly digital, our world itself may finally become a digital one. I recently completed an assignment about future technologies and the metaverse, which crypto.com describes as a
“persistent blockchain-based digital world, accessible by immersive technologies (such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and extended reality), and the Internet.”
Attracting attention from across the globe as the key to revolutionizing the future of humanity, the Metaverse has the potential to become a large influence on all of our lives—whether it be for the better or worse.
One of the key factors of the Metaverse is its immersive features that provide a realistic experience. There are many benefits to this aspect, such as how virtual concerts and social events which are available for users to join in the Metaverse, would become more engaging than simply gazing at a celebrity singing behind a tablet screen.
I personally am looking forward to the implementation of Augmented Reality (AR), which is being developed by many retail businesses and companies in the shopping industry. Different from Virtual Reality, it creates an entirely new digital environment for users to interact with. According to Social Media Today, “one of the key opportunities for AR, [is] in acting as a supplementary channel for testing out items that you’re looking to purchase online”, creating a possible future that is often seen in science fiction movies, where people swipe through the digital files which appear in front of them in the air.
Moreover, I also came across the concept of how the virtual world may develop to feel so real, to the point that it is indistinguishable from reality. For instance, Pokemon Go, a game where the user is able to interact with virtual “Pokemon” characters by the application using the user’s GPS information, is known for its benefits of encouraging its users to become more physically active by making them venture outside to befriend Pokemon characters. However, in considering the potential dangers that a too-immersive experience of AR can have on its users, Pokemon Go is a prominent example to reference. The National Library of Medicine mentions that a “quick Internet search will uncover numerous news reports depicting driving, biking, or walking accidents associated with playing Pokémon GO. This may be prevented by users being more careful about how they play the game, one may argue, or some may point out how this goes the same for using devices in general; especially, smartphones that are prone to being used for ‘text-walking,’ when one is viable to harm themselves and others while they are distracted on their phones as they walk. However, what if the augmented reality that alters one’s environment increases in its quality of resembling physical objects, to the point where they are indistinguishable from the latter—turning so real that it eventually replaces one’s previous life, and becomes their new ‘real’ world? This is another potential risk that may arise regarding the immersive nature of the Metaverse, which has been developed in a study by Dwiveshi et al where they outline how, “excessive immersion leads to psychological problems (e.g., separation from reality). In addition, negative feelings and emotions that occur in the metaverse extend to the real world, which can lead to social problems (e.g., identity confusion and addiction).”
Relating to this, “the Butterfly Dream” is a famous story about Chuang Tzu (a philosopher of ancient China) and a dream that he saw. He dreamt that he was a butterfly, and was very certain that he was. However, when he awoke, he realized that it was a dream. He then felt uncertain whether he was a human dreaming about being a butterfly, or whether he was a butterfly that was dreaming to be a human… if so, is this life as a human, all a dream? Which life is real? The Metaverse, if not life itself, is dream-like in its nature. Both offer a setting for one to experience, and both are only available for a glimpse; whether it be the Metaverse that is there until you shut it down to rest, or whether it be life, which is so much shorter in comparison to how long the universe has existed for. However, they must also both be treated with enough caution and care, in order to make the most of the experience.
The world will continue to evolve on its digital path, and so will our reliance and dependency on the Metaverse. For some, it may be a dream come true; unlimited opportunities in a world of possibilities. It may also provide benefits to those who have only dreamt of freely exploring the world, where now with the use of the Metaverse, one can travel anywhere and experience anything, all whilst being in one place. Yet, for some who are not as tech-savvy as others, a world where everything is technology-based may be a dream within a dream to live in; and without the care and support from those who are well-equipped with the means to survive in the invisible society, the world may turn out to be a lonely nightmare.
As a citizen living in a world where screens are slowly wrapping themselves over one’s life, hiding society away from the naked eye, is one equipped with enough knowledge to enjoy the future—or be able to awaken from the dream before it bursts into invisible shards?
Brunero, Michael. “Viewpoint: The Metaverse – Hype vs Reality.” Insurance Journal, 16 Nov. 2022, www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2022/11/16/695318.htm. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023.
Dwivedi, Yogesh K., et al. “Metaverse beyond the Hype: Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Emerging Challenges, Opportunities, and Agenda for Research, Practice and Policy.” International Journal of Information Management, vol. 66, Oct. 2022, p.102542, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0268401222000767, 10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2022.102542. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
"Epistemology.” The University of Sheffield, 3 July 2020, www.sheffield.ac.uk/philosophy/research/themes/epistemology. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
Gills, Alexander S. “Augmented Reality (AR).” WhatIs.com, TechTarget, 2022, www.techtarget.com/whatis/definition/augmented-reality-AR. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
grape. “Japan’s Constantly Battling Cat Robot Waiters Have Some Funny Names.” Grape Japan, grape Co., Ltd., 27 Sept. 2022, grapee.jp/en/211143. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023.
Hutchinson, Andrew. “Snapchat Announces New Virtual Try-on AR Partnership with Amazon.” Social Media Today, 2 Nov. 2022, www.socialmediatoday.com/news/Snapchat-partners-with-Amazon-on-new-AR-Try-On-initiative/635643/. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
“Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military (Published 2020).” The New York Times, 2023, www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/world/canada/pokemon-go-canada-military.html. Accessed 7 Mar. 2023.
"The Philosophy Foundation - the Butterfly Dream.” Philosophy-Foundation.org, 2023, www.philosophy-foundation.org/enquiries/view/the-butterfly-dream. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
"The State of the Metaverse in 2022.” Crypto.com, 2022, crypto.com/university/what-is-the-metaverse. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
Wagner-Greene, Victoria R., et al. “Pokémon GO: Healthy or Harmful?” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 107, no. 1, Jan. 2017, pp. 35-36, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308184/, 10.2105/ajph.2016.303548. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.
Yim Jason. "Council Post: Unlocking the Metaverse: 2023 Is the Year for Growth.” Forbes, 20 Jan. 2023, www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2023/01/19/unlocking-the-metaverse-2023-is-the-year-for-growth/?sh=503248a63f55. Accessed 23 Jan. 2023.