3 min read

You Already Live In the Metaverse

Consider how you spend your time. Place each activity into one of two buckets:

Bucket A consists of all of the time you spend online. E.g.,

  • Zoom
  • Instagram
  • Reddit
  • Video games
  • Peloton classes
  • Coding

Bucket B consists of the time you spend offline. E.g.,

  • Face-to-face interactions with friends and family
  • Cooking
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • IRL workouts and sports
  • Manual labor

If you’re reading this blog, I’m willing to bet that the entirety of your job and the vast majority of your waking hours fall into Bucket A. Further, with a supercomputer in your pocket sending you dozens of push notifications per hour, you are always online.

Portrait of a Very Online Person

The Metaverse is here – and you already live in it.

A Brief History of the Internet

Much like coffee or feminism, the internet has come in three waves.

Web 1.0 was open, decentralized, and optimistic. People created their own digital worlds to share weird blogs, artwork, code, whatever. But you had to be highly technical to be a creator Web 1.0. And for the most part, creators captured little or none of the value they added.

Web 2.0 solved the openness problem: anyone can create a Facebook page or a Gmail account. And for all of the criticisms, this is incredibly powerful – with minimal budget you can start a company by deploying a site on AWS, marketing on Instagram, and processing payments with Stripe. However, the drawback is that the system is now closed. We operate in walled gardens that are paid for by advertisements.

Web 3.0 aims to be the best of both worlds. Its stated vision is to empower creators and participants by monetizing the protocols themselves, rather than monetizing via advertising in the application layer of the stack.[1]

But is this vision for the internet achievable?

The Metaverse as a Cautionary Tale

Read Snow Crash. The cyberpunk world Neal Stephenson constructed is cool, no doubt. But it is also a cautionary tale.

Governments have collapsed, leaving society in a state of anarcho-capitalism. Liberty, justice, law and order…these are all principles that are alive and well, they’re just for sale to the highest bidder. You get only what you can pay for, whether in the base reality burbcaves or in the Metaverse.

This is the vision for the Metaverse that Zuckerberg et al. are pitching.

Enter the Metaverse

I work in crypto. It’s fucking awesome. We're building a whole new financial infrastructure, a whole new reality. There is so much potential in the internet – we've barely scratched the surface.

But if we're not careful, Web 3.0 can easily become the worst of Web 1.0 combined with the worst of Web 2.0. A world that is cool if you can pay to play, buy leaves most people on the outside looking in. If you're living paycheck to paycheck, $100 in gas fees to buy a NFT on OpenSea are not negligible.

We have the challenge and responsibility to build a Metaverse that is great for all people – not only for Meta (née Facebook), the crypto projects funded by A16Z, or the people with the bankroll to trade NFTs full-time.

This is the opportunity. And if we don't get it right?

We may see a decline of the internet that mirrors the decline of America writ large – a place where justice, property rights, and morality are determined by wealth and power, rather than by shared fundamental principles. The Disney World-ification of the web, where the internet becomes "an online theme park where everything costs a ticket."

  1. Antonio García Martínez explores whether the original sin of the internet is avoidable, or even in fact desirable, here (paywall). ↩︎