With the increasing use of technology, the concept of virtualidentity has become a popular topic of discussion. Virtualidentity refers to the digital representation of an individual, which includes personal information, behavior, and interactions in the online world. This article explores the technical aspects of virtualidentity and its role in various digital platforms.
The Technical Aspects of Virtual Identity
Virtualidentity is a complex concept that involves technical aspects such as data encryption, user authentication, and digital signatures. Data encryption is used to ensure that personal information is kept secure during transmission across networks. User authentication is the process of confirming the identity of an individual using a username and password, biometric verification, or other identification methods. Digital signatures are used to verify the authenticity of electronic documents and transactions.
Virtual Identity: The Role of Authentication
Authentication is a critical component of virtualidentity, as it ensures that only authorized individuals have access to personal information and digital resources. In addition to usernames and passwords, modern authentication methods include multi-factor authentication, biometric verification, and behavioral analysis. Multi-factor authentication involves using more than one form of identification, such as a password and a security token. Biometric verification uses physical characteristics, such as fingerprints or facial recognition, to identify individuals. Behavioral analysis uses machine learning algorithms to analyze user behavior and detect anomalies that may indicate fraudulent activity.
Virtual Identity vs. Real Identity: A Comparison
Virtualidentity differs from real identity in several ways. Real identity refers to an individual’s physical characteristics and personal information, such as name, date of birth, and address. Virtualidentity includes this information, as well as online behavior, interactions, and preferences. Virtualidentity can be more fluid than real identity, as individuals can create multiple virtual identities or change their online persona to fit different contexts.
Privacy Concerns in Virtual Identity
Privacy is a major concern in virtualidentity, as personal information can be easily accessed and exploited in the online world. Individuals must be aware of the risks associated with sharing personal information online and take steps to protect their virtualidentity. This includes using strong passwords, limiting the amount of personal information shared online, and being cautious when interacting with unknown individuals or sites.
Digital Footprint: Building Virtual Identity
A digital footprint is the trail of data left behind by an individual’s online activity. This includes social media posts, search engine queries, and website visits. A digital footprint can be used to build a virtualidentity, as it provides insight into an individual’s behavior and interests. It is important for individuals to manage their digital footprint and ensure that it accurately represents their values and beliefs.
The Importance of Virtual Identity Management
Virtualidentity management involves controlling and maintaining an individual’s online presence. This includes monitoring online behavior, managing privacy settings, and responding to negative content or reviews. Virtualidentity management is important for individuals, businesses, and organizations to maintain a positive image and protect against reputation damage.
Virtual Identity and Cybersecurity
Virtualidentity is closely tied to cybersecurity, as the protection of personal information and digital resources is essential to maintaining virtualidentity. Cybersecurity involves protecting against unauthorized access, cyber-attacks, and data breaches. Individuals and businesses must implement strong security measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection systems, to protect against cyber threats.
Virtual Identity in Social Media
Social media platforms are a major component of virtualidentity, as they provide a space for individuals to express themselves and interact with others online. Social media profiles can be used to build a virtualidentity, showcase skills and accomplishments, and connect with others in a professional or personal capacity. It is important for individuals to be mindful of their social media activity and ensure that it aligns with their desired virtualidentity.
Virtual Identities in Gaming: A Technical Discussion
Virtual identities are also prevalent in the gaming world, where individuals can create avatars and interact with others in virtual environments. Gaming platforms must implement strong security measures to protect against hacking, cheating, and other forms of abuse. Virtual identities can be used to enhance the gaming experience, as players can customize their avatars and build relationships with other players.
Virtual Reality and Virtual Identity
Virtual reality technology allows individuals to immerse themselves in virtual environments and interact with others in a more realistic way. Virtual reality can enhance virtualidentity by allowing individuals to create more realistic avatars and interact with others in a more natural way. It is important for individuals to be aware of the privacy risks associated with virtual reality and take steps to protect their personal information.
The Future of Virtual Identity
As technology continues to evolve, the concept of virtualidentity will become increasingly important. It is up to individuals, businesses, and organizations to manage virtualidentity effectively and protect against cyber threats. By understanding the technical aspects of virtualidentity and implementing strong security measures, individuals can build a positive online presence and protect their personal information in the digital world.
According to the concept of sociology and philosophy hive mind are the collective consciousness and collective intelligence. It is most familiar term in science fiction. Through hive mind, everyone would be connected to everyone else telepathically and we could share our thoughts, memories even dreams. Though a global hive mind would be susceptible to things like hacking or thought control, it could also lead to almost unimaginable levels of innovation. Many researchers buckling down to connect human brains to communicate using this hive mind concept.
First successful demonstration of the brain to brain communication in human was done in 2014 by neuroscientists. The experiment allowed the subjects to exchange mentally conjured despite being 5,000 miles apart. It’s the neuroscientific equivalent of instant messaging. Two human subjects, one in India and one in France, successfully transmitted the words “hola” and “ciao” in a computer-assisted brain-to-brain transmission using internet-linked electroencephalogram (EEG) and robot-assisted image-guided transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) technologies.
To this experiment, Researchers used EEG technology to make interconnection of one human mind to another human mind. They recruited four participants, one of whom was assigned to the brain-computer interface (BCI) branch, the part of the chain where the messages were to originate. The other three participants were assigned to the computer-brain interface (CBI) branch to receive the messages being transmitted to them.
Using EEG, the researchers translated the greetings “hola” and “ciao” into binary, and then emailed the results from India to France. At this receiving location, a CBI transmitted the message to the receivers’ brains through noninvasive brain stimulation. This was experienced as phosphenes — flashes of light in their peripheral vision. The light appeared in the numerical sequences that allowed the receivers to decode the data in the message. It’s important to note that this information was not conveyed to the subjects via tactile, visual, or auditory cues; special measures were taken to block sensory input. This ensured that the communication was exclusively mind-to-mind — though it was channeled through several different mediums.
A second experiment was conducted between individuals in Spain and France, achieving a total error rate of just 15% percent (11% on the decoding end and 5% on the initial coding site).
This in itself is a remarkable step in human communication, but being able to do so across a distance of thousands of miles is a critically important proof-of-principle for the development of brain-to-brain communications.
Alternatively, we can say that hive mind is the apparent intelligence that emerges at the group level in some social species, particular insects like honeybees and ants. An individual honeybee might not be very bright (although that’s debatable), but the honeybee colony as a collective might be very intelligent.
Other works on hive mind:
Google hive mind robot:
Google’s electrical engineer Sergey Levine has published a paper on ArXiv about the developments the team has made in creating deep learning software that tries to mimic humans picking up objects. Levine and his fellow researchers have decided that the best option is to hook up 14 robots to a hive mind – like the Borg race in Star Trek – and force them to pick up objects over and over again.
Once one of them figures out how to pick up a particular object, it will pass on the information to the others in the neural network.
Observing the behavior of the arms over 800,000 grasp attempts, the researchers have shown no major improvement in terms of their ability to pick up objects in a more human-like manner, but their decisions in how they pick things up – such as where is the best place to grasp it – has reached almost human levels.
Scientists from MIT’s Sloan Neuroeconomics Lab and Princeton University decided to look for a better way to harvest the boundless potential of the hive mind. Through their research, which is published in the journal “Nature”, they were able to develop a technique that they dubbed the “surprisingly popular” algorithm. This algorithm can more accurately pinpoint correct answers from large groups of people through a rather simple technique. People are asked a question, and they must give two answers. The first is what they think the correct answer is, and the second is what they think the popular opinion will be. The overall deviation between the crowd’s two responses indicates the correct answer.
In the future, the scientists hope to utilize their method in a number of different settings, such as political forecasting, making economic predictions, pricing artwork, or grading research proposals.
One day soon, the hive mind may be used as the primary way for us to make predictions and prepare for whatever the future holds.
Enhancement and AI create moral dilemmas not envisaged in standard ethical theories. Some of this stems from the increased malleability of personal identity that this technology affords: an artificial being can instantly alter its memory, preferences, and moral character. If a self can, at will, jettison essential identity-giving characteristics, how are we to rely upon, befriend, or judge it? Moral problems will stem from the fact that such beings are para-persons: they meet all the standard requirements of personhood (self-awareness, agency, intentional states, second-order desires, etc.) but have an additional ability—the capacity for instant change—that disqualifies them from ordinary personal identity. In order to rescue some responsibility assignments for para-persons, a fine-grained analysis of responsibility-bearing parts of selves and the persistence conditions of these parts is proposed and recommended also for standard persons who undergo extreme change.
Genomic surveillance in Belgium is based on whole genome sequencing (WGS) of a selection of representative samples, complemented with targeted active surveillance initiatives and targeted molecular markers aiming to early detect and precisely monitor the epidemiological evolution of variants of concern (VOCs). Currently, 5.050 sequences of samples collected in Belgium are available on GISAID in open access. During week 3 of 2021, Belgium achieved a coverage of 3,5% of all positive sequences being sequenced. During the last 2 weeks (week 5 and 6), 146 samples have been sequenced as part of the baseline surveillance, among which 48 (33%) were 501Y.V1 and 8 (5%) were 501Y.V2. Since week 52 of 2020, Belgium has experienced multiple introductions of VOCs followed by sustained local transmissions. As a consequence of a higher transmissibility of these variants, we observe a progressive shift in viral populations, with 501Y.V1 expected to represent the majority of circulating strains by early March. Together with the rollout of vaccination, genomic surveillance will monitor the eventual positive selection of VOCs harbouring immune escape mutations such as S:E484K. During the last 2 weeks, the progressive phenomenon of viral population replacement by more transmissible strains did not alter the overall stability of the epidemic in Belgium. This is probably due to a combination of active public health response and limited number of social interactions in the population. The risk of disruption of this equilibrium remains, as the proportion of more transmissible viruses will continue rising, but this risk can be mitigated by a combination of active outbreak control interventions, maintained efforts to reduce transmission in the population and rapid roll-out of vaccination.
In this chapter, we try to find social media penetration barriers to the development of democracy and social justice in the Middle East. We also try to suggest some strategies to overcome these obstacles. To achieve this objective, the context of political, economic, social, technological and technical, ethical, legal analysis (PESTEL) is used and the barriers in each context are considered. Although there is no priority among these barriers, it can be argued that political instability, legal uncertainty, corruption and ethical issues play the major role in reducing the influence of social media penetration for the promotion of democracy and social justice.
On the other hand, we have argued that what happens in the circumstances of virtual social media is a clear manifestation of events in the physical environment of the country. In social media or social networks, if people, whether using real or fictional identities, stand up to protest against a group, persons or particular government, this happens because of the oppression in the physical environment, which has suddenly crossed into the virtual environment. Consequently, with any policy for cyberspace (whether in an environment of 100% government control of the media or freedom of the media), if the physical environment is not accompanied by supporting policies, physical well-being and social justice it will lead to the failure of individuals to change their government through social media.
Analysis of ethical factors
In much of the research on social media, discussion of ethical factors is impeded by a lack of sufficient information and in some cases issues regarding copyright law and morality are raised. But given the difference in objective analysis, here we try to look at it from another angle. When can we expect to see real people with real faces promoting democracy and social justice from social media? Ethical issues in social media begin when a virtual identity is shaped and the user is able to create a picture of him- or herself as he or she would like to be, not what he or she really is. It becomes extreme when people in the real world cannot show themselves as they really are, while if they express their true opinions they face penalties that are more likely to be found in dictatorial regimes. Please re-read the previous sentence. From this statement we can clearly see that an unblemished environment and observing the ethics of social media are the effect of freedom and justice in the physical environment. It can upset all the equations, even when there has been heavy investment in social media, and we cannot obtain the desired result because of the problems in the physical environment. In this case it is better to revisit the examples of our listed companies. When a company invests a lot in their brand on social media but the employees in the organisation are not happy, the employees simply share their disastisfaction and the problems they have with the work on their personal pages on social networks.
There must be a better way than this to eliminate problems. Using the network to communicate directly with the government and the people can be useful before people share their dissatisfaction with the government, whether as themselves or under a false identity, on the public network. This is a safety valve to prevent an overflow of people’s grievances. The next thing that has become clear during our research is that when a group of people who believe that social media have taken steps toward achieving their goals, the ethical points have peaked, but if the team feels that social media are phenomena that are harmful to them and which in the long term will weaken the group, failure to take note of the ethics and social media gossip from the group can eventually turn the tide in their favour. The most important points evident here are that the beginnings of such failure to comply with the ethics of such groups not only arise from social media but also from the physical environment. Suppose a religious group is strongly dissatisfied with the development of an anti-religious culture in the social media and do not see a way to deal with it. So gossip in the physical environment against social media represents attempts to blacken the reputation of social media and reduce their role in society. However, experience has shown that gossip does not end with the physical environment but evolves. The next step is for the group to create multiple pages, blogs and websites, opening up a new front in the struggle against the social media. And in the third stage of evolution, this group finds that social media must be confronted by other social media, for success to be achieved. The next thing that is one of the positive aspects of social media in the area of ethics and social justice is the high percentage of respondents who believe that regardless of whether or not governments have a role in the distribution of wealth and social justice, people must exert pressure through the Internet and social media to create justice. The minimum amount of work that must be done in this area is helping people who have low incomes and live in poverty. In all the Arab countries surveyed and Iran over 55% of people are in this situation, while the percentage in America is 38%. Most of the former are in Iran and Tunisia, at 69% and 68% per cent, respectively. This creates a strong potential for governments to increase people’s capacity to take advantage of democracy and social justice, while it appears that in some Western countries, this is more of a burden on the state.
Given the importance of ethical issues and social responsibility in the virtual environment, the researcher came up with the idea of seeking new criteria for ranking websites and social media pages. Alexa.com provides website ratings in terms of the number of visits, which is a factor that has an important role in the value of a web page or website. There will be a greater need to value sites in terms of ethical standards. That is why, in the middle of 2014, an elite group of programmers in the web field came together to launch the site http://www.EthicsRank.com, and readers of this book can also assist in measuring the observance of ethics on the web. According to our investigation, the principal costs of material and moral wrongdoing in virtual space in the Middle East and developing countries are higher than in developed countries. Owing to the nature of governments in the Middle East and the need for the constant monitoring of virtual environments to counter threats, Middle Eastern countries have defined more crimes in cyberspace and consequently there is greater punishment. This can be useful, leading to a reduction in non-compliance with ethics, but it also leads to changes in the identity of most people in the virtual community and therefore it becomes uncontrollable.
I first wrote about the Metaverse in 2018, and overhauled my thinking in a January 2020 update: The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find it, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite. Since then, a lot has happened. COVID-19 forced hundreds of millions into Zoomschool and remote work. Roblox became one of the most popular entertainment experiences in history. Google Trends’ index on the phrase ‘The Metaverse’ set a new ‘100’ in March 2021. Against this baseline, use of the term never exceeded seven from January 2005 through to December 2020. With that in mind, I thought it was time to do an update - one that reflects how my thinking has changed over the past 18 months and addresses the questions I’ve received during this time, such as “Is the Metaverse here?”, “When will it arrive?”, and “What does it need to grow?”. Welcome to the Foreword to ‘THE METAVERSE PRIMER’.
When did the mobile internet era begin? Some would start this history with the very first mobile phones. Others might wait until the commercial deployment of 2G, which was the first digital wireless network. Or the introduction of the Wireless Application Protocol standard, which gave us WAP browsers and thus the ability to access a (rather primitive) version of most websites from nearly any ‘dumbphone’. Or maybe it started with the BlackBerry 6000, or 7000 or 8000 series? At least one of them was the first mainstream mobile device designed for on-the-go data. Most would say it’s the iPhone, which came more than a decade after the first BlackBerry and eight years after WAP, nearly two decades after 2G, 34 years after the first mobile phone call, and has since defined many of the mobile internet era’s visual design principles, economics, and business practices.
In truth, there’s never a flip. We can identify when a specific technology was created, tested, or deployed, but not when an era precisely occurred. This is because technological change requires a lot of technological changes, plural, to all come together. The electricity revolution, for example, was not a single period of steady growth. Instead, it was two separate waves of technological, industrial, and process-related transformations.
The first wave began around 1881, when Thomas Edison stood up electric power stations in Manhattan and London. Although this was a quick start to the era of electrical power — Edison had created the first working incandescent light bulb only two years earlier, and was only one year into its commercialization — industrial adoption was slow. Some 30 years after Edison’s first stations, less than 10% of mechanical drive power in the United States came from electricity (two thirds of which was generated locally, rather than from a grid). But then suddenly, the second wave began. Between 1910 and 1920, electricity’s share of mechanical drive power quintupled to over 50% (nearly two thirds of which came from independent electric utilities. By 1929 it stood at 78%).
The difference between the first and second waves is not how much of American industry used electricity, but the extent to which it did — and designed around it.
When plants first adopted electrical power, it was typically used for lighting and/or to replace a plant’s on-premises source of power (usually steam). These plants did not, however, rethink or replace the legacy infrastructure which would carry this power throughout the factory and put it to work. Instead, they continued to use a lumbering network of cogs and gears that were messy and loud and dangerous, difficult to upgrade or change, were either ‘all on’ or ‘all off’ (and therefore required the same amount of power to support a single operating station or the entire plant, and suffered from countless ‘single points of failure’), and struggled to support specialized work.
But eventually, new technologies and understandings gave factories both the reason and ability to be redesigned end-to-end for electricity, from replacing cogs with electric wires, to installing individual stations with bespoke and dedicated electrically-powered motors for functions such as sewing, cutting, pressing, and welding.
The benefits were wide-ranging. The same plant now had considerably more space, more light, better air, and less life-threatening equipment. What’s more, individual stations could be powered individually (which increased safety, while reducing costs and downtime), and use more specialized equipment (e.g. electric socket wrenches).
In addition, factories could configure their production areas around the logic of the production process, rather than hulking equipment, and even reconfigure these areas on a regular basis. These two changes meant that far more industries could deploy assembly lines in their plants (which had actually first emerged in the late 1700s), while those that already had such lines could extend them further and more efficiently. In 1913, for example, Henry Ford created the first moving assembly line, which used electricity and conveyor belts to reduce the production time per car from 12.5 hours to 93 minutes, while also using less power. According to historian David Nye, Ford’s famous Highland Park plant was “built on the assumption that electrical light and power should be available everywhere.”
Once a few plants began this transformation, the entire market was forced to catch up, thereby spurring more investment and innovation in electricity-based infrastructure, equipment, and processes. Within a year of its first moving assembly line, Ford was producing more cars than the rest of the industry combined. By its 10 millionth car, it had built more than half of all cars on the road.
This ‘second wave’ of industrial electricity adoption didn’t depend on a single visionary making an evolutionary leap from Thomas Edison’s core work. Nor was it driven just by an increasing number of industrial power stations. Instead, it reflected a critical mass of interconnected innovations, spanning power management, manufacturing hardware, production theory, and more. Some of these innovations fit in the palm of a plant manager’s hand, others needed a room, a few required a city, and they all depended on people and processes.
To return to Nye, “Henry Ford didn’t first conceive of the assembly line and then delegate its development to his managers. … [The] Highland Park facility brought together managers and engineers who collectively knew most of the manufacturing processes used in the United States … they pooled their ideas and drew on their varied work experiences to create a new method of production.” This process, which happened at national scale, led to the ‘roaring twenties’, which saw the greatest average annual increases in labor and capital productivity in a hundred years.
Powering the Mobile Internet
This is how to think about the mobile internet era. The iPhone feels like the start of the mobile internet because it united and/or distilled all of the things we now think of as ‘the mobile internet’ into a single minimum viable product that we could touch and hold and love. But the mobile internet was created — and driven — by so much more.
In fact, we probably don’t even mean the first iPhone but the second, the iPhone 3G (which saw the largest model-over-model growth of any iPhone, with over 4× the sales). This second iPhone was the first to include 3G, which made the mobile web usable, and operated the iOS App Store, which made wireless networks and smartphones useful.
But neither 3G nor the App Store were Apple-only innovations or creations. The iPhone accessed 3G networks via chips made by Infineon that connected via standards set by the ITU and GSMA, and which were deployed by wireless providers such as AT&T on top of wireless towers built by tower companies such as Crown Castle and American Tower. The iPhone had “an app for that” because millions of developers built them, just as thousands of different companies built specialized electric motor devices for factories in the 1920s. In addition, these apps were built on a wide variety of standards — from KDE to Java, HTML and Unity — which were established and/or maintained by outside parties (some of whom competed with Apple in key areas). The App Store’s payments worked because of digital payments systems and rails established by the major banks. The iPhone also depended on countless other technologies, from a Samsung CPU (licensed in turn from ARM), to an accelerometer from STMicroelectronics, Gorilla Glass from Corning, and other components from companies like Broadcom, Wolfson, and National Semiconductor.
All of the above creations and contributions, collectively, enabled the iPhone and started the mobile internet era. They also defined its improvement path.
Consider the iPhone 12, which was released in 2020. There was no amount of money Apple could have spent to release the iPhone 12 as its second model in 2008. Even if Apple could have devised a 5G network chip back then, there would have been no 5G networks for it to use, nor 5G wireless standards through which to communicate to these networks, and no apps that took advantage of its low latency or bandwidth. And even if Apple had made its own ARM-like GPU back in 2008 (more than a decade before ARM itself), game developers (which generate more than two thirds of App Store revenues) would have lacked the game-engine technologies required to take advantage of its superpowered capabilities.
Getting to the iPhone 12 required ecosystem-wide innovation and investments, most of which sat outside Apple’s purview (even though Apple’s lucrative iOS platform was the core driver of these advancements). The business case for Verizon’s 4G networks and American Tower Corporation’s wireless tower buildouts depended on the consumer and business demand for faster and better wireless for apps such as Spotify, Netflix and Snapchat. Without them, 4G’s ‘killer app’ would have been… slightly faster email. Better GPUs, meanwhile, were utilized by better games, and better cameras were made relevant by photo-sharing services such as Instagram. And this better hardware powered greater engagement, which drove greater growth and profits for these companies, thereby driving better products, apps, and services. Accordingly, we should think of the overall market as driving itself, just as the adoption of electrical grids led to innovation in small electric-powered industrial motors that in turn drove demand for the grid itself.
We must also consider the role of changing user capability. The first iPhone could have skipped the home button altogether, rather than waiting until the tenth. This would have opened up more room inside the device itself for higher-quality hardware or bigger batteries. But the home button was an important training exercise for what was a vastly more complex and capable mobile phone than consumers were used to. Like closing a clamshell phone, it was a safe, easy, and tactile way to ‘restart’ the iPhone if a user was confused or tapped the wrong app. It took a decade for consumers to be able to have no dedicated home button. This idea is critical. As time passes, consumers become increasingly familiar with advanced technology, and therefore better able to adopt further advances - some of which might have long been possible!
And just as consumers shift to new mindsets, so too does industry. Over the past 20 years, nearly every industry has hired, restructured, and re-oriented itself around mobile workflows, products, or business lines. This transformation is as significant as any hardware or software innovation — and, in turn, creates the business case for subsequent innovations.
Defining the Metaverse
This essay is the foreword to my nine-part and 33,000-word primer on the Metaverse, a term I’ve not yet mentioned, let alone described.
Before doing so, it was important for me to provide the context and evolutionary path of technologies such as ‘electricity’ and the ‘mobile internet’. Hopefully it provided a few lessons. First, the proliferation of these technologies fundamentally changed human culture, from where we lived to how we worked, what we made, what we bought, how, and from who. Second, these ‘revolutions’ or ‘transformations’ really depended on a bundle of many different, secondary innovations and inventions that built upon and drove one another. Third, even the most detailed understanding of these newly-emergent technologies didn’t make clear which specific, secondary innovations and inventions they required in order to achieve mass adoption and change the world. And how they would change the world was almost entirely unknowable.
In other words, we should not expect a single, all-illuminating definition of the ‘Metaverse’. Especially not at a time in which the Metaverse has only just begun to emerge. Technologically driven transformation is too organic and unpredictable of a process. Furthermore, it’s this very messiness that enables and results in such large-scale disruption.
My goal therefore is to explain what makes the Metaverse so significant – i.e. deserving of the comparisons I offered above – and offer ways to understand how it might work and develop.
The Metaverse is best understood as ‘a quasi-successor state to the mobile internet’. This is because the Metaverse will not fundamentally replace the internet, but instead build upon and iteratively transform it. The best analogy here is the mobile internet, a ‘quasi-successor state’ to the internet established from the 1960s through the 1990s. Even though the mobile internet did not change the underlying architecture of the internet – and in fact, the vast majority of internet traffic today, including data sent to mobile devices, is still transmitted through and managed by fixed infrastructure – we still recognize it as iteratively different. This is because the mobile internet has led to changes in how we access the internet, where, when and why, as well as the devices we use, the companies we patron, the products and services we buy, the technologies we use, our culture, our business model, and our politics.
The Metaverse will be similarly transformative as it too advances and alters the role of computers and the internet in our lives.
The fixed-line internet of the 1990s and early 2000s inspired many of us to purchase our own personal computer. However, this device was largely isolated to our office, living room or bedroom. As a result, we had only occasional access to and usage of computing resources and an internet connection. The mobile internet led most humans globally to purchase their own personal computer and internet service, which meant almost everyone had continuous access to both compute and connectivity.
Metaverse iterates further by placing everyone inside an ‘embodied’, or ‘virtual’ or ‘3D’ version of the internet and on a nearly unending basis. In other words, we will constantly be ‘within’ the internet, rather than have access to it, and within the billions of interconnected computers around us, rather than occasionally reach for them, and alongside all other users and real-time.
The progression listed above is a helpful way to understand what the Metaverse changes. But it doesn’t explain what it is or what it’s like to experience. To that end, I’ll offer my best swing at a definition:
“The Metaverse is a massively scaled and interoperable network of real-time rendered 3D virtual worlds which can be experienced synchronously and persistently by an effectively unlimited number of users with an individual sense of presence, and with continuity of data, such as identity, history, entitlements, objects, communications, and payments.”
Most commonly, the Metaverse is mis-described as virtual reality. In truth, virtual reality is merely a way to experience the Metaverse. To say VR is the Metaverse is like saying the mobile internet is an app. Note, too, that hundreds of millions are already participating in virtual worlds on a daily basis (and spending tens of billions of hours a month inside them) without VR/AR/MR/XR devices. As a corollary to the above, VR headsets aren’t the Metaverse any more than smartphones are the mobile internet.
Sometimes the Metaverse is described as a user-generated virtual world or virtual world platform. This is like saying the internet is Facebook or Geocities. Facebook is a UGC-focused social network on the internet, while Geocities made it easy to create webpages that lived on the internet. UGC experiences are just one of many experiences on the internet.
Furthermore, the Metaverse doesn’t mean a video game. Video games are purpose-specific (even when the purpose is broad, like ‘fun’), unintegrated (i.e. Call of Duty is isolated from fellow portfolio title Overwatch), temporary (i.e. each game world ‘resets’ after a match) and capped in participants (e.g. 1MM concurrent Fortnite users are in over 100,000 separated simulations. Yes, we will play games in the Metaverse, and those games may have user caps and resets, but those are games in the Metaverse, not the Metaverse itself. Overall, The Metaverse will significantly broaden the number of virtual experiences used in everyday life (i.e. well beyond video games, which have existed for decades) and in turn, expand the number of people who participate in them.
Lastly, the Metaverse isn’t tools like Unreal or Unity or WebXR or WebGPU. This is like saying the internet is TCP/IP, HTTP, or web browser. These are protocols upon which the internet depends, and the software used to render it.
The Metaverse, like the internet, mobile internet, and process of electrification, is a network of interconnected experiences and applications, devices and products, tools and infrastructure. This is why we don’t even say that horizontally and vertically integrated giants such as Facebook, Google or Apple are an internet. Instead, they are destinations and ecosystems on or in the internet, or which provide access to and services for the internet. And of course, nearly all of the internet would exist without them.
The Metaverse Emerges
As I’ve written before, the full vision of the Metaverse is decades away. It requires extraordinary technical advancements (we are far from being able to produce shared, persistent simulations that millions of users synchronized in real-time), and perhaps regulatory involvement too. In addition, it will require overhauls in business policies, and changes to consumer behavior.
But the term has become so recently popular because we can feel it beginning. This is one of the reasons why Fortnite and Roblox are so commonly conflated with the Metaverse. Just as the iPhone feels like the mobile internet because the device embodied the many innovations which enabled the mobile internet to go mainstream, these ‘games’ bring together many different technologies and trends to produce an experience which is simultaneously tangible and feels different from everything that came before. But they do not constitute the Metaverse.
Personally, I’m tracking the emergence of the Metaverse around eight core categories, which can be thought of as a stack (click each header for a dedicated essay).
Hardware: The sale and support of physical technologies and devices used to access, interact with, or develop the Metaverse. This includes, but is not limited to, consumer-facing hardware (such as VR headsets, mobile phones, and haptic gloves) as well as enterprise hardware (such as those used to operate or create virtual or AR-based environments, e.g. industrial cameras, projection and tracking systems, and scanning sensors). This category does not include compute-specific hardware, such as GPU chips and servers, as well as networking-specific hardware, such as fiber optic cabling or wireless chipsets.
Networking: The provisioning of persistent, real-time connections, high bandwidth, and decentralized data transmission by backbone providers, the networks, exchange centers, and services that route amongst them, as well as those managing ‘last mile’ data to consumers.
Compute: The enablement and supply of computing power to support the Metaverse, supporting such diverse and demanding functions as physics calculation, rendering, data reconciliation and synchronization, artificial intelligence, projection, motion capture and translation.
Virtual Platforms: The development and operation of immersive digital and often three-dimensional simulations, environments, and worlds wherein users and businesses can explore, create, socialize, and participate in a wide variety of experiences (e.g. race a car, paint a painting, attend a class, listen to music), and engage in economic activity. These businesses are differentiated from traditional online experiences and multiplayer video games by the existence of a large ecosystem of developers and content creators which generate the majority of content on and/or collect the majority of revenues built on top of the underlying platform.
Interchange Tools and Standards: The tools, protocols, formats, services, and engines which serve as actual or de facto standards for interoperability, and enable the creation, operation and ongoing improvements to the Metaverse. These standards support activities such as rendering, physics, and AI, as well as asset formats and their import/export from experience to experience, forward compatibility management and updating, tooling, and authoring activities, and information management.
Payments: The support of digital payment processes, platforms, and operations, which includes fiat on-ramps (a form of digital currency exchange) to pure-play digital currencies and financial services, including cryptocurrencies, such as bitcoin and ether, and other blockchain technologies.
Metaverse Content, Services, and Assets: The design/creation, sale, re-sale, storage, secure protection and financial management of digital assets, such as virtual goods and currencies, as connected to user data and identity. This contains all business and services “built on top of” and/or which “service” the Metaverse, and which are not vertically integrated into a virtual platform by the platform owner, including content which is built specifically for the Metaverse, independent of virtual platforms.
User Behaviors: Observable changes in consumer and business behaviors (including spend and investment, time and attention, decision-making and capability) which are either directly associated with the Metaverse, or otherwise enable it or reflect its principles and philosophy. These behaviors almost always seem like ‘trends’ (or, more pejoratively, ‘fads’) when they initially appear, but later show enduring global social significance.
(You’ll note ‘crypto’ or ‘blockchain technologies’ are not a category. Rather, they span and/or drive several categories, most notably compute, interchange tools and standards, and payments — potentially others as well.)
Each of these buckets is critical to the development of the Metaverse. In many cases, we have a good sense of how each one needs to develop, or at least where there’s a critical threshold (say, VR resolution and frame rates, or network latency).
But ultimately, how these many pieces come together and what they produce is the hard, important, and society-altering part of any Metaverse analysis. Just as the electricity revolution was about more than the kilowatt hours produced per square mile in 1900s New York, and the internet about more than HTTP and broadband cabling.
Based on precedent, however, we can guess that the Metaverse will revolutionize nearly every industry and function. From healthcare to payments, consumer products, entertainment, hourly labor, and even sex work. In addition, altogether new industries, marketplaces and resources will be created to enable this future, as will novel types of skills, professions, and certifications. The collective value of these changes will be in the trillions.
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As our lives become more intertwined with technology, the concept of virtual identity has become increasingly important. From social media profiles to online banking accounts, our virtual identities can have a significant impact on our lives. However, with the rise of AI and other advanced technologies, questions about the ethics of virtual identity are becoming more complex. In this article, we will explore the different systems and technologies that make up virtual identity, as well as the ethical considerations that must be taken into account when developing these systems.
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