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Alternatives to the metaverse

One of the most striking facets of the metaverse is that it doesn’t exist and nobody can agree on how to define it, but there are a lot of people who are really excited about it. And because so many people are excited about it, the hype itself may generate the platform. It’s like if a collective delusion was capable of birthing a tangible thing.

A ton of marketing dollars have been poured into generating this hype, but it’s in some ways arbitrary. Virtual reality has been around for a very long time and has never really taken hold in the markets; seeding this excitement allows those investments to finally come to fruition.

Imagine, though, if the same hype machine was directed elsewhere. What if we were excited to build a Star Trek future instead of a Ready Player One future? A post-money society where information and resources are ubiquitous and communities collaborate to push the boundaries of human experience and boldly go where no-one has gone before?

Or what about a cyberpunk future, where every piece of hardware is repairable and endlessly remixable into new devices?

You can’t sell headsets or NFTs that way, of course, so there’s little incentive for anyone to market this alternative future in the same way the metaverse has been. But we do need competing visions of the future that challenge hyper-commercial interests. The narratives we tell about the future really matter. The metaverse is a top-down, highly-financed commercial vision, which has partially gained popularity because its ill-defined nature allows everyone to pin their own imagination on it. We would all benefit from an alternative, bottom-up, collaborative vision that trades commerce for community.