Metaverse, Meatverse and Metaphorverse

The Metaverse has nothing to do with 3D.

The Metaverse doesn't look like Minecraft, Roblox, or Otherside.

The Metaverse doesn't need VR/AR tech.

The Metaverse won't get you rich from buying artificially scarce land & cartoon jpegs.

You gotta invest in the right stuff.

One of the Big Lies of the last year has been this exciting but utterly false idea that "the Metaverse" is anything to do with the images we've seen in Ready Player One or Snowcrash or Neuromancer. (or Tron or Hackers, fwiw)

I've said before that VR is probably coming, as a technology, some time in the future (likely via the stepping stone of AR).

But unless we like investing in mirages, we need to decouple "VR" from the concept of the Metaverse.

The Metaverse as visualised in seminal novels like Snow Crash or Ready Player One is a METAPHOR. This metaphor helped to shape wonderful stories that capture the imagination and make compelling reading.

They're fun, like Superheroes or Xenomorphs or Elves and Orcs.

All those things are successful metaphors from our literature, but luckily, they're far enough from reality that people aren't investing in these metaphors thinking they're about to turn into realities.

We need these metaphors when writing stories, to make them fun. Just the same way as scenes depicting hackers hacking in movies have almost nothing to do with the real task of hacking, bc watching someone write a script, test it, and wait for results, is boring.

Similarly, observing someone chat to ppl on Discord and FB and have a bunch of Zoom calls and maybe play a bit of WoW or Fortnite would likely not make for good literature or TV.

So we stick them in a fancy 3D virtual metaphor instead. It's more fun!

Unfortunately, in our space, the fancy VR playground fantasies have become entangled with the reality of a huge, powerful change happening all around us right now. This one is right around the coner, and worth investing in.

=> Invest in Metaverse, not Metaphorverse.

The big change is "the Metaverse". And it's already here, and getting better all the time.

Seeing that big change coming and predicting where it moves next is much more likely to result in financial returns than buying virtual 3D land.

So what is the Metaverse, then?

Succinctly, the Metaverse is the social/technological environment where our digital lives unfold and flourish.

And yes, it's already here. Has been for decades. But it's currently going through a transformational, epoch-defining shift.

Humans want to do things in the Meatverse: travel, eat, clothe ourselves, get entertained, meet others, etc.

To do those things, we pay money. We buy services and goods. While they last, we keep the goods. Maybe we trade them.

Humans also want to do things in the Metaverse. But even decades after its invention, the Metaverse is still only in its infancy. This is only fair: the Meatverse has billions of years of evolution, tens of thousands of cultural evolution, backing it.

The Metaverse is a newborn.

It's in such a basic state that until now the Metaverse has not really had a concept of property. Apart from a few rare exceptions like domain names, the Metaverse has basically only had services. No goods. Nothing to trade, really.

Instead, all property in the Metaverse has been really a pretence of property, being instead provided as a service by a corporation with EULAs and ToS and the ability to disappear that "property" at a moment's notice.

Until now.

This is the transformation that's unfolding now:

The Metaverse is developing the ability to track, and develop, and trade, goods.

Property rights are appearing.

Imagine what would happen to the Meatverse if it had only services, and someone invented goods.


So what does this look like? What can we predict about where the Metaverse might be headed, if we believe that this is the big change that's happening, rather than the arrival of a Metaphorverse of 3D virtual world fantasies?

It still starts with people. What do they want? What do they want to do?

We still have the same basic human needs and wants that we do in the Meatverse. Metaverse doesn't change that. It just makes some of them easier to achieve.

The internet, sans goods, did not make us suddenly not want food or shelter or things or companionship. It also did not create desires for things that didn't make sense to us.

Instead, it made us want better ways to do the same things we already did.

So our focus should not be on digital goods per se, but on the human needs which will be better served by the appearance of digital goods.

If someone just invented bananas, you probably don't make money by buying a banana, but by investing in banana farms and shops.

Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox, etc, show that we do want to have fun playing 3D games.

They do not show that we want to spend most of our time in them.

MUDs/MUSHes, Second Life, etc, through their lack of traction, confirm that thesis.

We like computer games, not computer lives.

The continued success of Discord, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc, show that we value virtual communication - but none of those have anything to do with 3D virtual worlds. They don't need to. A 3D VR interface would just make them less efficient.

We value efficiency.

(AR might be a whole different proposition, once it gets good enough - but that's not what's being peddled as "Metaverse" right now. Once the generic input problem is solved, AR could provide great efficiency boosts to many applications)

All those successful social media tools work very hard to reduce the friction of using them.

Just swipe, scroll, tap...

We value getting what we want (entertainment, information, connections, etc) as easily as possible.

We don't value friction.

Metaphorverse is friction.

So where is the future of the Metaverse? If we write off the entire thesis of 3D metaverse being pursued by so many projects in the space, from NFTWorlds to Decentraland and Sandbox? (And I think we really should - they may succeed as games, but not as "Metaverses").

I think a lot more clarity comes when we ignore the 3D virtual world fantasy, and focus, rather simply, on what the web is like now, and what people want to do with it but can't... but which will be easier with digital property. The actual Metaverse that's already here, iow.

People want to own/collect/browse art - they always have, for thousands of years. They couldn't do it online without digital goods. Enter NFTs, and the digital art global marketplace has exploded and, imho, isn't going anywhere, because it's serving a lasting human need.

But, and this is important, extremely few people have any interest in spending their entire waking day in an art gallery (-> Metaphorverse).

It's a niche activity that most of us do only a few times a year at most and, crucially, usually with one or more companions.

People want to network, gain access to influential people, make connections. People have been doing that for thousands of years. NFTs that successfully facilitate that (and some do) are worth something, and will continue to be valuable as long as they deliver that access.

Is that made possible by digital goods though? Not really. Not quite. But NFTs, like crypto in general, do have some special power in aligning the incentives of large numbers of people, which might then serve some lasting needs to do with connection and access.

So something to do with access and connection might well be evolving thanks to the appearance of digital goods. What it is exactly is hard to tell at this point, but there seems to be something worth looking into there.

People want to make money fast... unfortunately that's also a basic human drive that's been served by most of the NFT projects over the last year and a bit. Well, you know my opinion over how sustainable that is!

What other needs do people have?

More importantly, what needs do people have, which are made possible or substantially better via the existence of digital goods?

Well, I won't surprise any of my regular followers by pointing out that people have needed to raise funding for their ventures for hundreds if not thousands of years. Is that made easier thanks to digital goods? Yeah I think so.

What else is easier or possible with this digital goods revolution?

You tell me.

What do you think is coming? Reply to this post, I'll RT any decent answer.

But in the meantime... let's set aside this notion that the "Metaverse" is anything to do with 3D.

The Metaverse is the virtual universe we've been building already since 1969. Now, finally, it is developing the ability to track digital goods, instead of just services.

The Metaverse is an enormous revolution that will be with us as long as humanity sticks around.

I'm curious what it will bring to our day to day lives.

And if it produces a 3D virtual world game I enjoy for a month or two, great, that's a nice bonus.

TL;DR: The Metaverse as a concept needs to be disentangled from the Metaphorverse (fun 3D virtual worlds). The transformation that's currently happening is that the Metaverse (invented in 1969) is that it's finally developing the capability for digital goods.

gm & gl

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