Christians, Beware the Metaverse

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I try my best to temper my tech-skeptic instincts, but despite these efforts, I can’t help but consider all the worst possibilities of the coming “Metaverse.” In fact, the more I read about it, the more I think Christians should start preparing for it now, before we, along with our family and friends, are pulled into a life far from the one God created for us.

For those unaware of this Metaverse, here are just a couple of recent updates.

This week, Facebook announced plans to change its name to “Meta” and rebrand itself as a Metaverse company rather than a social media company, betting its future on the importance of this development. Facebook/Meta also announced that it is hiring 10,000 people in Europe alone to advance this project. And Epic Games announced they are putting $1 billion toward building the Metaverse.

So, what exactly is this Metaverse? In short, it will be the new version of the internet. Experts say it will not exactly replace the internet, it will just absorb it and take it to the next level—the “Internet 3.0,” according to Ronke Babajide writing on Medium.

Virtual reality and augmented reality will fully integrate with the world around us, they say, so we won’t need to look down at screens all the time (that part actually sounds pretty nice). If a friend wants to speak with us, we won’t have to read a text or an email or speak on the phone; a digital version of them—like a Princess Leia hologram in Star Wars—will emerge and simply tell you the message they wanted to deliver. If you’re hungry, maybe a character from your favorite show (whatever those will look like) would pop up and suggest you get something from the new restaurant down the street.

To navigate this world, each person will apparently need an avatar, a kind of digital representation of themself. If you think the world has gone crazy with navel-gazing Millennials self-actualizing by “identifying” as whatever feels right in the moment, wait until turning from a man to a woman (or a man to a rabbit) just takes a click of a button rather than surgery and hormones.

This description is from the Oct. 22 Vanity Fair piece titled, “The Metaverse Is About to Change Everything:”

…you could imagine wearing your digital avatar out in the real world, where other people who are wearing headsets see an augmented version of their reality, including you dressed up as your digital avatar, which could also change based on who is looking at you. Maybe you come across as a three-headed puppy with multicolored pigtails to your kids, but a professional in a suit to your coworkers. In this scenario, you could play a game of Pac-Man in the real world, running around trying to capture virtual coins that no one else can see, or evading multicolored ghosts who want to eat you alive. You could sit in a coffee shop in New York while a friend sits in a coffee shop in Paris, and both have a ‘real’ coffee together, even though you’re not in the same place.

The way you will be fed these images, sounds, and other input will, at least initially, be through headsets and glasses. Ray-Ban, in partnership with Facebook, has created Stories, a line of sunglasses that look just like their traditional lines but can do many of the things your smartphone allows you to do, like take videos, talk on the phone, listen to music, and post things to social media. Hear Mark Zuckerberg describe Ray-Ban Stories here. Zuckerberg is making these glasses, along with a program for business meetings called Horizon Workrooms—think Zoom meets virtual reality—as early efforts to contribute to this infrastructure.

While a lot of the other early work for the Metaverse has been done by video-game companies, like Epic Games, Babajide says, “The Metaverse won’t be a game world. It’ll never ‘reset’ or ‘pause’ or ‘end,’ it’ll go on indefinitely like the real world. It’ll be synchronized with our real world and there will be no limit to the ‘users’ of this digital world.”

This is what Zuckerberg said, too, in his comments about the Ray-Ban Stories: “You don’t have to choose between being on your device or being fully present. We believe that this is an important step on the road to developing the ultimate augmented reality glasses.… Imagine seeing holograms, turn-by-turn directions or being able to play chess on a table in front of you with your loved one 3,000 miles away, right from your glasses.”

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