Reality Check

John Hanke, the CEO of gaming company Niantic, recently tweeted that the idea of the “metaverse” is a “dystopian nightmare.” Niantic, the company behind Pokemon GO is mapping the world, making a database to help future developers of augmented reality (AR) technology. Hanke has an unease about the project, knowing that “bad actors” could abuse such information, but he is still convinced that the metaverse will be a unifying technology for humanity.

We have heard this sort of thing before— Mark Zuckerberg was convinced that Facebook would help bring people together but it’s debatable whether that is the case. Some AR enthusiasts are sounding the alarm— people dependent on layers of technology live “mediated lives.” This kind of mediation soon makes opting out of a virtual world impossible. Hanke is a fan of Augmented Reality, seeing it as an enhancement to real life. However, he sees a distinction between that and Virtual Reality, which he believes pulls people away from others and the physical world. 

Seoul, Korea has announced it is aiming to “enter the metaverse” in the next couple of years, enabling citizens to meet with government officials virtually using VR headsets. Cultural events would also take place “virtually,” and could be joined by anyone on the globe. Disney’s CEO thinks it is “the future” to have our kids blending embodied life with a digital existence. Meanwhile, Microsoft is partnering with Facebook to integrate their online workspaces, making one writer’s summation sound very accurate: the metaverse is Big Tech, only bigger.

Author James Poulsen sees a ray of hope. He is convinced the “cyborg vivarium we’re being herded into” is not inescapable. He writes that we are under the sway of digital technology, but not under its control . We are living beings in a real creation, which puts parameters on our existence that a computer-code reality can never replace. There is a certain irony that Facebook wants to build physical stores to demonstrate its Oculus headsets. So, to be clear, a digital company is building physical stores to display physical items to engage with a digital world. Curiouser…

While digital technology enthusiasts see in it tools for rebuilding the world (literally and figuratively) into a kind of Utopia, it will only be a veneer over the real thing. Manmade reality can never bury the homesickness that fallen mankind tries to suppress. The misplaced hope that a virtual world could bring peace and rest to mankind is answered by The Preacher of Ecclesiastes: while men’s hearts are full of madness, God had placed eternity in their hearts. Mad Christians can boldly proclaim – we are immortal now. Though our outward man is perishing, as St Paul said, our inward man is being renewed until that great Day, when all things are made new. That is a reality worth waiting for!

Here is Iceland’s awesome take on the metaverse: visiting their country gives you an “immersive experience” without silly headsets.

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