Facebook has been renamed Meta and is poised to roll out the metaverse. Simply put, this is where digital and virtual come together, aiming at the exclusion of all else. “Technoverse” would have been a more truthful term, but a bit too brutal sounding. The metaverse universe would be a technological reality with nothing outside of it.
We would basically only exist on computer screens, having shed the confines of actual, physical life worlds, as fantastic as that sounds. The metaverse is us — at base a perfection and extension of virtual reality; the very name pretty much says it all. Virtual reality, VR, peddles a “sense” of reality, with its goal of “producing a high-grade feeling of presence.” (Not presence, but simulated presence.) Oliver Grau, German art historian and media theorist, wrote that statement in 2003, a reminder that the components of the metaverse have been in the works for a while.
Think of cybersex or haptic technology, a techno substitute for the sense of touch. Or “untact,” a South Korean government policy that seeks to remove layers of human interaction in the service of economic expansion.
The metaverse will combine all such synthetic “advances” in a qualitative Great Leap Forward into estrangement from one another and our Mother Earth. There will be no more distinction between real and virtual. The term IRL (in real life) will fall from the lexicon as obsolete.
“Meta” was a stand-out Super Bowl commercial. It featured an outmoded and discarded robotic dog, given renewal in the metaverse. The ad is presented in a nostalgic vein, promoting the metaverse as, in effect, a return to the good old days. Deleting, of course, the fact that Facebook has played an important role in bringing on the ruin it now promises to rescue us from.
Marketed as imagination unleashed and experience without limits, the metaverse represents the opposite of those dimensions –– the techno-evacuation of direct experience.
We’ve already come a ways down this road, but I predict that the metaverse will not be realized. Not yet, anyway. I have some faith that we will resist this further surrender to simulation.
Zerzan is a local anarchist writer whose books include Elements of Refusal and Future Primitive. You can listen live to his “AnarchyRadio” at 7 pm Tuesdays on KWVA 88.1 FM or via audio streaming.