In the August 15, 2015, podcast of The Drax Files Radio Hour with Jo Yardley, Bill Glover (Chaos Priestly in Second Life) said a major difference between Second Life and the new Sansar Project is that Sansar “is more of a platform and less of a world.”
In response, Drax Despres said that he worried the new platform would feel fragmented, since it wasn’t really being conceived of as a world. And then he asked, “is the Metaverse an outdated concept?” His question has stayed with me, I think partly because it worries me, too, and is a question I would like to discuss further.
For many of us, our current idea of the Metaverse has been greatly influenced by its depiction in science fiction and by the virtual worlds, such as Second Life, or other MMORPG games, such as World of Warcraft, that many of us have experienced online.
We don’t know what the big Metaverse will be like yet because it hasn’t yet been invented. The very broad definition suggested by Josh McCormick: the Metaverse is simply “interconnected experiences in a virtual environment.” This broad definition is important because it gives the concept plenty of space to develop in many ways.
Yesterday, I listened to an episode of John Lienhard’s Engines of Our Ingenuity, called “An Unexpected Future” (episode 2730) on NPR (National Public Radio), and it struck me as quite interesting in the context of thinking about what VR may mean in our future.
Lienhard said, “Our work of creating technological futures, when it is impossible to predict any future, is really pretty weird. We try to form a view of where we are headed, then build in that direction. Well, you see the looming trap here: the direction our technology is headed is the direction of our ever fallible expectations.”
This episode was about how the transistor and semiconductor changed the world, but at the beginning, we couldn’t see where the infant technology was leading.
In the 1930’s and 1940’s engineers thought the future lay in “magically improved transportation systems. [that people] would live with 200-mile-an-hour highways, cars that could spread wings and fly, dirigible service within cities.”
Technology for transistors originated with the LED (Light Emitting Diode). In 1927, The Russian inventor named Oleg Losev demonstrated that an LED could be made from semiconductor material.
Losev continued exploring and writing about semiconductors, and by 1942, his work shows that he was close to “the next great part of the idea – that semiconductors could also be used to amplify and switch electric signals — that they might be made into transistors that would later replace radio tubes.” Losev starved to death that year in the German siege of Leningrad.
Bell Labs invented the transistor in 1947, and, in the 1950’s engineers began to explore their use. The transistor is the building block for the processor, and it is often called the greatest invention of the 20th century.
Lienhard finishes with the following thoughts, “So how did technology trump expectation? It did so because of the very strange fact that our technologies are our teachers.”
“We make something new, and only then does it reveal its capacity for redirecting our lives. Losev gave us a new idea. Others eventually became alert to the capacities within that idea. But the final step in that process was the transistor revealing all it could do. That was when it rewrote our human future.”
If technologies are our teachers, then the Metaverse will teach us what it might be. We have to stay open to the many things we cannot even imagine yet.
Image from iStock Photo.