Culture

Somnium Space: As Warm As Toast

Not so long ago I went on a trip with my family. We didn’t go far due to corona travel restrictions, but just far enough to experience a sense of escape from our daily lives. We had rented a summer cottage near the coast. The temperatures were still low, but our cottage had a very nice fireplace for building a fire. This we did every evening.

It had been unanimously decided by the other members of the family that making the fire was my job. I did not object. I find creating a fire inherently satisfying. I love ‘designing’ a perfect fire by stacking logs, kindling and fire starters and to watch the crackling flames climb higher and higher. It’s the perfect moment for contemplation for me. And for some whisky.

On one of those evenings, when staring into the fire I had just built, my thoughts wandered off…

People seek connection and gather around common interests. It warms us when we feel connected and can communicate. Historically, we communicated via letters. As communication technologies evolved, we started to call people, which brought us closer due to the higher empathetic bandwidth of voice. And today we can engage in video conferences and see those with whom we are speaking.

And now with Somnium Space and similar worlds we are beginning to see the ability to share social presence and spatial awareness with other people by ‘physically’ sharing the same environment.

Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan commented on the evolution of our communication mediums right at the dawn of the Information Age, long before the invention of the World Wide Web. His core thesis (wrapped in the famous phrase “the medium is the message”), was that the technologies through which we absorb information become “extensions” of our bodies, having a profound influence over how we think and act. When an important new medium arrives, it can reshape who we are as both individuals and as a society.

I believe this to be true. Our smartphones, Internet, Social Media, have all become extensions. They’ve become an integrated part of us and we ‘can’t live without it’. There is an interesting thought attached to this. If technologies, new media, have such a profound impact on us as human beings, then who decides its features? Decisions were made at the advent of the internet about critical things such as security, privacy, user sovereignty etc., without any form of democracy. Many choices have had profound, often irrevocable, consequences and has led to exploitative ad-driven business models of the web giants.

Marshall McLuhan saw this coming:

Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.

Amazing isn’t it? These words were written 30 years before the invention of the World Wide Web.

I see Somnium Space, the Metaverse, as a logical next step in the technological evolution, but at the same time, due to the fact that it is built on top of the blockchain, as a fundamental new direction. It’s not just a new medium. It is an opportunity to break away from mistakes of the past.

As we project ourselves deeper into the digital realm, blockchain and crypto will facilitate revolutionary, decentralized models, which will make the Metaverse accessible, fair, thriving, content rich, economically fertile and an amazing new way for people to gather and interact. We will find that the future is multi-layered and that creativity and innovation in these new playing fields will be compounding so rapidly that we will be blown away. In ways we cannot begin to imagine.

A loud ‘wooooosh’ from the fire brought me back to ‘reality’. I took a sip from my glass of whisky. Grateful I can be part of this warming journey, or fireplace, called Somnium Space.

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