Two girls come in and order brunch. They sit down and have a lively conversation. Moments later, their order arrives and they fall silent. Conversation is replaced with both girls taking pictures of the food in front of them, meticulously and from multiple angles. Images are posted on Social Media. They pick up their conversation, but it’s an interaction that is constantly interrupted. Every beep from their phones halts the talks. Every 2 minutes without a beep halts the talks as well.
I am not making a value judgement. I don’t know these girls. I am merely describing what I observed.
Technology has a profound impact on us. Technology, in essence, has a role of making life simpler. And that it does is the message we’re supposed to belief. Whenever we, the consumers, need to be convinced about buying new devices and gadgets, there is this recurring promise of an easier, more efficient and happier life. People in electric cars, laughing, making a monkey of us fools not driving that same model. That’s marketing. Technology has made many things easier, granted. But not for everyone. Technology has saved lives and it has cost lives. Technology, shaped within the context of social arrangements and processes, also changes those social arrangements. Not everyone is prepared. Not everyone can or wants to follow along.
And certain decisions are outright harmful. Decisions were made at the advent of the internet for example, about critical things such as security, privacy, user sovereignty, without any form of democracy. Those decisions have benefited the exploitative ad-driven business models of the web giants. But have they benefited us? Many would answer ‘yes’ to that question. The girls sharing their brunch with the world probably would. I’d say ‘yes’ as well, to some extent, but at the expense of surrendering our data that we both voluntarily and involuntarily share (the web giants would argue otherwise, they have themselves covered). And at the expense of our privacy and with the constant threat of security breaches.
And what about the promise of a happier life? I am not a researcher, not an expert, but are we happier today than two hundred years ago? Because of all the technology we surround us with? I really doubt it. I am not saying things were better in the ‘old days’ and I am not against technological advancements. But technological advancement is not the same as advancement of the human race.
I can’t escape the thought that we can’t keep up with technology. It gets smarter and continuously changes the world, but we humans are constant. We’re tagging along, confused, driven by the same emotions that have always driven us, trying to grasp what is happening, fearful of missing out, trying to make a living, like everyone else. It’s easy to mislead the masses who don’t grasp the subject matter.
It’s inherently human, engrained in our DNA, to go explore uncharted territory. Humanity cannot be understood without its achievements (and darkest moments of course). But our motives range from good to bad and all shades in between.
Virtual Reality, Somnium Space, the Metaverse; these technological advancements are going to have a profound impact on society. Of that I am sure. And I feel privileged to be part of it. But already now it is important that we, the first Metaverse explorers, think about our motives and the world(s) we want to build. We have a responsibility to those who come after us. They will roam the territories that we have made accessible for them. Somnium isn’t necessarily going to simplify our and their lives, but it has the potential to enrich us in ways beyond our imagination.
What is so special about Somnium Space is that it allows us to shape a society that can play by different rules. Not benefiting a select few, but benefiting anyone who joins. In a fair way. I’m not naïve. We will not shed the emotions that drive us in real life, just because we jump to a different layer of our new reality. We shouldn’t want to. Human creativity and ingenuity is needed in Somnium (and we are already seeing plenty of it already). What I do believe however, is that Somnium can be an example of how things can be done in a different and better way. It will be inhabited by the same people we meet on the streets in (non virtual) reality. But we’re giving them more power and allow them to be in control. Of their data, their property, their creations. There is no need to surrender anything so that others can benefit. Security, immutable ownership, the ability to monetize your own data and your own work. These make up the very fabric of this new, exciting world.
That’s the promise of Somnium Space. And yes, in the end that may make us a lot happier.
Utopia doesn’t exist by definition, but we’re on the brink of creating a better place if we learn from our mistakes in the past. Citizens of Somnium, fellow explorers, we’re living in exciting times and a great responsibility rests on our shoulders.
Let’s build a great Somnium together!