Is physical reality more “real” than the metaverse? Let’s look at the philosophical dilemma.
When one thinks of the metaverse, you could be forgiven for having vertigo at the prospect of diving into a virtual world, that you are going to experience with your senses in a completely immersive way. Reality, and the world, can be defined as having an existence that is not dependent of it being perceived by someone. And so, with this definition on our hands, we can say that the metaverse is just as real as physical reality. One is crafted by mankind, the other created after the big bang at the beginning of the universe.
This technical definition, which would allow us to understand the metaverse as “real”, is just the beginning. Because in reality, another component of observing reality might be problematic: Our senses. They might deceive when they are presenting reality.
An example of this could be that when we visit the metaverse, a representation of the world appears in front of us. However, we don’t get to see the rules that govern this place in real time. If we care enough about this, we could have a look at the code underlying the experience. And make sense of it if we have coding experience, whereas someone that does not know how to code. But the experience that we look to have, at least mostly, is the one that is visually represented and engages with our senses – the frontend. The backend is one that is not the concern of most people. Similarly, we do not experience life by seeing laws of physics, atoms, elements, substances, compounds and mathematical equations. We know that there are trees, buildings and cars. We know that the sky is blue and clouds are white. We experience temperatures – hot, cold or mild – and the sounds that tells us that even though we don’t see things, they could be nearby. Like birds in the morning, or cars when we are in an apartment not looking at the street below.
A parallelism that furthers that notion that the metaverse is real, just like the physical world. All this is to say that perhaps the fear of people getting lost in a world that is not real is not a sound argument. At least from a philosophical standpoint in which one is always looking to understand the nature of reality.
We can think of the metaverse as something that can actually be perceived. An object that can provide a perceptual experience, and also one that we can think about. An object that can be the subject of a perceptual experience, hence creating a sort of relationship with whoever is perceiving it. You’ll be able to argue that the metaverse is real, even though it needs some sort gear or a screen to access.
All of this is to say that when debating about whether the metaverse will be real or not, one could argue that the same question could be directed towards the physical. Real is not synonymous with physical, and virtual is not the same as fake. And as the metaverse becomes more developed, sophisticated and massively adopted by people, perhaps we can use the metaverse as a way to answer some of the questions of how we perceive reality.
What is better for humans?
Perhaps a better question would be if humans can withstand living for prolonged periods of time inside a virtual world. And even though some people might have some reservations about this, the truth is that every paradigm shift has their fair share of detractors. Even H.P. Lovecraft thought on these terms, long before the metaverse was a thing, basically arguing that the human mind can only withstand a finite amount of knowledge, as thinking of insurmountable distances and eons might drive us mad. He said, on The Call of Cthulu, “The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all of its content. Some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new Dark Age”.
The passage from above, is perhaps a question to whether humans should be a species that does intercontinental traveling, goes to outer space and understands the underlying mechanisms that piece our universe together. Perhaps Lovecraft would have thought that the metaverse is another step of mankind in its quest towards molding its environment. And another step in the road of understanding more about reality, for which as humans we might not be prepared. In this occasion, creating a world and playing the role of ultimate creator.
Even though the fears might be valid, they should not stand in the way of our own endeavors. Should we refrain from building houses and living inside of them? Should we stop air travel to go to distant places? Should we stop our own progress?
As humanity still takes this leap forward, we should not be asking if it’s good to create a “fake”, virtual world. Perhaps it should be consider as a way for humanity to evolve into one that is more comfortable grappling with more knowledge about the universe, that is fully capable of understanding the limitation of the senses.
And what can we be sure of now? That the best metaverse in terms of perceiving reality and at the same time applying all available technologies is Somnium Space.
Article brought to you by the SOPRG gallery operating in Somnium Space metaverse – on behalf of the gallery – Milan & Gustavo.