In one of Meta first video ads After switching brands from Facebook, four people in an art gallery fixate on a painting of a tiger killing a buffalo. The bison is under control: bonnets on the grass, he bows in deference to his predator. The tiger’s narrow pupils move to look at its viewers. In the next shot, the tiger’s tail begins to wag and the long grass rustles – the painting comes to life. The four viewers are immersed in the surrounding jungle which gains an extra dimension, full of dancing rainforest animals. Friends and foes, prey and predators all dance together to a stuttering house rhythm, of all creeds and all colors, et cetera, until nausea. It’s a meaningless ad, more chilling in tone than compelling in messaging. In fact, the only text appears at the end of the commercial, posed on the faces of the tiger and the buffalo, now bumping together in mechanical coexistence. It reads: “It’s going to be fun.” Beneath the white letters, the two beasts cast furtive glances at each other.
From this ad, it’s hard to make assumptions about the trendy metaverse, defined by Oxford Languages as “a virtual reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users. “. Champion by Mark Zuckerberg himself as “the next chapter of the Internet”, the Metaverse is touted by its many Silicon Valley supporters as an opportunity to engage in social and material interaction in a 3D space simulating reality, with the aim to revolutionize human connection. Coincidentally, Zuckerberg used verbiage before Congress during Facebook’s hearing regarding their alleged interference in the 2016 election.
It should be noted that the current design of the Metaverse is still a fantasy, not yet realized beyond small-scale demos and advertisements. The degree of enterprise collaboration needed to design such an immersive and continuous world is not there yet. And yet, the greatest technology in the world companies do the unthinkable — collaborate — in pursuit of this shared vision. The appearance of the metaverse, in this context, seems inevitable – out of the hands of the general public but still championed by entrepreneurs and massive corporations like its technological predecessor, the Internet. But whereas early proponents of the Internet sought to revolutionize humanity’s interaction with information, the Metaverse goes further, daring to disrupt humanity’s interaction with its spatial environment and, more ambitiously, with each other. .
The historical relationship between technological advances like the appearance of the Metaverse and public opinion seems to be characterized by initial resistance, followed by eventual acquiescence. Many consumers had doubts about the Internet in its early days, and now its pervasive influence is central to daily life in much of America. A pattern is beginning to emerge here: Silicon Valley’s tech giants make decisions for the general public, who, without fail, first protest and then embrace the new wave of tech revolution with stifled gratitude.
This trend is the genius of big tech in the information age – a persuasive shroud of benevolence veils a well-oiled profit machine. Critics of “technological improvement” are immediately labeled as ungrateful – biting the hand that feeds them their latest smartphone or fastest delivery app. Human identity is, therefore, gradually sucked into a system that details and monetizes social interaction. Zuckerberg’s promise for the Metaverse is a system that meets the complex, sensory needs of a whole person. In reality, Zuckerberg’s metaverse could manifest itself in a dangerously tidy second world, where everything from protest to the natural environment to personal identity could be based on profit.
Meta’s ad featuring dancing jungle animals is particularly disturbing in this context; nature, in the real world, seems to be the one thing the metaverse can’t recreate. Perhaps society is compensating in advance, co-opting the vibrant, unorganized nature of a jungle to commercialize what will likely be a meticulously curated second world.
Perhaps Meta’s advertisement in the jungle is a work of evil genius. As the permafrost melts and the sea rises, it’s a beautiful image to come back to: criss-crossing flamingos, spinning snakes, only accessible via a $300 Oculus VR headset. It manages to emphasize the fun of the Metaverse, no matter what. Among the buzzwords and flashy colors designed specifically for startups, it’s easy to forget that Meta and his collaborators may have selfish ulterior motives in the development of this second world.