Moments before announcing Facebook is changing its name to "Meta" and detailing the company's “metaverse” plans during a Facebook Connect presentation on Thursday, Mark Zuckerberg said “some people will say this isn’t a time to focus on the future,” referring to the massive, ongoing scandal plaguing his company relating to the myriad ways Facebook has made the world worse. “I believe technology can make our lives better. The future will be built by those willing to stand up and say this is the future we want.”
The future Zuckerberg went on to pitch was a delusional fever dream cribbed most obviously from dystopian science fiction and misleading or outright fabricated virtual reality product pitches from the last decade. In the “metaverse—an “embodied” internet where we are, basically, inside the computer via a headset or other reality-modifying technology of some sort—rather than hang out with people in real life you could meet up with them as Casper-the-friendly-ghost-style holograms to do historically fun and stimulating activities such as attend concerts or play basketball.
These presentations had the familiar vibe of an overly-ambitious video game reveal. In the concert example, one friend is present in reality while the other is not; the friend joins the concert inexplicably as a blue Force ghost and the pair grab "tickets" to a "metaverse afterparty" in which NFTs are for sale. This theme continued throughout as people wandered seamlessly into virtual fantasy worlds over and over, and the presentation lacked any sense of what this so-called metaverse would look like in practice. It was flagrantly abstract, showing more the dream of the metaverse than anything resembling reality. We're told that two real people, filmed with real cameras on real couches, are in a "digital space." When Zuckerberg reveals that Facebook is working on augmented reality glasses that could make any of this even a possibility, it doesn't show any actual glasses, only "simulated footage" of augmented reality.
“We have to fit holograms displays, projectors, batteries, radios, custom silicon chips, cameras, speakers, sensors to map the world around you, and more, into glasses that are five millimeters thick," Zuckerberg says.
Whatever the metaverse does look like, it is virtually guaranteed to not look or feel anything like what Facebook showed on Thursday.
While Zuckerberg was pitching this Black Mirror-ass future he claims we all want, it is worth checking out what was happening on Facebook’s own platform at the present.
While about 19,000 people were watching Zuckerberg cosplay as James Halliday, the fictional metaverse creator from the bleak Ready Player One series on Facebook’s Live platform. Facebook’s algorithm, meanwhile, was recommending that users also watch a Latina woman dominate and lick the stomach of a little person (11,000 viewers); it also recommended people watch a video game livestream pitched with a thumbnail of two CGI people fucking (4,000 viewers).
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to watch either of those things, of course. But the juxtaposition between Zuckerberg’s pitch of living, working, playing, and generally existing in a utopian, fake, Facebook-developed virtual world loaded with fun and friendly people, concerts where you can always be in the front row, seamless mixed-reality basketball games where you feel like you are actually playing basketball, and kicksass, uhh, NFTs you can use to modify your metaverse avatar are a far cry from the disinformation, conspiracy theories, genocide-related, self-esteem destroying, spam, and general garbage content that exists on the platforms Facebook has already built.
There is no universe, meta-or-otherwise, in which people will not spread conspiracy theories, hate speech, and make threats online. In the metaverse, they will try to show each other their dicks, though it’s worth noting right now that Facebook’s current metaverse avatars do not have bodies that exist below their waists.
Zuckerberg repeatedly said Facebook alone won't build the metaverse. But the metaverse Facebook is building will be and has been built with Facebook developers to run on Facebook servers using Facebook hardware, which are connected to Facebook accounts.
About halfway through the delusional fever dream that was Facebook’s biggest product announcement of all time, Mark Zuckerberg said that “the last few years have been humbling for me and our company in a lot of ways,” as Facebook has nominally had to grapple with the harm it’s done to this world. It’s hard to find anything “humble” about a proposal to fundamentally remake human existence using technology that currently does not and may not ever exist and that few are currently clamoring for. But Facebook's problems are too numerous to list, and so he is pitching products that don't exist for a reality that does not exist in a desperate attempt to change the narrative as it exists in reality, where we all actually live.