When I first learned of the Metaverse - augmented reality that will integrate human consciousness with infinite virtual potential - my initial reaction was, "but why?" Have we learned nothing from the dystopian film genre? Since the technology is still evolving, it is often described with vague verbiage that teases untapped wealth buried within a wild west fever dream. At first glance, the Amazon Prime show "Peripheral" seems to offer the latest glimpse into how this seamless integration may eventually unfold, but the virtual dreamscape quickly devolves into a time-bending night terror that persists long after the protagonist unplugs from her headset. The blending of emerging technology with science fiction makes untangling the Metaverse's true potential nearly impossible to decipher. In lieu of drawing parallels to "Peripheral" or "Ready Player One," one can look to the framework itself that has already begun to emerge. While the Metaverse itself is still an idea, there are other aspects of Web3 that do exist and are already generating revenue for early pioneers.
"Web3 (also known as Web 3.0) is an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web which incorporates concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics. Some technologists and journalists have contrasted it with Web 2.0, wherein they say data and content are centralized in a small group of companies sometimes referred to as "Big Tech". The term "Web3" was coined in 2014 by Ethereum co-founder Gavin Wood, and the idea gained interest in 2021 from cryptocurrency enthusiasts, large technology companies, and venture capital firms." - Wikipedia
If you are not a digital native, there are plenty of videos on YouTube that explain Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, Non Fungible Tokens and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, but to truly understand these concepts may require a fundamental rewiring of your perception, as well as a more expansive definition of "reality." As an elder millennial, my concept of "reality" was forged in the era of Web1 - of dial-up internet, oversized cell phones and AOL Instant Messenger. Pre-social media, to be considered “real,” objects had to be tangible and exist in three-dimensional space. There were echoes of eighties excess that also resulted in an obsession with materialism. The assumption was that the sum total of experience revolved around a tactile world that we could interact with, but have little influence over. To imagine anything else was a delusion.
It was during this era of the impoverished imagination that the film “What the Bleep Do We Know” was released. The premise of the 2004 sleeper hit was that the field of quantum mechanics could be used to propel mankind into a new age of self-empowerment, by harnessing the power of intention to co-create the reality we experience.
“When you are not looking, there are waves of possibility. When you are looking, there are particles of experience.”
"Quantum superposition implies that a particle can be in two or more places simultaneously."
These new ideas were compelling and forced viewers to question long-held assumptions about the nature of reality, but according to actual quantum physicists, the behavior of particles at the subatomic realm cannot be applied to consciousness. But there does seem to be a loophole, and that would be the screen that you're gazing upon at this very moment. According to Chad Orzel, a contributing writer for Forbes, “at bottom, the entire computer industry is built on quantum mechanics.”
Whether it's your smartphone or laptop, our devices have so many potential functions, and it is human consciousness that determines what shows up on the screen at any given moment. Whether you're interacting as an observer or a creator, every aspect of virtual experiences are the result of human intention and programming. With social media, the concept of superposition no longer sounds like science fiction, with our photos and videos populating multiple feeds simultaneously. So while the discoveries made by quantum physicists may not be directly applicable to human consciousness, the science was essential to the evolution of technology, and technology has profoundly altered everyday life.
When the transition to Web3 is complete, the era of the imagination will have begun, but manifesting one's vision will require a completely new skillset. Take the header image above for example, which I created using a combination of Clo3D (garment), Daz3D (avatar) and Photoshop. In order to successfully create a garment that is wearable by a virtual avatar, I first had to create a virtual pattern and then indicate which patterns edges get sewn together in Clo, mimicking the real-life design process.
It is exponentially more complicated than creating a flat sketch in Illustrator, but opens up a whole new world of possibilities for designers. It means that anyone with this knowledge can create an entire collection without making a single sample, technical designers can adjust the avatar's proportions and reduce the number of fit samples, and DTC brands can use the renderings for product images and virtual try-on. These are the most obvious current applications for the software, and as the Metaverse evolves, it means that this virtual fashion will also be used to adorn personalized avatars.
Through experimentation, I have come to realize that the future of technology will not necessarily be an escape from reality, but a further dismantling of the limitations of time, space and the laws of physics. Businesses and individuals will be forced to adapt, as this new era will disrupt existing revenue streams and create new investment opportunities. The result will be a world that is currently unfathomable, with unforseen consequences, surprising benefits and the potential for a massive redistribution of wealth. The question is not if but when, and only those who are willing to adapt will be ready to meet the challenges of tomorrow.