Thoughts on Meta and the Metaverse

"So the metaverse will look like this right?"  "Yep"
      People have been asking me what my view on Facebook.. er Meta and the VR metaverse is.  That is
sadly like someone saying "hey Bryn you are a big nerd what do you think?"  Anyway.  So this is what I think about one part since you kind of asked.

     I have to build up to what I think by kind of showing where we are as I see it.  Right now we have massive companies making record profits using algorithms to make money through advertising.   In 2020, about 97.9 percent of Facebook's global revenue was generated from advertising,  Facebook ad revenue stood at close to 86 billion U.S. dollars.   Advertising accounts for the majority of Google's revenue, which amounted to a total of 256.73 billion U.S. dollars in 2021.  Now lets look at how that is done.  

     When someone puts an ad in a newspaper they are hoping someone, who wants to buy their product, is  reading the paper and sees the ad.. then spends the time to call or visit.  They cant click the ad seeing as its paper, and they may also decide not to read the paper that day or just simply not notice it etc.   Same with if someone paid to put paper fliers in mailboxes.   Most of us toss them right in the trash and if not the person who paid for that method of advertising has to hope that the home which got it really does want their vacuum cleaner or has a lawn to cut despite living in an apartment building.  It is hope for the best advertising.  It reminds me a bit of nature where schools of tadpoles  swim about with many being eaten by predators, but through sheer numbers some survive or when dandelions fill the sky with seeds with many going in the lake or on the pavement, but enough find soil.

     With Facebook and Google they watch everything you do and their goal is to put an advertisement in your view for something you actually want.   And they pay attention to everything you do so they have a good idea of what you are interested in... even if its not healthy.  Like say... fucked up conspiracy theories.  So they keep track of the content you read, things you “like”, click and even hover your mouse pointer over without clicking.

     Once I was talking in my house and said to someone that I wanted a ironing board that fits on the back of a door so its not in the way.  Kind of obscure thing, but I got an advertisement for an ironing board that fits on the back of a door a short time later, and that was just too much of a coincidence.  I am guessing my Google nest was listening and told Facebook or something like that..actually they probably don't play together.  Then again that could just be my own  conspiracy theory I guess.  Anyway somehow I got an advert for the thing I wanted.. and so the company that makes ironing boards that fit on the back of doors which I will now shorten and call IBTFOBODoors,  so these people pay Facebook / Google to put the advert on the page to someone who actually wants it. They don't pay someone else to put fliers in mailboxes hoping someone wants a IBTFOBODoors, because it is too random.  Facebook and Google get paid if I click that advert and so they want to make it as likely as possible that I do click it.   They would say they are giving us what we want and removing the chance.

    One of the things they would like to do is change our behaviour ever so slightly.  Changing behaviour adds up to a huge amount of money.  

So for example.

     Michael Jordan, when he entered the NBA was looking for an athlete endorsement deal with Adidas. Nike was a long-distance running shoes company. They offered Jordan a deal far more lucrative than the bigger sports apparel companies such as Adidas.  Nike created the Air Jordan in red, black and white but the NBA only allowed for white sneakers.  They fined Jordan $5,000 every time he wore them but Nike paid the fines and the shoes stood out from all the rest.   The hope was to sell $3 million of the shoes in the first year and they instead sold $126 million.  They also became the mainstream shoe and the most recognized brand in the world at the time. 

This was from changing behaviour.  

 Look up the Diamonds are forever slogan and how it changed behaviour.

     But it is hard to change behaviour because you can not control everything around people.  For every Pepsi ad you see there is a Coke.  Because there is competition.

     Well unless... you created a virtual world where people used VR headsets to be inside that world and saw only what was paid for and permitted to see in this 360 degree place.  Not a desktop where you eyes can wander off the screen to real life.. but a place where you are inside and all the tricks are used to keep you from logging out.  If, in this virtual world, a brand paid a huge sum to be the exclusive visual representation they can change behaviour, but more importantly, the owners of the virtual space can do something exponentially more powerful... they can change our reality.  Because really the next step after changing behaviour is changing reality.   When you are in a virtual world, especially using VR headsets, you are fully embedded in that world.  You only see that world and everything in it influences you, and all things absent have no say.   And despite being a virtual world it feels like reality to many.  If you are going to work there it is reality.  If you are making purchases that come to your physical home then it is reality.  Even if you are purchasing virtual goods it is reality because you are purchasing experiences much like paying to hear music at a concert.  You are not holding the music in your hand at the end but rather it is ephemeral.   Will people want this type of reality? Well sure we do it all the time.   When you watch a movie you sit on a couch in reality and watch a movie with events that are not reality.  "Han shot first" is the call of those who care about non reality.

     If we spend a great deal of time inhabiting a virtual world created by a company, then they can shape and control how we see in that world far more than they can in the "real" world.  If we think about what percentage of the real world is controlled by Human marketing and promotion we might say.. hmm ok in the countryside?  very little well under 1%  Tthen in the City we may be tempted to say a very high number, but it would likely be much less than we think.  For example advertising generally is done in shop windows, billboards and so on but the houses, alleyways, the sidewalk and trees.. the sky... ok except when those planes fly by with long streamers.   You can just imagine the thought process "hey the last untapped advertising space is the sky! lets fly planes up there with signs!".   Yeah didn't work sorry guys.   So in the end, with the amount of power you get when you can advertise unrestricted and everywhere, and if a single entity controls this power then all will depend on its moral compass or enforced moral compass.

     Do I think it will work?  I think companies will make the same mistakes as before.  Giant companies will throw huge amounts of money into it only to discover that nobody wants a Ford truck in a virtual world nor Nike shoes.  They want a flying car that shoots unicorns.  When a region can hold 50,000 people at once it will become our reality.


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