Opinion / Source: TNR
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, said in October that his corporation will not only change its name to Meta, but also expand its objectives to include becoming a virtual reality community where people could work, play, spend, and live. In announcing the revelation, Zuckerberg remarked, “I believe the metaverse is the next chapter for the internet.” “And it’s the next chapter for our company, too.”
To some extent, this is how the apex-predator types in Silicon Valley today talk about things. They feel that the Web3 fripperies that attract them—think of the speculative-to-grifty froth at the junction of cryptocurrencies and NFTs and virtual reality and other such apparently decentralised, purportedly liberative online aspirations—must therefore represent the future of something or other.
And, to some extent, the enormous power and wealth bestowed upon them as a result of their success on this version of the internet ensures that they’re at least partially correct, if only because something with that much clout and cash behind it is unlikely to fade away simply because ordinary people don’t find it appealing. In situations like this, a little brutal force applied by a group of sufficiently powerful brutes can go a long way.
But it’s worth noting that the metaverse as envisioned by Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a particularly compelling concept, and that’s only partly because it’s Zuckerberg himself who’s explaining it.
The concept that Zuckerberg presented in a long and pyrotechnically cringy presentation appears to be completely devoid of any understanding of what people want to do in their nonvirtual lives, let alone in their virtual ones. In his newsletter, Max Read stated, “This is the Facebook’metaverse.”
“You enter the Facebook-hosted V.R. metaverse via goggles created by Facebook subsidiary Oculus, where you may meet your pals at a V.R. bar, play V.R. board games, go to V.R. meetings for your V.R. job, and get V.R. furloughed by your V.R. boss and a V.R. human-resources representative.”
To be fair, Zuckerberg makes it plain in his presentation that users of the metaverse will be able to dress up as a cartoon bear while doing all of these things if they so desire.
This is the underlying sneer in everything Zuckerberg does at this point in his presidency. Here’s a man who made an unconscionably large fortune off the worst website ever created, a website that has wrecked people’s brains on a scale previously unimaginable in human history, and here’s his insanely wacky vision for the future—and everyone will just have to put up with it.
The underlying mediocrity of it all—the lack of vision, the lack of any moral sense or guilt, the inability and unwillingness not just to correct but simply to reckon with the dangerous and ungovernable monstrosity he’s created—is what feels both most terrible and most of this moment.
Realizing that you are subject to the whims of an amoral and incurious capitalist acting as a visionary optimist is humiliating and enraging. It’s doubly humiliating when the all-seeing, all-knowing individual in question is a faint, lifeless void.
It seems vital to point out that Facebook isn’t only a poor website; it’s also a firm that has demonstrated a willingness to do the wrong thing whenever and wherever it can.
As a company obsessed with growth and its own set of engagement standards, Facebook makes decisions based on the fact that they increase critical figures. Because doing business in Vietnam increases revenue, it permits the Vietnamese government to filter dissidents on the site.
So when Zuckerberg speaks bizarre lies in front of the US Senate about all of this—when he claims that 94 percent of hate speech was removed from the site before anyone saw it, despite internal data showing that just 5 percent was removed at all—because it’s he thinks he can get away with it.
Even petty and fraudulent titans like Zuckerberg can seem permanent in a nation that functions as poorly and unaccountably as the United States; it is part of the citizenry’s broader terms of service that the accumulated consequences of their failures occasionally come rushing downhill at us like an unpleasantly fragrant mudslide.
After all of this, it’s impossible to see Mark Zuckerberg’s invitation to join him in a parallel reality as anything other than an insult from that vantage point. Take a look at what he did to this one.
Opinion / Source: TNR