What is tomorrow’s place in society for metaverses?

Revolution or knife in the water? More than a year ago, the Facebook group changed its name to Meta. The goal? Demonstrate the firm’s willingness to invest massively in the development of its metaverse. However, if Mark Zuckerberg’s designs have contributed greatly to the term’s media coverage, the question-and-answer around these new digital spaces goes beyond the success or otherwise of the Californian platform. Indeed, the increasing gravity of the physical dematerialization of interaction promised by mixed reality (XR for augmented reality) is countered by the carbon emissions of digital technology, which raises questions. “We estimate that a large metaverse, with as many users as a platform like Netflix, would spread the equivalent of 88,000 daily commutes from Paris to New York.”explains Max Mollon, who supervised the research project.

To carry out this research, the team relied on the computing power of quantum computing to predict what France will look like in 2050. Based on “virtual archives” such as advertisements, government announcements, and even emails, three central assumptions emerge from their work.

“XR appears to be a way to overcome the fossil fuel shortage”

Nothing is lost, everything is changed. This is the lesson we can draw from the research team’s first projection. This reality describes a world that runs its course and maintains the same consumption patterns as today. “In this hypothesis, XR is seen as a way to reduce fossil fuel scarcity and the government subsidizes citizens to invest more and more in the metaverse”, explains one of the students working on the project. On the urban development side, shops have all but abandoned their physical outlets in the city for many social housing units. If the housing crisis seems to have been solved with the advent of the metaverse, humanity must deal with the scarcity of food supplies, hence the development of food printers. These work with cartridges that are supposed to reproduce “natural” foods.

The second prediction posits a world that exports all CO2-generating activities to the metaverse. “It’s a bet on the future made possible by technological advances (XR, metaverse)”, another participant of the project explains. In this forecast, Data consumption is estimated to increase significantly, as evidenced by the advertisement of an 8G mobile plan of 500 Tera per month (five thousand times more than our current plans). In fact, we find in this hypothesis a paradoxical society, on the one hand with the carbon burden of completely exploded digital technology, and on the other with the application of numerous laws regulating CO2 emissions. In this projection, where augmented reality enables customization, standardization assumes itself as the norm of production. We find an Ikea ad with the most neutral furniture possible and the patterns available with XR.

A large metaverse assumes we support its energy consumption

Finally, the research team presents a final model of what our society might look like in the future. It is no longer about the sustainability of our lifestyle. Conflicts, migrations and mass famines: global warming has turned everything upside down. To cope with these changes, humanity has been forced to combine some of its consumer goods and is turning more and more to low technologies, these soft technologies whose efficiency is related to the cost of production. From the digital point of view, citizens had to review their habits here as well. The latter can now only access low-speed internet, which weighs less, leaving the state with a monopoly on high-speed internet access. One way to infer it is that the development of a massive metaverse implies that we can support its energy consumption. Everyone has their own opinion on the matter.

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