Sunday, August 26, 2012

Comment: On the Metaverse

Today, I will write a commentary on a post made by another: the text of Chris M. Collins (aka @fleep on Twitter) on the future of the Metaverse (you can find it here).

This vibrant post was actually amazing.

However, I wanted to had my humble contribution to the debate. Specifically, I have two points that I want to discuss.

- First, Second Life :

My first point is on a phenomenon I see more and more those days: attacks against Second Life. We see more and more of that in blogs of influential people in virtual spaces. More than just criticisms, really attacks, coming clearly from disillusion of what Second Life could be but failed to realize. I would think that Linden Lab should consider seriously this phenomenon (which they are obviously not doing).

However, those attacks are partly unfair.

As a scientist working on cyberbehavior, I find Second Life simply amazing as a ground for research and investigation, not to mention simply exploring the universe of possibilities.
Second Life is not perfect. Agree.
Second Life is way too expensive for the services it offers. Agree.
Second Life did not evolved as fast and as far as the most avid users would love. Agree.
Second Life is not supporting the "communities", nor the individuals. Agree.
Second Life seems to be lacking (or to have lost) a long-term vision, as observed by the relative stabilisation (not to say decay) of the number of inhabitants of Second Life. Agree.
But again, in the context of the rise of the Metaverse, those criticisms are unfair. Second Life is not a perfect environment, nor a philanthropic association. In contrast to Opensim, Second Life is a COMMERCIAL venue: Linden Lab is a company, which exists to make money. So, we can think what we want, the ultimate goal of Linden Lab is to generate profits. Sure, they could generate much more if they would listen a bit what is said in the blogosphere (e.g., the non-assistance to educators, to communities, and so on ...). But still, Second Life has been a real and true pioneer. We all are exploring other platforms, we all are looking further. But forgetting the past, and those who had the ideas, the vision, and the guts to start things is not correct.

- Second, the nature of the Metaverse :

When reading the fascinating post of Chris (and others), we have the feeling that Second Life IS the Metaverse. Some do acknowledge it is not the case, and suggest that the Metaverse is Internet. But the Metaverse IS NOT Internet. It goes way further, and we already see its next signs. The Metaverse won't be a "virtual reality"-based environment, it will be based on augmented reality. Even more, it may well be integrated with human brain. Let me be more specific with a simple example: nowadays, I am almost not doing anymore research in animals, but the few research I am are doing in animal are aiming at developing one day human-machine interfaces. To cure human diseases, ok, but still ... even if the first goal is to cure human disease, obviously it goes in a larger framework which would allow to directly connect the brain to virtual interfaces. Or, if I reword it, to biologically connect humans to what we could call a fully integrated, "true metaverse". And we are far to be the most advanced in that, the research I am doing in this direction of neural interfaces is children babbling compared to what are doing some labs in USA, in Japan, or in Europe.

Finally, if I share the faith and wishes of Chris, I do not share the analysis, nor the feeling that we are not advancing anymore. Science, technology, human knowledge do not advance linearly, but by steps. And, in term of Metaverse, we are in an "accumulating period", accumulating knowledge, new concepts, new technologies, which will make us make a leap soon, further. And the future of the Metaverse is not in Second Life nor in Opensim. It is way, way, further.

But, to be honest, it is with people like Chris, who is obviously leaded by a dream and a vision, that we will go there !