#1172: “Metaversed: See Beyond the Hype” Book Interview with Luis Bravo Martins and Samantha G. Wolfe

There’s a new book about the future potentials of challenges of the Metaverse called “Metaversed: See Beyond the Hype” by Luis Bravo Martins (CMO Kit AR) and Samantha G. Wolfe (Founder of PitchFWD) that is releasing today, February 7th, 2023. It’s an ambitious look at the broad spectrum of technologies behind the Metaverse that’s split up into five chapters with the first three chapters laying out the technological innovations driving a 3D and immersive Internet, with the fourth chapter laying out some of the open challenges, and a final chapter providing advice for preparing for these technological changes.

For me, the book started to really land in the 8th chapter, which does a comprehensive survey of how XR is being applied to a number of specific market contexts including: art and performance, advertising, PR, marketing, retail, gaming, entertainment, sports and fitness, automotive, aviation, aerospace, military, healthcare, hospitality and tourism, architecture and real estate, manufacturing, and finally training and education. We get to hear from experts in each of these areas, and it gives us a grounded sense of what’s already happening today and how it might continue to develop in the future.

The first seven chapters end up listing many different types of technologies that may play a role in the future of the Metaverse, but are also generally absent a specific cultural, economic, or legal context of how these abstract technology architectures are already or may perhaps in the future combine together. It’s this lack of specificity that makes it difficult to me to know how a more fully realized Metaverse will continue to develop, and it ends up feeling really speculative.

As an example, it’s generally very optimistic for how cryptocurrency architectures will play a role in the future of the Metaverse in a very abstract sense, but when I dig into the specifics of how crypto-based land ownership has played out in a deep dive of Cryptovoxels in Voices of VR podcast episode #1117, then I found that just 8% of accounts own over half of the virtual land with the top 20% owning 68% parcels. Decentraland also showed similar disproportionate ownership dynamics that researchers have found these types of “preferential attachment” power law dynamics are generalizable across the Ethereum and Bitcoin networks, and likely across all of the cryptocurrency markets. It’s one thing to talk about how crypto-based technology architectures in future abstract implementations, but the realities are often a lot different when applied to a specific cultural, legal, and economic context.

This is why I felt like the book started to really land in chapter 8 when looking at these technologies through the lens of these more specific market contexts, because otherwise is started to shift into a more boundless optimism and at times technological solutionism. Both Wolfe and Martins held back some of the more skeptical challenges until the fourth section in chapters 9-12, but this created a fragmented experience for me wanting to see some of these more cautionary perspectives more seamlessly woven into the first part of the book. By the end of reading the entire book, I found that many of my objections were addressed in these later chapters, but there’s still an overall tone of boundless optimism with a number of applications of technological solutionism that are generally unquestioned.

I was able to chat with both Wolfe and Martins on February 3rd in order to dig into journey and process of writing this book, and chat about some of my hesitations with them in real-time. Overall, it’s an ambitious effort that manages to cover an impressive amount of material, and I feel like it’s the strongest when they tether themselves to existing narrow contexts and share insights for a broad range of subject matter experts. Ultimately, the Metaverse is still a speculative aspiration that makes it difficult to completely sift through all the hype as it still largely lives in the realm of potential where no one knows how these cultural, legal, economic, and technological domains will fuse together. Time will help to discern what aspects are ultimately hype and what’s grounded in pragmatic realism, and Martins and Wolfe have provided us with an expansive survey of possibilities that will left up to the reader to navigate and the broader XR community to build this future they imagine.

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Music: Fatality