The metaverse: What is it, will it work, and does anyone want it?
Hiro protagonist doesn’t see much promise for his future. Stuck in a dead-end job in a world where traditional money has been supplanted by encrypted alternatives and a few big companies shape things to their own ends, he struggles to make ends meet following a global economic collapse. To escape, he slips on virtual reality goggles to visit a place called the metaverse, where his digital avatar walks the streets of a more interesting, engaging, inclusive world. This vision of a 21st-century reality comes from Snow Crash, a 1992 book by science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. But wind forward to 2022, and one large and powerful company is certainly betting all on Protagonist’s escape route. In October 2021, Facebook rebranded itself as Meta, and founder Mark Zuckerberg set a goal for a billion people worldwide to join its version of the metaverse by the end of the 2020s.