There are two things in life which are certain, death and taxes. But what if I told you this aphorism was partially false? Would you believe me? What if I told you that taxes don’t have to be certain? Would that tickle your imagination a bit? So many instances could lead to the demise of tax collection as a national collective. Obviously, the sheer number of individual tax evaders is already prevalent and it’s a phenomenon I can’t possibly quantify. But as a collective, it’s absolutely not set in stone. A government coup or the refabricating of our national economic model are two of many scenarios where taxes can pivot from certainty to history.
The same can’t be said for death. Death is without a doubt inevitable. I sometimes fantasize about the idea of being a principal scientist in search of discovering a revolutionary solution to the shortening of our telomeres, hoping that one day we could extend the process of aging. After basking in fantasy for a quick minute, I always immediately crash back to earth pondering at the realization that death is sadly certain for all species on earth. But you see how the fragile mind works. Fearful of death, my mind is constantly ready to formulate any absurd scenario where the one thing it fears more becomes non existent.
Which brings me to my main point: The death of all social constructs as we once knew it.
Depending on your beliefs, the world has been around 4.5 billion years. Out of those 4.5 billions years, sentient life has been around for 6 million years while the modern form of human life evolved and thrived for as much as 200,000 years. Now, if you are a Christian and do not believe in evolution, the modern form of human life evolved and thrived approximately 6000 years ago. Now, whether you believe in 200,000 or 6000 years doesn’t really effect this piece because, both are tangible evidence to make my case. For 200,000 years or 6000 years, humans have formed societies to add meaning and structure to an unforgiving world desperately trying to axe them off the face of existence. Within said structure were roles created to ensure the survival and advancement of said society. Individuals had a purpose (innately discovered or implanted by societal hierarchy) to strive toward. Through those remarkable years, we discovered incredible technologies through the dedicated work of scientists and engineers. Incredible technologies with which we continue to reap the benefits in the year 2021. To name a few: energy sources, vehicles of transportation, modern agriculture, modern medicine, computers, Web1, Web2, Web3 and film….ect. Those years also gave rise to spectacular artists, poets, writers, filmmakers and historians. Within the same degree of discovery also rose horrific discoveries and vile leaders who alone destroyed or almost succeeded at destroying established societies.
Societies within every culture, whether we accept it or not, play a vital role in the life of all species roaming the earth. From the day we are born to the day we die. Human interaction, conversations, debates, intimacy, war and a plethora of other things molds us into the person we stare in the mirror daily, good or bad. And within those interactions are the technologies which facilitate our lives through efficiency. With efficiency, technological advancements have increased exponentially giving way to a new society, one drastically and far removed from those of our predecessors. In this new society, we are granted the biggest gift of all – time. More time to spend with family, friends and loved ones, right? Well, not quite right. Study shows that as a collective, we spend about 59 hours a week of our free time on the internet. 80% of internet users are mobile users which signals the beginning of the “cyborg” lifestyle Tesla CEO, Elon Musk dubbed a year ago. In the United States, the average time spent on social media is clocked at 2 hours and 41 minutes with projections eyeing an increase. Surpassing the U.S is the Philippines with a whopping 4 hours.
Through the revolutionary technology of social media, we were given the avenue to transport our real world experiences and sense of belonging, pride and dignity to a world dictated by algorithms which we knew very little of and their impact on the human psyche until recently. CEO’s of these mega tech corporations have gone on record to admit the unforeseen impact of their creation and have swayed the public to indulge wisely. But, how can one indulge wisely when one’s needs of love, belonging and affirmation have been hijacked by this technology and are served back to them on an artificially bloated platter. The one thing one fears most in real life can suddenly go away for a brief moment once on social media at the touch of a digital button.
And if that wasn’t enough for the fickle minded brain of the consumer , who former Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg errogantly described as “dumb fucks”, recently introduced to market was a mind shattering technology called the Metaverse. A place where you can live out your wildest dreams and fantasies. A place where business meetings, shopping, dating, learning can be done through the usage of 3 dimensional avatars in 3 dimensional space. Providing even more efficiency, you may never have to leave the comfort of your home except for emergencies. Why would you when you can just put on Virtual Reality Headsets, gloves and become your true self digitally. Your biggest fears become a thing of the past and your worries, well possibly non-existent. As of this moment, virtual lands and roads are being sold for millions of dollars. Conglomerates such as Nike who are aware of the shift in the air are buying in early to secure their seat at the big table in the Metaverse.
As you read this piece, you’re without a doubt convincing yourself that this 3 dimensional society will never come to fruition like they want it to. And to that, I say think again. Prior to consumer culture, we had a culture of producers. How did they get us onboard? Prior to social media culture, we all had tangible social lives? How did they get us onboard? What we have to ask ourselves is, what are we afraid of so much that we are willing to forsake our real selves for something uber artificial? What are we afraid of that makes us so vulnerable and susceptible to these drastic changes? What are we afraid of that we are willing to destroy the very fabric of what’s decently left of our current society for the Metaverse?
As you ponder over these questions, I’ll leave you with two excerpts. I can’t quite remember the species they used for the first excerpt since a large chunk of time as elapsed since I last read about these experiments, so I’m going to try my best to summarize:
- A group of scientists once conducted an experiment in the hopes of understanding the importance of a society. They ran two tests. One had a colony of larvae in close proximity and the other had a colony of isolated larvae. The species which hatched from close proximity over time grew to build a strong society. A society of unity which benefited all surviving members of that species. The species which hatched from the isolated colony over time grew and demonstrated an astounding number of members who sadly became cannibals.
- A brilliant scientist intrigued with studying the fabric of society built a utopian world for a large group of mice. This experiment stretched out for years. They had unlimited food, unlimited water and more. Things begin smoothly take shape for the colony of mice. Unfortunately, as the years went on, the brilliant scientist was met with grave disappointment. War broke out within the colony. The mice had stopped mating, some even stopped taking care of themselves. Instead, a handful turned to cannibalism. Others just refused to eat and simply died of starvation even with the excess of food at their disposal. Soon enough, the colony self-destructed.
Side note: Why did I write this article?
Never have I been one to shy away from appreciating and admiring technological advances. Heck, I even go as far as trying to convince others to adopt those innovative ideas in their day to day lives. Innovations such as Peer to Peer trading like crypto, transparent ledgers facilitated by the blockchain, NFT’s, EV’s, Neuralink and many more all have potential. When I analyze them, I tend to weigh more positives on the scale of utility. Yet, after researching and reading about the topic of the Metaverse, I got a sense that there’s an outcry from a small community. An outcry possibly stemming from the foreseeable loss of freedom of speech, freedom of privacy, freedom of choice…ect. I for once see the validity in their outcry no matter how much I admire the technological advances aforementioned.
With Insta’s 2bil+ active users and TikToks 2bil+ active users who combine spend about 6+ hours a day on these apps, it can be a scary thought to think what the Metaverse will provide to these users if it delivers on all its promises.