Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Metaverse

                                    

In 1992, before the Internet reached the form it is today, there was the Metaverse. But the Metaverse - with a visual environment, even - was also many yottabytes ahead of its time. People who entered had avatars to represent themselves - sometimes stock avatars, others times self-designed avatars. Even more, avatars could be controlled directly. In a sense, the Metaverse was a self-made world, created by all its members. Popularity and fame came straight from one's ability to create themselves and their environment as they wish. Those that couldn't, well, they just interacted within the Metaverse. Any cyber traveller would have a fascinating time studying the visual data around, details that would not be possible in reality.

No, there wasn't some super-secret government program from 20 years ago that was just leaked. It's straight from Snow Crash - part cyberpunk in terms of its use of technology, yet satire with its frequent use of humor and absurdities. Not only does it stray slightly from the standard cyberpunk environment of dismal helplessness, but it shows the perspective from typical citizens. What could go wrong if no one has any goal except to have fun and get along socially? Apparently, many absurd things, including pizza chains run by the Mafia, or a gargantuan mass of rafts in the Pacific functioning as a city whose inhabitants drift through life. The social possibilities of the Metaverse may be awesome, but life itself is mediocre, offering nothing beyond more of the same social world there has always been.

But if punk has just one message, it's that a dispassionate life is boring, and a miserable life is empty. Snow Crash may be filled with bland people, the focal characters all forget the status quo and pursuing their interests. It's no surprise that one main character is aptly named "Hiro Protagonist". Satire shows that technology as such is no promise to a diverse life, even if one's entire world can be created inside and outside the Metaverse. However, the Internet is not doomed to be endless status update filled with memes. That is, if there are individuals willing to care about their life beyond immediate surroundings.

In Snow Crash, punk is the essence - whether you opt to call it cyberpunk, or cypherpunk, or simply punk. No matter how boring (as in the case for  or miserable life is, there is an eventual way out if one is self-styled and independently driven.

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