Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Building an accessible Metaverse

I've been thinking for months now about the evolution of the world wide web.  What do you find there?  What do you want to find?  What would you like to find, and how would you ideally navigate the evolving web?

I think the web is evolving toward providing us with satisfying access to the real human metaverse.  I am working with a growing team of people to take a small step forward in this evolution that we hope will allow you to better navigate and use it to enrich your life, give it more meaning, and lasting significance.  More on that later.

"Wait a minute", you say, "I understood real and human, but I had to look up metaverse. A metaverse is a computer-generated environment within which users can interact with one another and their surroundings, a virtual world like Second Life.  What do you mean by 'real human metaverse'?"  

Glad you asked.  :)  First: metaverse.  I think we should give the word another meaning: "meta-universe", and specifically, the human inhabited one(s?).  I'd like to borrow metaverse to mean the intangible cloud of human meanings/attribute associations/stories floating invisibly about the people, places, and things in our real world.  We can imagine (actually, do imagine) that this already does exist, intangibly, above (meta-) the human universe. In fact, it is impossible for a person to experience the world without this. 

You've likely had a similar thought.  For example, take the home where you now live. Likely other people have lived in that home before you, or if not, others carried out scenes from their lives on that same spot before it was built upon.  Many significant moments occurred there you know nothing of yet, in a sense, those events exist in the air around you as you go about your business.  To the degree they can be said to exist, those events exist in the minds of the people who actually experienced them alone or with others (at what is now your home location). 

In a similar sense, those events exist also in the minds of (still) others who've received the story of what happened there.  If they have not been recorded and shared and all the people who experienced or heard about those events die, those events are lost from memory. Even unremembered, they still 'exist' in a sense: as causes, somewhere back in the long chain of cause and effect that gives rise to current people, place and thing circumstances.  

In your city centre the real human metaverse 'air' is dense with intangible but real-to-us associations attached to objects, other people and places. These are there in the present, stretching far back in time. These stretch forward in time too, insofar as people have made plans for the future connected to other people, places and things.

Across from my favourite coffee shop is an old cinema that a few years ago was reborn as a live music venue. Right now associated with it are tickets for sales and special offers, plans on many dates for bands to play, and people that are planning with each other to attend them. Right now associated with it are stories of first meetings leading to marriage, deaths and injuries, unforgettable shows, career starts and ends, perhaps new social or business ideas that were born there. For all I know a First Nations village was here, and US rum runners met their Seagram contacts there. Perhaps a city permit has been let to knock the building down and a new building has been designed for the spot. All I see is an edifice with sign. In a fully developed web expression of the metaverse, I could see, interact and transact in regard to any of this others *allowed me to*, if I set my filters to see it.

Daily pouring onto the web are the thoughts, observations and experiences of people, about each other and about places and things over time. About intangible things like ideas, too .  This is all meta-universe or metaverse information. We have begun to associate this people and topic information with places using web mapping services, and by using social web platforms, with the social graph. (Particularly Facebook, which has become the predominant way North Americans at least arrive at pages on the web). We have begun to access this information while we walk about using augmented reality applications on newer smart phones.

Today we all are building toward a web version of the metaverse, although our ability to represent it, learn from it, search it, filter it and interact in and with it is still just beginning. I believe this intangible world inter-penetrating the physical domain literally encompasses and explains all that we value.


Neil LaChapelle said...

I like this metaphor much better than the metaphor of the internet as some kind of emergent nervous system or brain for the planet.

It is possible, I guess, if an "internet of things" is created, where a lot of devices do things automatically, based on trigger-messages from other machines, and various web processes are created to automatically coordinate this, that the internet might become brain-like.

However, the web uses that become really *huge* are always ones that enable and enrich human communication and sharing in some way. Sharing is the killer app. So viewing the internet as a tool that will support the emergence of a more explicit human metaverse makes a lot of sense. The goals and aims that shape the web are human goals - not computational ones, and success in web business depends on always keeping that in mind, wouldn't you agree?

Darleen said...

Well ... the suggestion that all previous events are recorded - is rather frightening to me. Is that big brother like?

Now it might be nice to know about such things as household appliances when was the furnace purchased, how much did it cost, what issues were ever had with it - which is simply documentation. BUT, I don't want all my interactions in that home available for anyone else to 'tap into' - that is just spooky.

Or are you thinking that HUMAN interactions would be automatic? Lets hope not :)

I agree with Neil that the SHARING application of the web, and making true human connections with people world wide as the HUMAN aspect are more useful to humans.

David L. de Weerdt said...

Darlene, for the emerging web version of the metaverse to work, it will have to mirror the way the human metaverse works. We don't make all our history available to everyone, do we? If the web version of metaverse does not allow us to 1) restrict sharing our information just exactly as we would like and 2) to filter out what other people share so we only see what we are interested in, then it will just be a shadow of what it could be.

David L. de Weerdt said...

Neil, I agree! Though I think the Internet of Things 'web as machine' succeeds also as it will ultimately be driven by serving real human needs.