If you were to ask a group of technical experts about their predictions for the future of the novel metaverse blockchain, you would most likely receive responses that varied from person to person.
As development moves forward, users’ excitement about the potential benefits of the Metaverse technology continues to grow alongside it. Many people believe that it will meet its objectives by the year 2040. On the other hand, almost the same number of people harbor skepticism. In this section, we will look into what factors are at play in this fascinating argument, as well as hear the opinions of industry professionals themselves.
Elon University and Pew Research were responsible for collecting the responses of approximately 624 technology professionals and industry insiders in a poll that was not entirely formal. These experts included researchers, activists, corporate and policy leaders, researchers, developers and pioneers in the technological sector. All participants were asked to provide their predictions on the course that the Metaverse would take and the function it will fulfill by the year 2040.
The Metaverse is an online and virtual world in which human avatars interact with one another through various activities such as playing games, buying and selling items, participating in events geared toward people with similar interests, or simply acting as an audience for an event of their choosing. Many people think of the Metaverse technology as an extension of the internet, in which users can now connect with one another not only through text, images, or videos but also through their virtual personas, which are referred to as avatars.
This mode of communication brought with it the necessity of inventing a currency for use in the digital realm so that people could shop, buy tickets, or collect a variety of items. As a result, a variety of kinds of digital currency, including bitcoins, cryptocurrencies, and others, came into being.
Although a portion of the Metaverse can be accessed through a person’s computer by logging into the virtual world, which will result in the creation of a person’s virtual avatar, additional hardware, such as a virtual reality (VR) headset, may be required to fully immerse oneself in other parts of the Metaverse. Consequently, an advanced version of the Metaverse comprises all the components listed above, including cryptocurrencies, metaverse blockchain, metaverse wallet, bitcoins, virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and, metaverse learning.
According to a research published by McKinsey, “the metaverse, like many other advancements, is veiled in mysticism and skepticism.” Many people think that the Metaverse technology will usher in a revolutionary new era that will completely alter the ways in which we work, shop, socialize, and play. Some people are more dubious and view virtual reality as little more than a hype-fueled craze that caters to gamers and celebrities.
Metaverse In 2040
Our daily routines will become increasingly dependent on the Metaverse.
There will be significant contributions to the Metaverse from several large tech corporations by the year 2040. People of all ages and backgrounds will be drawn to the Metaverse because of its attraction across all age groups. The Metaverse and its hardware components are expected to be used as frequently as the internet and cellphones are now by the typical person.
In 2040, the average person will have the following:
- Realistic 3D avatar with many pre-set costumes and thousands of distinct wardrobe items to choose from
- Metaverse-optimized 3D virtual work environment with a custom arrangement of apps adapted for use in the metaverse 3D virtual living space with portals to their bookmarked virtual work.
Virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphones, smartwatches, and other mobile devices, as well as a wide variety of previously unconnected apps, might all be used to access digital assets. It’s possible for us to utilize our own avatars in a wide range of video games, for example, if the ability is made available by game studios.
The Metaverse may contain a wide range of virtual worlds, each with a specific purpose beyond simple amusement. For example, virtual keynote addresses and markets for purchasing both virtual and physical goods could be used in the fields of health and education.
Ads would undoubtedly play a significant part in the Metaverse, for better or worse.
The metadata from those virtual worlds could be used to anticipate what goods individuals might wish to buy that suit the same themes as the virtual worlds they visit. In addition, we could deploy user-generated holograms overlaid in most large cities and institutions to enable navigation, evaluations and 3d animations of historical events.
Brain-Computer Interfaces May Eventually Become Standard
Ray Kurzweil, a renowned futurist and technologist, predicted that we would be able to start connecting the human neocortex to the cloud around the middle of the 2030s.
It’s possible that this forecast will be realized by the year 2040. It is possible that brain-computer interfaces will have substantially improved by the year 2030, and they will be widely applicable to various day-to-day activities. In addition, they may develop into standard accessories for virtual reality headsets, such as pricey VR helmets that provide full-immersion VR experiences. In addition, some brain-computer interfaces might be wholly implanted for therapeutic reasons.
People are able to use brain computer interfaces to manipulate items in video games and virtual environments with high acceptable precision. This can be done for the purpose of providing people with entertainment.
Large video game studios may start using this technology into their games at some point in the near future. For instance, the capability to manipulate things with one’s thoughts would be of particular use in a Star Wars game in which the player assumes the role of a Jedi or Sith who is endowed with force skills. And in a video game based on the Matrix in which you take on the role of The One.
Brain-computer interfaces, on the other hand, have the potential to have the most significant impact in terms of helping people who have suffered injuries to their spinal cords. Through the use of these interfaces, patients may regain control of their motor functions as well as their senses.
Are experts optimistic about the Metaverse’s future?
At this point in time, the Metaverse is composed of XR settings that offer a certain degree of immersion and allow for human interaction with automated entities. While some are simple applications for day-to-day use, others incorporate more intense subject matter, such as gaming or fantasy.
Each of the 624 technology innovators, developers, and business and policy leaders that participated in the survey conducted by Pew Research provided open-ended responses to the questions concerning the trajectory and influence of the Metaverse by the year 2040.
Those who advocate for extended reality (XR) and the development of immersive 3D applications believe that they will benefit many facets of society, including gaming, healthcare, education, and entertainment. Despite this, there is a growing level of anxiety regarding the ramifications of digital technology concerning health, safety, security, and privacy, as well as the economy.
According to the findings of the study, more than half of these experts (54 per cent) claimed that they anticipate the Metaverse and metaverse learning would become a part of daily life that is more refined and well-functioning for more than half a billion individuals all over the world. The remaining 46 percent, on the other hand, are convinced of the exact reverse and assert that the Metaverse won’t even begin to be improved until 20 years from now.
After asking the specialists to comment on their various perspectives, two overarching themes became apparent. To begin, a few industry professionals stated that we won’t be using augmented reality and mixed reality tools until 2040 and that the “immersive metaverse” will never become a reality.
Second, they stated that the introduction of new worlds had the potential to significantly amplify every characteristic and propensity of humans. They were even concerned about the eventual liberation of humanity and the growth of their innate capabilities.
Where does one’s right to privacy stand in the Metaverse?
In the next five years, it is anticipated that hundreds of millions of virtual reality products will be in use with proper metaverse training. As a result, experts believe that it will not be unusual for people to spend between 12 and 15 hours per day in the Metaverse to communicate, work, learn, shop, and capture data, among other activities. It is also anticipated that individuals would have many avatars, also known as virtual personas, which may result in the existence of billions of digital identities within the next ten years. But as usage grows, what threats does this pose to users’ privacy and the security of their identities?
To provide adequate protection of users’ privacy and security, government regulators and policymakers will need to make substantial investments in the widespread implementation and testing of developing technologies. The appropriate management of data in the Metaverse will need to handle issues such as the distinctions between typical commercial data, which may be public, and confidential personal data, which may pertain to an individual.
What Actually The Future Holds
We are currently at the same stage in the development of the Metaverse as we were when the internet was being developed, before Netscape was released. Even though the Metaverse will require significant advancements in computing power, network throughput, and artificial intelligence capabilities, it will not reach its full potential until the late 2030s or the 1940s. Up until then, it will be put to use primarily for its growing simulation capabilities, for gaming, and, to an increasing extent, for the production of movies. By the time we reach the end of this phase of technological advancement, we will have surgically implanted interfaces, artificial intelligence non-playing characters (NPCs) that pass themselves off as real people, and a blending of elements from the Metaverse with the real world that will alter the way we perceive the real world.
Nevertheless, in spite of the length of this timeline, the Metaverse and metaverse leaning can already be used for simulations, and it can also be used to begin preparing for a far deeper metaverse intrusion into reality in the not too distant future. By the time we reach maturity in the Metaverse in the late 2030s and 40s, we had best have decided on relevant laws, protections, and what we are going to do with intelligent virtual AIs, or else things are likely to end up in a very negative way. However, for the time being, attention should be placed on developing fundamental competencies and gaining a grasp of what is currently achievable with the Metaverse, rather than placing unreasonable expectations on the outcomes of this endeavor.
The Metaverse In 2040
By Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie
Hype? Hope? Hell? Maybe all three. Experts are split about the likely evolution of a truly immersive ‘metaverse.’ They expect that augmented- and mixed-reality enhancements will become more useful in people’s daily lives. Many worry that current online problems may be magnified if Web3 development is led by those who built today’s dominant web platforms
Interest in the idea of the metaverse leaped in 2021-2022, prompted in part by Facebook’s decision to rebrand itself as “Meta.” The word was coined by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in 1992 in his novel “Snow Crash.” In today’s terms, the metaverse is the realm of computer-generated, networked extended reality, or XR, an acronym that embraces all aspects of augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality (AR, MR and VR). At this point in time, the metaverse is generally made up of somewhat- immersive XR spaces in which interactions take place among humans and automated entities. Some are daily interactions with augmented-reality apps that people have on their computers and phones. Some are interactions taking place in more-immersive domains in gaming or fantasy worlds. Some occur in “mirror worlds” that duplicate real-life environments.
While extended-reality gaming and social spaces have been in existence for decades, early 2020s technological advances and societal transformations brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have pushed the development of the metaverse to the forefront, inspiring tens of billions of dollars in new investments and prompting predictions that the metaverse is “the future of the internet” or “the next internet battleground.”
What will the Metaverse be in 2040? A forecast
What will the Metaverse bring? Some parts of it are already here with for instance gaming where you can be present in the Metaverse by your avatar. But what will it look like in 2040? A majority of experts say that by then, the Metaverse will for a half billion people or more globally be a well-functioning part of daily life.
US-based Pew Research Center and Elon University have collected forecasts from 624 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists.
“Experts are split about the likely evolution of a truly immersive ‘Metaverse.’ They expect that augmented- and mixed-reality enhancements will become more useful in people’s daily lives”, according to a report from the Pew Research.
“Many worry that current online problems may be magnified if Web3 development is led by those who built today’s dominant web platforms”
The research center says that early 2020s technological advances and societal transformations brought about by the pandemic have pushed the development of the Metaverse to the forefront, inspiring tens of billions of dollars in new investments and prompting predictions that the metaverse is “the future of the internet” or “the next internet battleground”.
- 54% of the experts said that they expect by 2040 the Metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- 46% said that they expect by 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- XR will develop fast because of its massive commercial possibilities.
The report says that a notable share of the experts argued that the embrace of extended reality in people’s daily lives by 2040 will be centered around augmented-reality and mixed-reality tools, not in the more-fully-immersive virtual reality worlds many people define today as being “the Metaverse.”
The experts warned that these new worlds could dramatically magnify every human trait and tendency – both the bad and the good. They especially focused their concerns on the ability of those in control of these systems to redirect, restrain or thwart human agency and stifle people’s ability to self-actualize through exercise of free will. They worry over the future freedom of humans to expand their native capacities.
COLLECTION OF TECHNOLOGIES
Laurence Lannom, vice president at the Corporation for National Research Initiatives, offered a compact prediction:
“The Metaverse will, at its core, be a collection of new and extended technologies. It is easy to imagine that both the best and the worst aspects of our online lives will be extended by being able to tap into a more-complete immersive experience, by being inside a digital space instead of looking at one from the outside. At the good end of the continuum are things like the ability of people to interact with others as though they were all in the same physical space without having spent hours burning dinosaur bones to get there; practicing difficult physical tasks (e.g., surgery) on virtual entities; and elevated educational and research opportunities of all kinds as we learn to leverage the built-in advantages of the new environments.”
“The other end is also not hard to imagine – easier addiction to all-absorbing games and fantasy experiences resulting in increased isolation for many; further breakdown of social cohesion as the virtual offers an easy alternative to the hard task of learning to live with each other; and increased political turmoil as the prophets of fear and grievance acquire the ability to command rallies with millions of attendees.”
Edward Baig, freelance columnist and longtime technology reporter for USA Today, says:
“Even the smartest folks today have difficulty articulating the metaverse so that regular people understand it beyond it being this vague thing emerging out of augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D and mixed reality.”
“Of course, measured in tech years, 2040 is a lifetime away and, when you factor in the sheer magnitude of the financial and intellectual investments already being plowed into the metaverse, how could this thing possibly not morph into something likely to have a profound impact on our everyday lives? Whatever it is that draws all of us into the metaverse, it must provide – or at least promise to provide – experiences and benefits that are otherwise impractical if not impossible to achieve in (for lack of a better way of putting it) the real world.”
The idea about a Metaverse was first introduced in 1992 by sci-fi author Neal Stephenson in his novel “Snow Crash”.
The report from Pew Research says that in today’s terms, “the Metaverse is the realm of computer-generated, networked extended reality, or XR, an acronym that embraces all aspects of augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality (AR, MR and VR).
“At this point in time, the metaverse is generally made up of somewhat- immersive XR spaces in which interactions take place among humans and automated entities.”
Anonymous Responses: Future of the Metaverse in 2040
This page holds hundreds of predictions and opinions expressed by experts who agreed to have their comments credited in a canvassing conducted in February 2022 by Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center and Pew Research Center. These experts were asked to respond with their thoughts about the likely evolution of extended-reality tools (AR, MR, VR) and “the metaverse” by 2040.
Results released June 30, 2022 – Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center invited thousands of experts to share their insights about the likely near future of extended-reality (XR) and “the metaverse” in a Winter 2022 canvassing. More than 600 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists responded; of these, 367 wrote explanatory comments after responding to this study’s “yes-no” question. This long-scroll page holds no analysis, only the written responses from experts who were willing to take credit for their comments about what the extended-reality and the metaverse might be like by 2040. The full, official report with analysis is here.
In order, this page contains: 1) the research question; 2) a brief outline of the most common themes found among these experts’ remarks; 3) submissions from the respondents to this canvassing who were willing to take credit for their remarks.
The evolution of the metaverse: This canvassing of experts is prompted by emerging debates over the evolution and impact of “the metaverse” by 2040. Broadly defined, the metaverse is the realm of computer-generated, networked extended-reality spaces (XR, which includes VR, AR and/or MR) in which interactions take place among humans and automated entities, some in gaming or fantasy worlds and some in “mirror worlds” that duplicate real-life environments. While extended-reality gaming and social spaces have been in existence for decades, early 2020s tech advances have pushed the development of the metaverse to the forefront, inspiring tens of billions of dollars in investments and prompting predictions that it is “the future of the internet” or “the next internet battleground.” The hope is that advanced, immersive, 3D, online worlds could benefit all aspects of society – education, healthcare, gaming and entertainment, the arts, social and civic life and other activities. Of course, as with all digital tech, there are concerns about the health, safety, security, privacy and economic implications of these new spaces. This is spurring new conversations about what the maturing of the metaverse will look like and what that means for society.
The question: Considering what you know about the metaverse, which statement comes closer to your view about its likely evolution by 2040?
- By 2040 the metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
By 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- 54% said by 2040 the metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- 46% said by 2040 the metaverse WILL NOT be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
Follow-up question: Tell us how you imagine that this shift of many online activities into more-fully-immersive digital spaces and digital life is likely to take place. Regardless of how you see the timing of this, how might it change human society? What are the likely positives of this transition? What negatives may emerge? How might it change the daily lives of the connected? And how will this transition change the way we think about our world and ourselves? We are also interested in hearing your thoughts about the role blockchain and its applications might play in this evolution of online life by 2040.
Click here to download the print version of the “Metaverse in 2040” report
Common themes found among the experts qualitative responses:
AR and MR will rule in 2040: Augmented- and mixed-reality applications will continue to be far more useful to the public than virtual-reality in 2040. Design must not be completely profit-driven: The next-generation networked-knowledge ecosystem should be built in ways that better serve the public good than the current web does. Business will continue to drive R&D: Profit motives will inspire significant investment in advancing XR technologies. People will find full-immersion VR to be useful: A much greater number of people globally will find the metaverse useful in their daily lives by 2040. People will not find full VR settings to be useful: Fully-immersive VR will not be seen as a useful application in the daily lives of most folks in 2040. The technological innovation for much fuller VR will emerge by 2040: The technology to create an attractive, easy-to-use immersive metaverse is possible to achieve by 2040. The technology needed for much fuller VR is not possible by 2040: Upgrades in software, hardware, user interfaces and network capability will not be advanced enough to develop a much broader interest in full VR. The pandemic accelerated development: COVID-19’s arrival gave XR development a big boost, especially in health, business and education sectors. People prefer living in layers of ‘real’ reality over fully VR experiences: In 2040 most people will continue to find full immersion in VR unappealing because they don’t want to be immersed, preferring being mostly absorbed in the real world. Public worries about the impact of surveillance capitalism and abuse by authoritarian regimes will slow or stop adoption: A number of these experts predict that people will not be willing to invest their time and energy in virtual spaces in which they can be further manipulated and surveilled by corporate and/or authoritarian interests. There are any number of potential positive and delightful uses of XR: The experts highlighted a wide-ranging number of activities and services that could be offered in metaverse spaces, including in training and education, business, medicine, armchair travel, and the artificial replication of “peak” experiences such as traveling in space, moving through imaginary worlds or meeting and interacting with sport stars, celebrities or famous people of the past.. There are any number of threatening and harmful uses of XR: These experts noted a number of problems that may worsen in metaverse spaces, including reductions in autonomy and people’s ability to control their lives; amplified digital divides and discrimination, harassment, bullying and hate, misinformation, online addictions, mental health issues; threats to personal data, privacy and safety; and further commercialization and monetization of basic human activities.
Responses from those preferring to make their remarks anonymous. Some are longer versions of expert responses contained in shorter form in the survey report.
Some people chose not to provide a written elaboration. Some of the following are the longer versions of responses that are contained in shorter form in one or more places the “Visions of 2035” survey report. Credited responses are carried on a separate page. These comments were collected in an opt-in invitation to more than 10,000 people that asked them to share their responses to a web-based questionnaire in February 2022. The statements are listed in random order.
A UK-based expert in virtual environments, digital media and the social science of the internet said, “As someone who has studied virtual reality for 30 years, with two books, many edited books and many papers in top journals on the topic, I can definitely say that the metaverse concept is complete bull****. VR goes through waves of enthusiasm and disappointment and will evolve towards niche uses of immersive plus widespread videoconferencing and various mixed applications.”
A geoscientist based in Oceania commented, “Virtual worlds offer many interesting opportunities for people because, in them, we are able to ‘author’ ourselves quite intentionally and experimentally. The flexibility of form and experience within a virtual world can have an amazing developmental influence.
“I have spent, off and on, something like 17 years experimenting as an avatar and exploring virtual spaces and experiences within Second Life and I have found this to have moved my perception of myself quite considerably in my real life. The whole experience can be summed up as being liberating. Virtual worlds dissolve social and geographical boundaries, and in them we are able to interact and form relationships with people whom we would never otherwise meet.
“Other-worldly experiences are also a matter of course in virtual worlds; it is all down to the imagination of the creator of a virtual realm. You can thus inhabit the imagination of another in a way which is quite different to that which you would experience by, for instance, reading a book. The liberating and exploratory experience of virtual worlds will become ever more important as the impacts of population increase, climate change, environmental degradation and pandemics become more apparent to people.
“Our society has undergone many forms of liberation as people have sought more from their lives and a deeper understanding of themselves and their purpose in society. I see the evolution of virtual worlds as a next natural step in human liberation. There are of course dangers in humans inhabiting a new environment but as with every niche humans have been able to adapt to, we find social ways to generally get the best outcomes. A significant issue for all such digital technologies will be their likely carbon footprint. Creating a metaverse at the expense of life on the planet is ridiculous and should only be pursued within the context of a radical transformation of our energy resources.”
The director of an institute examining the legal implications of emerging technologies commented, “Digital fashion is a game changer beyond just the sustainability benefits found in eliminating fashion creation and distribution in physical form. The dematerialization of fashion has made chic attire accessible to the masses. Digital representations of high-end clothing typically sell for much less than their physical equivalents.
“The technology has also flattened the market, reducing barriers to entry and allowing novice designers to compete and even collaborate with established brands in the metaverse. It also provides an accessible entre into the emerging world of the metaverse, perhaps attracting clothing consumers who might otherwise have little to no interest in a digital world. Digital fashion in the metaverse will be amazing.
“Axiomatically, fashion is an incredibly wasteful business. It demands that we discard and/or replace otherwise functional clothing simply because it is no longer in fashion. More clothing than can ever be necessary is wastefully produced and much of it ultimately ends up in landfills. A perfect example of waste today is the industry of Fast Fashion, which embodies some of the worst of this increasingly environmentally unsustainable industry.
“Newly emerging digital fashion can help reduce the climate impact of fashion. Fashionistas can scratch their fashion itch with little impact on the environment. Except for the energy consumed by the blockchains that support the cryptocurrencies that are often used to purchase digital fashions, or that host NFTs typically associated with the haute couture level of digital fashions, these garments are exceptionally environmentally friendly.”
A professor emeritus of communications wrote, “The incentives likely to shape the nature of a metaverse (digital spaces – as currently defined) will be intertwined with the economic, social, political, geographic and transportation disruptions of climate change and tectonic-level shifts in energy demands, in concert with the embrace of multinational business, scientific and educational entities.
“There likely will be a growing emphasis of live and work ‘in place’ for elites (a half billion or so globally) who fully participate in emergent digital work communities and digitally-enhanced social lives. The metaverse will spill over into arts, entertainment, sports, virtual travel and health care delivery and training for a few billon more, but the physical world will remain central for the many billions who have little access to these digital spaces.
“This will exacerbate the digital divide into a new stratification with those able to navigate and leverage the potential power of the metaverse shaping the global economy and the very nature of our societies, access to increasingly scarce food resources, water resources, travel resources and social cohesion. The risks due to this are so large that we should expect legal, political and social resistance that could make it difficult to achieve the XR ‘promise’ by 2040.
“The other more-concrete risks arise from having the networks go dark due to the loss of power-generation networks, hackers, terrorism, electromagnetic storms or warfare that disables satellites and core fiber networks. This vulnerability shouldn’t be underestimated, nor should the consequences of corruption/fraud, problems with supply chains and issues with the delivery of core commerce and financial services. Even though blockchains and cryptotokens hold promise of greater security and lower costs they won’t be enough to create a total disruption to mainstream financial/currency markets in the near term.
“The combination of climate change and the emergence of the metaverse may become the perfect storm that sets civilization back in unimaginable ways or forces the world to make a quantum leap forward toward more-equitable restructuring of our societies and allocation of resources. There are too many unknowns, and it isn’t looking good with the world on the verge of another world war.”
A globally-respected internet sociologist wrote, “The ‘metaverse’ is a bad idea being pushed by industry so of course it will have a presence, but it will not be adopted. It is a less-intuitive, less-useful form of connection. There will be less trust and more abuse.”
A North American research scientist responded, “I am very worried about the impact of the metaverse in promoting and making worse intersecting discrimination in online contexts such as misogyny, online harassment, cyberbullying and proliferating hate. Already there have been several articles by women who ventured into metaverse social groups and were immediately targeted by male avatars.
“If these interactions are already taking place and given that gaming is already an activity that engages violence in many of the games and that it is well known as a misogynistic feminist forum it can only get worse without effective regulation. Regulation in social media as we know it has been extremely difficult at best. Social media help to proliferate fake news and alt-right racist movements, homophobia, ageism, offensive jokes against people with disabilities, and we can expect much worse from the metaverse. This is especially of concern given that two years of pandemic isolation and lockdowns have created significant anger and polarization as evidenced in the protests in Canada, as well as in the political influence of far-right-wing nationalist extremists globally.
“The metaverse will be extremely difficult to regulate and is not likely to prove any better than social media at maintaining democratic forms and respectful communication. It may be difficult to maintain virtual-reality environments that can then benefit people in the real world.
“And what will happen to our social relationships in the real world? We have already seen burnout and proliferation of mental health issues during the pandemic from Zoom meetings and social isolation. While the idea of using the metaverse for health care and education sounds exciting and ideal it has the potential of having medical teams working together on progressive medicine and other innovations together in virtual spaces when they are apart to come up with new solutions, the metaverse would still not represent face-to-face interactions, touch, hugs, feeling of being together. I’m concerned this will not be good for the world.”
A civil liberties director for a global digital rights foundation responded, “The metaverse will be more refined and more widely used by 2040, but I really do hope that it remains a fairly niche use.”
A professor of sociology and chair of African American Studies at a major U.S. university commented, “Just look at how fast virtual meetings and classrooms have taken over our modes of interaction. Of course, there had to be a shock to push us there, but we can get used to anything pretty quickly. The shift will come because the billionaires want it to come. Facebook/Meta will push this. It will start off as fun and then turn damaging. For example, Facebook was a fun way to connect but people began to use it to promote ethnic cleansing, political misinformation and as a vehicle to broadcast live violence. The ability to promote bad acts things in a more-immersive space will be even more damaging.
“I am critical of the ways in which we are moving away from interpersonal interaction. It seems as if every generation is being socialized into having less and less in-person interaction. More and more young people now find their partners on dating apps rather than in their friend groups, classrooms, communities, etc. And we see the social isolation, anxiety and ennui that it has created in this generation.
“If we are living in a metaverse rather than in this world, how will we hug our children and each other? How will we SEE each other? How will we hold someone’s hand? Just the other day, I brushed my 86-year-old mother’s hair. I worry that the metaverse will take us all away from these human interactions.
“In terms of how we think of our world, it will likely allow us to experience places we couldn’t before (including different places and time periods), but at the expense of not experiencing the place where we are. The former could create more empathy and global connections, but the latter creates alienation from the immediate time and space.”
A technology developer and administrator based in the U.S. said, “I have lived through more technological shifts that didn’t match the rhetoric than I can count. But here are a few:
- The Computer – With the advent of the Apple II, computers were supposed to transform our society. They did, but not to the degree most preached until the iPhone was released.
- AI – How many more AI winters will we go through before we learn that it’s just another chunk of code enabling some interesting solution spaces but not leading to a ‘New World,’ or that reaching that ‘New World’ will take decades?
- VR – Oh, could I go on about the hype and lack of results of this tech, but there’s no use doing so when the market is doing an apt job on its own.
- Mobile Health – I have worn an Apple Watch since its release, buying a new version every year. It’s a great device for the limited things it can do. Neither it, nor the other mobile health devices out there have matched the predictions that they would revolutionize our lives. Perhaps they will. But not anytime soon due to the issues in balancing processor capabilities and battery energy density, or the lack thereof.”
A senior research program manager at a global-futures think tank commented, “It may be much more refined by 2040, but it will not be a ‘well-functioning’ social environment.”
A scholar at a futures research center based in Northern Europe commented, “Multiple versions and competition will lead to there being several followed by few. These few will have cut corners to win, making the metaverse a setting for negative behaviors by individuals and governments.”
An editor, writer and researcher said, “Although I’m not certain I would embrace this shift, I look at my grandchildren and I’m pretty sure they would be very comfortable with immersive digital spaces. I see it as a wonderful learning tool for them in the classroom, in the library and for leisure activities.
“On the negative side, I think it will widen the gap between rich (or even the mildly well off) and the poor, between the Global North and the Global South. On the positive side, some of that gap could be lessened, particularly in terms of scholarly research once an equal playing field is established in the metaverse. But that depends on if an equal playing field is established.”
A professor of sociology expert in culture, race and ethnicity responded, “There is no way this is a good idea with the amount of surveillance these technologies are allowing. We give up so much privacy already with all of the technologies we are being forced to use out of convenience, yet we don’t know exactly how the data gathered from these technologies are used and who they are shared with.
“The costs, in my opinion, outweigh any benefits of a digital society. In fact, studies show children need less time on devices and more social interaction in person. I hope this does not come to fruition.”
An anonymous respondent shared an excerpt from an essay by journalist Tom Valovic titled “Why We Should Reject Mark Zuckerberg’s Dehumanizing Vision of a ‘Metaverse’”:
“The Internet is now increasingly about social control, technology dependence for profit purposes, surveillance and sometimes cynical corporate manipulation of hearts and minds. … These issues require critical-thinking skills for deciding what kind of world we want to live in since the mass of humanity is not being asked if these invasive technologies are acceptable or desirable.
“We need to somehow, through the seemingly unstoppable momentum of runaway technology, find a way to return to a way of living that retains the use of limited and intelligent technology where appropriate without allowing it to run roughshod over the core values of humanity we still cherish.
“Facebook’s new moniker, Meta, is shorthand for metaverse, a major new technology and culture shift that Big Tech is trying to force feed anyone who uses the Internet. In the words of a friend who works for another Big Tech giant, this new direction is ‘terrifying.’ …
“This is a seismic shift. It is planned to become the dominant paradigm for human communications, transitioning our business, social and cultural life from physical to online environments …
“This radical change in how we live our lives is something that no one will get to vote on, as a new and unprecedented kind of technocratic governance begins to replace many of the functions of traditional government and, I believe, even democracy itself. [
“This is] nothing less than an attempt to fabricate an alternate ‘reality’ other than the physical one we now inhabit. This new reality can be accessed, of course, only by paying customers who are in a position to afford and understand it. It is a technology designed by elites and for elites and implicitly leaves behind much of humanity in its wake …
“As more and more corporate control was levied, Internet-based technology began to intrude subtly on our personal spaces in exchange for the Faustian bargain of a new set of technological ‘conveniences.’ Now Big Tech is aiming to not only extend this intrusion with technologies like Alexa but to make life impossible to live without it … hence the notion of a metaverse.
“Working in conjunction with elites and Big Tech social engineers, this next big initiative will be even more intrusive and dehumanizing and is being carried out under the rubric of a specious philosophy called transhumanism – a set of values that has declared our own humanity as deficient and in need of technological enhancement.”
A veteran principal engineer who has worked at several major tech companies said, “First off, blockchain and its applications are likely to have little or no role in any of this. Right now, they are contributing to the overall sense of hype and solutions in search of a problem in a way that is fundamentally not helpful, as it tends to suck all the oxygen out of the room on any discussion of the practical applications of what you’re calling the metaverse.
“Little to none of the challenges in making the idea of the metaverse a reality are improved or enabled exclusively through blockchain and its friends. Its success will be all about what it can do to enable and coexist with actual human factors.
“The metaverse is an area that can continue to enable better and more-complete remote collaboration on a variety of different fronts – telemedicine, remote work, social interaction, customer service, training/school, even things like virtual shopping – trying on clothing to see how it fits you personally, testing how you fit in a vehicle, virtually touring a home or apartment and trying out some art or a new paint color in your space.
“While it is true that there are some experiences that do not translate well to the virtual space and continue to benefit from physical presence, there are also many that benefit from a better representation of physical space in the digital domain so that humans can interact more naturally with one another – the virtual bar, watercooler, meeting space, etc.
“There can be a better representation of things like social cues, facial expressions and the like. This will be critical for the metaverse to become something better than a glorified Zoom call. We’ve gotten a lot of experience over the last two years on what it’s like to have much more of our day-to-day interactions be in the virtual domain – what works, what doesn’t, how to make it feel more natural. We have to learn from those experiences to have this be something other than another Second Life clone that is only ever adopted by a subset of society that already takes well to existing in primarily-virtual spaces.
“If ‘normal’ people can’t see this being an acceptable substitute for physical presence in a variety of applications, it will fail.”
An expert on the sociology of information technology responded, “None of this online stuff changes human psychology at all. The metaverse is just a marketing term being applied to things we already have, and we’ve already seen how those things have played out, that is: Second Life, massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) like World of Warcraft, and MUDS (multi-user domains), just to name a few.
“It’s mostly going to be like Second Life, which became populated by a lot of crazy people, sexists, racists, bigots and furries. Wired magazine was full of breathless articles every time some giant company decide to open a store in Second Life, but almost no one covered it when all of those companies quietly quit the platform since it was really quite problematic.
“So, yes, it is just a marketing term that seems flashy coming back and attracting the attention of young tech journalists and their public who have no idea that the metaverse is an old idea about ‘new’ worlds that will simply be taken over by really horrible people like those who have already taken over the tone of interactions on Facebook and Twitter.”
An expert on the evolution of algorithms responded, “The metaverse as currently articulated by Facebook/Meta is unlikely to be the point of all immersive activity/alternate worlds as it has been presented. However, given the range of pressures as a result of climate change, pandemic and the rise of flexible working, etc., alongside advances in technology, some form of metaverse seems quite likely.
“While there have been virtual worlds and a range of immersive options previously, these have been less evident or pressing in part due to the lack of contextual pressures we see now as well as some digital/technical literacy challenges that make engagement either cumbersome or less visible or attractive.
“Circumstances have changed, and it seems quite likely that this alongside changes in user tech literacy, new tools, etc., will enable a metaverse type of environment to become more desirable. much as the shift to the World Wide Web enabled the public uptake of internet as an everyday technology. This shift will bring with it many of the same challenges, rhetoric, etc., we have seen with the widespread adoption of other digital technologies.
“We will probably see a combination of both an attenuated form of all of the social engagement and practices we see in societies more broadly. The technology will create both challenges and opportunities. Most concerning is the geopolitical challenges currently becoming increasingly visible in the ways in which states are increasingly assertive in their control and surveillance of online spaces and populations. Any further immersion into online spaces heightens the potential for the extension of this control and the expansion of alternate forms of currency/exchange creates additional pressures on state systems and control.”
A researcher at Meta (Facebook) whose work is focused on helping the public understand and deal with social media effects commented, “The immersive technology needs to improve substantially, and costs need to come down in order for billions of people to take advantage of it. Internet will be required in all spaces. I believe the metaverse will be an integral part of gaming and other experiences but will remain a complement to real life and not an integral part of it.”
An award-winning AI ethics expert named to the list of “100+ Brilliant Women in AI & Ethics” in 2019 and 2020 commented, “2040 is too soon. Adoption of AI will accelerate as cloud adoption will accelerate, too, in the next five years. AI will be a key foundational element as technology matures into the metaverse – a convergence of technology trends enabling users to experience our digital world in a new way and with a new level of autonomy and freedom.
“By itself, data can’t create much value. It needs to be organized, analyzed and used at scale – which AI can do. For this kind of AI investment to really pay off, it needs to be embedded in application systems that can work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. These systems, in turn, need cloud-based computing power that can scale up and down to cost-effectively meet ever changing demands. With these imperatives, it’s clear why leading companies increasingly invest in and manage data, AI and cloud (DAC) as a unified whole.”
An award-winning computer scientist who spent most of her career working at a top-five U.S. technology company wrote, “The question can be read to say it is inevitable that the metaverse will evolve to take over the internet and our online activities. I see a clear value proposition in particular arenas, for example, gaming and medicine. I don’t think the value is as clear in most other areas of life. Would education benefit from an immersive experience? Would it be better than face-to-face in some way?
“I can see it being as good, if the technology were vastly better and widely deployed, but it would have to be amazing to compensate for the loss of human interaction. It would also have to be much cheaper than today’s internet-access devices, which have already caused a huge split between haves and have-nots.
“Of course, it could be more fun than today’s dry lectures for some topics that lend themselves to experiences that reinforce the learning. But the cost of creating those experiences would likely be huge, unless somehow authoring becomes cheap and trivial, or can be done automatically. There are other areas, such as medicine, where I could imagine better use cases, taking telemedicine to the next level.
“I think it will take a long time, if ever, to get to a state where the metaverse is king. Already the increased intermediation of technology between people has had a range of negative consequences, leading to more depression, suicide, more economic imbalances (often along racial lines), more polarization and so on. I don’t see any hope that the metaverse will solve this.
“Some of the darkest science fiction I’ve read basically explores the metaverse and its effects, some of it way ahead of its time. But as we get closer to making the science/technology work, I see us no closer to preventing the evils that will follow.
“The internet didn’t take off until a huge proportion of our society had access, and until a critical mass of businesses were online and could start to automate. The motivation for them to make the switch was clear – reach more customers, then recognize more efficiencies. As prices tumbled, everything steamrolled. It’s not clear to me that the metaverse will offer the same value.
“It may offer more-enriching experiences – a chance to better-differentiate yourself, as today a better website or app does. But will it really help businesses reach more clients, or become more efficient? Even when you can be immersed through a device the size of your phone, will you want to be? Especially if that device costs more than a phone that provides today’s level of access?”
A former director of online trust and identity initiatives commented, “While I believe there will be very sophisticated immersive experiences available in the next 20 years, I do not think they will be an embedded part of daily life for a billion people. There may be game- or work-related sectors that implement it successfully and often.
The author of several widely-read and respected books on digital technology design responded, “Your optimism to even ask such a question seems positively dated and metaphysically naive. Belief that technology will deliver a better human future was once confined to its stakeholders, but now does not ever remain among most of them. Any more detailed response could constitute later compromat on the respondent. Please just go outside and listen to the sound of the snow crunching under foot.”
A professor of sociology based at a major university in Texas wrote, “There are competing technologies that will inhibit the widespread use of virtual reality and other component parts of the metaverse. Capitalism thwarts cooperation. The metaverse will be possible but not a fully-functioning reality within the next 20 years.”
An expert in the evolution of knowledge creation at a time of accelerating technological change responded, “The barriers are not primarily technical but social, psychological and experiential. I find it hard to imagine wanting to live in an augmented and disorienting world, especially given the likelihood that based on the current ecosystem (in both VR/AR and in the normal app space) there would be limited ability to move between platforms and apps without constantly changing identities, avatars and experiences.
“When I shift from my email identity and interface to my Facebook identity and interface, I have to follow a different set of interaction rules and have a different facet of my identity on display. If I was trying to do that in an augmented space, it would be completely jarring and undesirable.
“As for blockchain, we need to get beyond this ridiculous phase of the hype cycle and start to develop the really useful applications of distributed and decentralized records and not get distracted by financial speculation, money laundering, and opportunism. Blockchain has a lot of potential, but it is not in NFTs and fill-in-the-blank-coin fake money.”
A professor of public policy at a major U.S. technological university said, “The metaverse may be ‘more fully immersive’ and expertly ‘refined’ by 2040, but it will be in a way that is designed to extract information and dollars from those who enter.
“To some, that might be a ‘well-functioning aspect of daily life’ but it offers enormous unchecked power to those who control it.
“Today people blithely give up information on social media in response to lures thinly disguised as survey questions but clearly aimed at revealing security questions. What will people yield when they have avatars being lured into ‘relationships’ with models, movie stars, etc., opportunities to participate in the most ultimate virtual joys (no, not only lurid) that can be imagined, and all it costs is access to their most-personal information?
“The promoters of the metaverse are hardly disguising their motives and at this point there is no constraint on what devices (behavioral, cognitive, even coercive, but certainly not involving truly informed consent) will be used to exploit their innocent participants.
“There’s no reason to expect that legislative or judicial institutions will understand these systems, react to them quickly, or stand up to the financial pressures that will accompany this new way to profit from this fundamental alteration in the way people interact with each other and real reality.”
A principal scientist at a major center for accessible technology wrote, “While many technological issues have been resolved with respect to the ‘metaverse,’ there are still prohibitively difficult problems in delivering a truly immersive experience that is natural, organic and has no side effects for all users. There are also environmental and infrastructure prohibitions in delivering a truly immersive experience in environments where wireless networks may be poor or insufficient.
“If we think about the proliferation of cell phones and eventually smartphones, the growth of adoption for cell phones was firstly a progression to environments that could support the required infrastructure (like transition from the earliest mobile phones in cars and the first in developed nations where cell towers were installed).
“Right now, we are in the age equivalence of the earliest cell phones people installed in cars. And, in my opinion, this is a technology that will never be as ‘justified’ in adopting than mobile phones ever were in terms of utility, urgency and need to overcome barriers to adoption.”
A longtime leader in IETF and principal architect at one of the world’s top five tech companies said, “The current metaverse ecosystem has inherent limitations that will prevent it from becoming a mass-market phenomenon. One is cost: the headgear requires the computing power of a high-end smartphone or game console. Unlike games, which can be streamed from the cloud, attempts to support the metaverse on smartphone platforms (e.g., Google’s Daydream View) have not caught on.
“Unless the cost problem can be addressed, widespread adoption within developing nations will be precluded. Another issue is intrusiveness. The current generation of goggles, unlike a smartphone or smartwatch, or smart glasses, interferes with daily life.
“Instead of tackling these basic issues head on, Meta is attempting to bring Oculus headsets to the mass market via brute force: attempting to unload them by the truckload at Costco, and spending huge sums on developing the metaverse ecosystem to drive demand. This effort has been an unprecedented failure, destroying a third of Meta’s market capitalization as soon as the debacle became clear to analysts.
“At this point, the only likely potential prospect for bringing the metaverse to the mass market lies with Apple. Microsoft is focused solely on enterprise with HoloLens, Google has given up on Daydream and Meta needs to refocus on competing with TikTok.”
The global policy lead for human rights at what many consider to be the world’s most influential internet company responded, “I don’t think the uptake will be that pervasive. The hardware is expensive and the technology is made for higher-end consumers.”
An expert in AI who leads a foundation dedicated to the support and evolution of open-source knowledge commented, “The metaverse, to me, feels like rampant capitalism trying to run even further amok. Cool, but amok. Facebook has already proved you can create a wildly popular social network that is both dystopic and valuable; it should be a walk in the park to seduce a half billion people to switch to the VR.
“You want to know how it will change lives? What’s the point? Well, Facebook has already shown what. It can be both dystopic and valuable. Some people will use it to exploit others. Others, like my wife, will use it for just gabbing with friends the world over. Sure, connecting with friends is seriously cool; meanwhile, there are wars going on, dictators rising, and, oh, did I mention that there is solid evidence that the climate is changing and not for the better?”
A longtime global internet policy leader at one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies said, “Technology such as distributed computing and high-speed mobile broadband, will enable trends that have been underway for years. The metaverse will offer a wide range of applications, from entertainment to online education to business-related environments that will drive development.”
An internet pioneer based in Berkeley, California, commented, “It will happen, but that’s not my hope. When the Internet started – I was there – we believed that enhanced communication was going to tear down walls, reduce hatred and end in world peace. It turns out it didn’t work that way, and I think the same will happen with the metaverse.
“This will allow, for example, an environment with avatars that attack others, probably leading to a further degrading of actual constructive discussions between people who are aren’t already aligned.
“It will also further separate the ‘haves’ from the ‘have nots’ on the basis of financial status, physical location (due to differences in connectivity), race, religion and so forth.
“And don’t get me started on blockchain, at least in the form of e-currency. It’s a money launderer’s wet dream, and ultimately, I think, very destructive to our society.
“There will be good things that come out of this, e.g., telesurgery and a more-immersive environment for personal communication in the same way video calls give you more connection than a voice call, and 3D will be better than 2D.”
A principal architect whose focus is cybersecurity said, “As the metaverse becomes more connected with the real world, it can cause harm to the real world, and I do not believe we currently have the necessary safeguards and the architecture to address that. Given the advances in internet technology (speed, latency, availability) along with the advances in AR/VR and AI/ML techniques, it is a natural progression for the virtual world to be advanced to allow us to explore and express our need for communication, need for information and our need for attention. This is likely not going to be an all-happy-go-lucky path. We have to evaluate and address the moral and ethical consequences along the way. We need to understand the implications on privacy and security. Currently we are driven more by profits and big corporations which can have a very damaging effect. However, I remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to evolve this metaverse as a collective that serves the greater good.”
A researcher expert in automated decision-making and its societal impact commented, “I feel like we’re trapped in an endless, rapid and recursive hype cycle. Most of the hype about the metaverse, Web3, blockchain and etc. is not new and the associated movements – take NFTs for an example – are falling apart as quickly as they emerge.”
A North American futures strategist and consultant responded, “More-fully-immersive digital spaces and digital life will be more seamless than today, with more-robust infrastructure and more-flexible devices available from almost anywhere. Geographical distances will all but disappear as people will feel immersed in whatever environment they choose without physical travel. People will need to make concerted effort to keep their bodies healthy by physical activity as they use the metaverse more often for many of the transactions and communications in their daily lives. It will be much more difficult for people to be ‘unplugged’ from daily life.”
A widely published technology journalist based in North America said, “The metaverse will not be as widespread because of the amount of technology investments required to take part. There will be groups of people left out, such as the elderly and people living outside wealthy countries. The Global South will not be anywhere near ready from an infrastructure standpoint, or personal investment, for the metaverse in 2040.
“The metaverse will exacerbate inequity, with patient care being different between haves and have nots. There is a heartbreaking cartoon of a child in a house sitting at a computer for virtual schooling, and another child in rags standing on a box to look in a window to follow along on the same lesson. Metaverse will be more of that. It will benefit many of the affluent and leave behind the working class, many of whom are BIPOC.
“We still struggle with basic connectivity issues in the U.S., where rural areas are underserved, which will just exacerbate the digital divide between those who can interact in the metaverse and those who cannot. I think blockchain will remain a niche application.”
An expert in complex systems, gaming and collaborative learning commented, “In the 1990s, just as people became able to share images on World Wide Web browsers, there were multi-user domains, text-based virtual worlds built by folks creating them together for fun in online communities. They were like the early text-based PC adventure games but much more malleable. They had locations described by people who could write. The dynamic objects that participants interacted with were programmed by volunteer programmers. The systems had both synchronous chat and asynchronous mail, and many other features that could be added with programmed objects.
“The most famous was LambdaMOO a blank canvas on which a charismatic founder could build a rich and lively community with all of the action you see in the metaverse – but just in text. Which creative form has more impact, the book or the movie?
“My son founded a community on a university server with my technical support when he was 15 years old. He had started exploring these virtual communities when he was 14. His community came to have a wide range of users from all over the world. He presented himself online to them as an adult in order to influence people to join. He stumbled when making a rather gauche pass at a female who was interviewing him for a book she was writing about these communities. She though he was in his early 20s until that pass.
“An online academic conference with around 100 participants was run on a copy of this platform. The founder and friends weren’t told of the copy. When they did find out from on the conference participants of their hard work being used for this purpose there were protests which upset the organisers to no end. They even threatened legal action over copyright infringement. That was silenced when the university lawyer pointed out it was running on university equipment and most of them didn’t have any formal relationship with the university. No terms and conditions. The platform fizzled out after a few years mostly because the founder couldn’t put the time in to maintain the community though he did get his current job at another university through one of his community contacts.
“Yes, these communities could be dangerous, and we should have learnt that 25 years ago. Why won’t the current metaverse expand? In my view the system has to be distributed and federated. There should be communities running on tiny, affordable computers like Raspberry Pis that can connect into a metropolis running on much more powerful computers. Also, developing 3D dynamic content is much more difficult at the moment than writing/programming dynamic content in the 1990s text-based MUD environment.
“Being ‘in the zone’ in the text-chat environment back then was so much better than today’s ‘wave if you can hear me’ Zoom-type conversations. The mechanics of Second Life are so distracting. Current players are just thinking about how they can extract value from the place, with little thought about the software infrastructure required. I don’t think these problems will be worked out by 2040. Perhaps the 0.1% are trying to reduce the world to a dust bowl to make the metaverse the better alternative.”
A professor of digital humanities in one of the most prestigious computer science departments in the U.S. wrote, “The ecological and social costs are staggering. We need to wake up. WAKE UP! Do NOT go further and further into fantasy land. The physical, actual world is a beautiful place. Why is everyone racing to escape it?”
A computational social scientist based in the U.S. responded, “The current state of VR is quite good and quite immersive so it seems likely to me that it will continue to improve over the next two decades to be even better. VR could make big strides in contexts like business travel where there is a large set of meetings at the margin where a virtual meeting would be preferable as long as it were immersive enough. However, many experiences are not replicable except perhaps with e.g., full-body suits, which seem like a lot of work and effort in order to avoid real-life contact.
“I think in-person gatherings will remain the norm. Over and over, we have thought that the next internet technology would be the one that would finally connect people across distance. While each technology has helped, by and large physical distance is still a huge factor in who we spend our time with.”
A director of applied science whose work focuses on identifying and mitigating problems arising from technological change said, “The largest concern for our future is that the platform companies that have the clout to build these systems, that have not yet shown the ability to responsibly run platforms with much less potential influence on society seem to believe they can responsibly run metaverse platforms. This is almost certainly not true, and much harm will result if this is allowed to occur. Policymakers, other entities in the market and the public need to be proactive to prevent this.”
A writer and anthropologist commented, “In the next 20 years the technology will advance significantly, and much will be possible, but I don’t see that the social need, nor the hurdles (digital divide, politics, accessibility, infrastructure needed) will be overcome to make it as important or ubiquitous as it could be.”
An information science professional said, “The metaverse will not be more-fully developed. That would require that people will want to trust more of their lives to big tech companies and to trust big tech companies. It also presumes that people will want to live in a less-tactile world.”
The director of technology innovation and architecture at one of the world’s largest telecommunications companies wrote, “There is significant investment in the metaverse. It is the only place outside of a theme park that one could fully immerse their customer in a brand. As experiences become more important, we will see the economy focus on opportunities in this space.”
A program manager for privacy and public affairs at one of the world’s top five tech companies said, “I do not believe in a single metaverse. In the same way that the Internet is a network of networks, there will be a multi-metaverse of metaverses. I assume a collection of walled-garden experiences with some sort of metaphorical transportation between them. It’s possible that there will be a common public space (a la The Street from the book ‘Snow Crash’) but more likely there will be a multiplicity of these public places.
“There will always be multiple modalities of online presence. Email, chat and video conferences will not go away. Most people will spend most of their time online outside of fully immersive, persistent virtual environments. There are too many trade-offs to being in those spaces.
“A fully-immersive, persistent virtual environment probably will not offer benefits offsetting the hardware, power and privacy tradeoffs. Permission-less public blockchains are problematic regardless of whether they are based on proof of work or proof of stake. I assume that some form of government regulation will emerge to manage these problems.”
A longtime engineer and internet pioneer who works as an open-source consultant commented, “It will take more than 20 years for various players to converge on a standard. It will require that two or three of them grab 30% of the mindshare, and then they will still *FAIL.*”
A director of health and life sciences and legal market analyst wrote, “Routine chores like shopping for food and clothes will be achieved online, taking less time and effort. However, I fear employers will use the new environment to intrude on HBEs (home-based employees) in their homes.”
A sociologist whose focus is the high-tech industry responded, “I’ve been aware of metaverse applications for many years, and even though I have been online since the early 1980, I’ve never found it compelling. I strongly suspect that only a small portion of young adults will be engaged in this. Perhaps by 2040 that could change but I don’t see it.”
A global strategist who works for Meta toward promoting technology for the common good wrote, “Many of the technologies that will be used to create the metaverse are already available. We should expect rapid development of metaverse hardware/wearable, devices and tools in the coming five to 10 years. By 2040 the metaverse should be a fairly mainstream and well-used technology enjoyed by millions of users.”
A tech developer and administrator proclaimed, “The ‘metaverse’ is straight up cyberpunk dystopian nonsense. If I’m wrong about it not being a thing, it is to our collective detriment as a species.”
A co-leader of a major U.S.-government-convened AI policy group said, “I have no doubt the technology will be more immersive and that digital life will continue to encroach upon our physical lives. Will it create more positives or more negatives? Given the evidence that the current internet environment is enabling both global nationalism and a further concentration of wealth at the top and understanding the added psychological influence and power of being more immersed in a ‘metaverse,’ it is hard to believe that its positives will outweigh the negatives.”
An entrepreneur, author and blogging pioneer commented, “Augmented reality will probably be commonplace, but unless there is a reason to stay indoors, people will continue to prefer face-to-face interactions over virtual ones, no matter how immersive they might be – see, for example, Zoom fatigue.”
One of the world’s top military strategists responded, “As nascent technologies in this area already exist, and as more than half a billion persons have access to this technology already, the only remaining aspect of the question is whether it will be more refined. As technology is not static, it would seem the answer to this question would logically be ‘yes.’“
The director of a center focused on computational analysis of social and organizational systems commented, “Global wars, the increase of authoritarian rule, the lack of funding for key research and increasing distrust of everything cyber will keep this from being a daily activity for most people.”
A vice president for research and economic development commented, “AI will be driving largely every functionality as we know them today. Communication and other interactions such as business transactions will likely be virtual and via avatars, AR and VR. We will be responding to prompts and directed actions, banking will no longer be in-person and it is likely that all education entities will default to online virtual training. A big challenge will be getting processes and policies to keep pace with the tech advances.”
A longtime chief information security engineer and architect responded, “Only where it offers value will it be used.”
An Internet Engineering Task Force participant who earned the title of distinguished engineer at Cisco said, “Technology always marches on. And even though I am unlikely to ever delve into the metaverse I am sure my grandchildren will. One could very much see 3D imaging and immersive technologies at some point (maybe not by 2040) to the point where you can put on a pair of 3D glasses and be immersed in a different world. This will be good and probably bad as well, since less activity and sitting behind a computer screen is not that good for one’s health, and yet it may prove very beneficial in being able to interact with folks. It will be more refined by 2040, but how much is yet to be seen.”
A scholar and professor based in Singapore responded, “It is hard to see the benefit of a metaverse at this time, when the harms from being online are becoming better known. Internal research by Facebook itself has uncovered much evidence of harm, too. The whistleblower was blowing the whistle on precisely this matter. I do not see this transition at all.”
A North American sociologist wrote, “The idea put forward by the metaverse is the latest in a list of over-hyped suggestions of the role of technology. This view of what is possible is driven more by the desire for profit, rather than by any objective developments.”
An anonymous respondent wrote, “Positives: It might allow people with disabilities and other physical constraints to join into aspects of society that were a challenge for them. It might afford people marginalized by race, gender, geography and economic status a seat at the table, or in the virtual room, as it were. But my very significant fear is that it will not. The metaverse is already full of white men with access to technology and it’s already becoming weaponized.
“Blockchain absolutely will play a central role in the building of the metaverse infrastructure, and might be a democratizing force, giving millions access to distributed finance and other secure operations without having to go through banks and other government institutions. But, again, without advocates fighting for that vision now, blockchain could devolve into a divisive weapon available to wealthy and white people only.”
A professor of digital business ethics, responsible innovation and digital games based in Europe wrote, “By 2040, any and all tech will be better and more immersive than current tech. And like any other technology, the move towards whatever we may consider a metaverse at that point will be fueled mainly by FOMO [fear of missing out] and the perceived necessity to increase shareholder value. Nothing new to see here.”
An anonymous respondent commented, “I see the metaverse as a cynical ploy by tech companies to grow their margins. It is a product that lacks product-market fit. I don’t see the need to which the metaverse is responding. For niche applications like video games where immersion in an alternative reality is half the point, VR immersion can be cool. But removing physical attributes in work or social settings can actually hurt communication. Zoom meetings are bad enough; what would Zoom meetings with avatars add?”
The director of a university research center focused on ethics and values in technology design said, “Being located anywhere and being elsewhere with others has huge positive appeal. Games already lead the way – the need and appeal is most clear in that space. I do imagine that video conferencing and work collaboration may create many positive uses of the metaverse. There is also an appeal for improving the lives of people who are aging in place and for distributed families and relationships. Positives include closer interpersonal connections over space, potential new forms of creativity, and fun – games and art in these spaces can be really cool.
“We’re already seeing negatives emerge, of course – sexual harassment, the long road to developing both safety and social norms in VR spaces, and of course the fact that such technologies open even more human interactions to datafication and surveillance. There are also possible harms around addiction that are hard to predict.”
A professor based in North America said, “By 18 years from now so much will change. Nothing sits still, and if my nephews and nieces are any prediction of what’s to come, then the metaverse is where we’re heading. They’re not interested in the Internet anymore and are living their lives behind goggles. I’ve always been tech-savvy and ahead of most educators, but I know it is like chasing a moving train. Simulations are likely the future. I’m not savvy on this, but I’d guess how we know the world today is very unlikely how it will be tomorrow.”
An expert in large-scale systems and networks commented, “Overall, I find the narrative unconvincing. Virtual reality and digital spaces have been around for a long time, yet they have not impacted daily life for most people. 2040 is just far enough into the future that in principle anything could happen, so it is the kind of claim that is hard to refute. People want to connect to each other, but it is not clear that they want to connect mediated by 3D virtual reality. I suspect many people will prefer to connect in-person for rich interactions and that 3D virtual reality will be limited to more-narrow or specialized uses.
“Blockchain strikes me as basically a bunch of baloney. I see it as overblown marketing hype that does not solve a real problem. I write this as a technical expert who has an admiration and appreciation of the beautiful mathematics that underpin it (Sybil-resistant distributed consensus, cryptographic proofs of work, non-interactive zero knowledge proofs, oh my).”
An internet pioneer and longtime network executive wrote, “Fully-immersive digital spaces inherently presume that people will wish to participate ‘fully’ and ‘immersed,’ and such participation is unlikely to be desired except in very limited circumstances. ‘Fully’ ‘immersive’ means to the exclusion of other activities, and yet most interaction with social media and the Internet today is not immersive, but rather in-tandem or complimentary to real-world interaction.
“Some people may desire to be in a fully-immersive experience in their homes, but in public both safety and practical concerns strongly suggested that virtual reality participation will instead be in augmented reality – if AR catches on to a greater degree at all. Augmented reality is much-touted but presumes interception and modification of at least visual and likely audio input for the user.
“As experiences with Google Glass and Facebook eyewear have shown, users don’t desire such devices to be continually attached to themselves – they value the ability to turn off and put away their mobile devices as much as they value the ability to turn them on.
“Important lessons are available in the wearable watch area – where users will continuously wear the Internet-connected watch but only if it doesn’t get in the way of the rest of their real-world life. While refinements in wearable goggles are expected, no one envisions goggles that are so innocuous that the wearer and their friends forget that they are wearing them – yet that’s the implied requirement for ‘full-immersion’ digital life.”
A highly respected computer scientist based in the U.S. Upper Midwest said, “The technology of virtual reality is improving substantially and that will lead to a technology-pushed emphasis on greater use, whether or not those uses are actually beneficial. It is clear that entertainment will be the dominant use for most people: the extension of today’s games, probably substantially increased pornographic use, and I hope some greater expansion of virtual presence at live events (sports, theater, music) and virtual events.
“On the positive side, I see huge educational benefits (sending people to engage in periods in history, explore science, etc.) and substantial benefits for training in all spheres (from practicing surgery to simulations where people can train for talking down a potential bridge jumper or counseling others in crisis situation).
“On the negative side, there is a real risk of amplifying negative social interactions, including increased sexism, racism, isolationism and normalization (in the virtual world) of behaviors that use, abuse or marginalize others.”
A human-robot interaction expert based in Japan responded, “For some people such a world will be realized, but it will not be so for many in the world. For the people for which personal wealth has the most meaning, this evolution might be seen as mostly positive. But the many people who have less than the privileged class may find they are only exploited. The development and widespread use of better interfaces is indispensable for the realization of an immersive digital space. This will remain difficult to achieve.
“Extended-reality developments will work both positively and negatively for people who can connect and enjoy themselves. Some people may spend much or all of their time there and turn away from attending various real-life challenges. It can become impossible for some to separate the virtual world from the real world; for those who are immersed in the virtual world, the virtual becomes their reality.”
An expert in paid social media advertising for one of the world’s largest social media platforms said, “The technology will only get better, which will make more people participate on it.”
A Canadian teacher and multimedia journalist commented, “It is shocking the speed with which the metaverse is being considered to be an acceptable extension of the digital world, given the dangerous problems it currently hosts. Regardless of the speed with which investors secure footholds in new revenue-generating ways to exploit human curiosity and naivety, the metaverse is poised to deepen current dangers, such as mis/dis/mal-information, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism and more. It will ensnare generations more in more digital manipulation.”
An internet policy activist based in the Pacific Islands wrote, “What will the metaverse really add to the daily life of people? Why should they switch from what they are already using? Will it be less or more energy-hungry? It will surely have a role(s), but I do not think it will become a replacement.”
A researcher and futurist expert in the mechanisms of trust in digital technology and governance of AI commented, “I anticipate that many more activities will move into digital spaces. We have already seen some sports (e.g., cycling and rowing) develop mature training and racing environments in the digital space. It does not seem unreasonable for certain aspects of work or education to also move into immersive digital spaces.”
An Ivy League researcher/professor expert in assessing algorithmic systems responded, “‘The metaverse’ will not be a thing. There will be immersive virtual spaces for particular purposes, especially business meetings, socializing with close friends and gaming. But they will be distinct experiences, entered into and then left. They will not broadly interoperate. Most online experiences will not be shared and immersive.”
A security, intelligence and advanced threats researcher wrote, “It’s a stupid concept, to bury your head in a virtual world while the real one burns. I hope the metaverse is harshly rejected.”
An expert in internet engineering and policy said, “Enhanced transparent displays have obvious use cases for machinery, vehicles, warfare and entertainment. It’s hard to conceive of a scenario in which advances in one field won’t feed advances in others, creating network effects that will lead people to rely more and more on this intermediation to interact with one another, and the world at large.”
A researcher and lecturer on the social implications of computer technology commented, “Maybe it’ll be how kids play games, and maybe people will order pizzas using it, but adult real life won’t be there, especially not if Facebook is running it.”
A scholar, artist and designer responded, “The current tech is terrible – laggy, bulky and it makes people sick. That alone will likely prevent it from happening. To me, the more important issue is that most people can’t afford to eat, house and clothe themselves and they have poor access to medical care and clean drinking water. These are the more-pressing issues for people, not some ridiculous metaverse that rich white boys want to make happen because they read it in a book.”
A futurist and consultant based in Europe commented, “The metaverse aims to innovate the way people interact with each other on the internet, interacting in a way previously only thought possible in science fiction. Technologies like virtual reality, a computer-generated simulation of a 3D image or environment, and augmented reality, superimposing a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, will play a significant role in bringing the metaverse to life.”
An AI architect for one of the world’s most successful software companies commented, “I predict we will see a large societal divide in those with access to the metaverse whether for entertainment or work purposes.”
A communications expert based in British Columbia responded, “The metaverse will become a place to escape the realities of the world. It may not be as it is now, with clunky VR gear. Rather it may be more integrated into everyday functions, objects and clothing, so that people shift seamlessly from the physical to the virtual world.”
An expert in cyber policy and platform regulation wrote, “The metaverse seems almost exactly like Second Life, which had the same value proposition decades ago. The difference is basically that the implementing technology can be better, faster, prettier, etc. So, the question is: Is that change enough, or was the idea of an immersive online life not actually that attractive to people? My guess is the latter. Presumably gaming will move in this direction, of course. And some long-distance socializing and meetings, if the tech gets much, much better than it is now, with convincing video-like images rather than the cartoon avatars.
“So maybe that technically gets you to half a billion users, but not enthusiastic ones. Outside of games, I don’t see people voluntarily hanging out in the metaverse much.
“I don’t really understand what the blockchain has to do with this. Is it for identity authentication, which matters just as much in non-metaverse uses? Or is it about artificial scarcity of digital assets, so maybe you value access to particular metaverse locations because they have the only copy of the metaverse Mona Lisa or whatever? I certainly hope we don’t go on that direction. Deliberately forfeiting the value of non-rivalrous digital goods would undo so much of what is good about the Internet.”
A professor based in Asia said, “Societies are ready to embrace the metaverse, and technologies are increasing becoming available. The transition will be slow, but it will happen. Like the Internet changed the way we work and live, metaverse will change it one more time. It will impact everything we do including education, shopping, healthcare, gaming and entertainment, etc.
A director of finance for development based in West Africa commented, “All our activities are online today. Activities in that space produce data we use for important decision-making, it is also important in providing distraction. The management of the evolution to the metaverse will be very difficult. Data-science technologies will provide many positive uses. Cyberware will also advance.”
A Washington DC-based entrepreneur commented, “The metaverse will exist, but fewer than 500 million people will be ‘immersed’ in it.”
The director of a center exploring the future of knowledge infrastructure responded, “AI is in yet another hype cycle. It is unlikely that people will be that interested in virtual reality. Real reality is hard enough for most folks. Climate change, cyber warfare and actual warfare are much bigger concerns. AR, VR, etc., are likely to go the way of those sim worlds in which universities were buying islands a decade ago. We’re all tired of Zoom after two years of pandemic. A walk in the woods or even the city streets is much more attractive.”
A senior researcher, data hunter and insights professional said, “I imagine people will be able to connect with others on a global scale. I imagine it will not take up steam until educational and medical institutions adopt this tech.”
A lecturer in psychology based in Cambridge, UK, commented, “The pandemic has revealed to us the importance of our experience and existence as biological entities. The only way the metaverse will be attractive is if the real world is rendered uninhabitable physically, economically and politically. Some large companies would appear to be targeting that as an outcome of their current practices, aided by the politically malevolent or naive, but my suspicion is that they will fail. Unfortunately, their failure will come at great cost to humanity and the planet, but they will fail.”
An internet services architect for a major global technology company said, “Privacy will become more important, and these gaming applications will be affected by that in a way that will prevent this large of a number of people.”
A North American futures strategist and consultant commented, “We are addicted to our smart phones, and the apps will be refined and will enrapture us. We will then become less interactive on a person-to-person level, relying on electronics.”
A director of strategic initiatives said, “There is too much uncertainty around how appropriate data privacy protections will be implemented to make a prediction about 2040. The digital divide is real and significant, and the inequities of all of this will not be addressed by 2040.”
A technology and global political policy professional commented, “No, it will not advance because the likes of Elon Musk will run it.”
An anonymous respondent said, “2040 is only 18 years away and not a whole lot will change.”
An anonymous respondent wrote, “Gaming is not very important, considering all the other issues that need to be solved for society.”
A technology developer based in Europe commented, “I’m quite certain it will not be part of my life and it is pretty useless. It’s nice in some games, but it adds nothing of value.”
A technology developer based in North America responded, “The ‘metaverse’ will fade as soon as a new term and methodology emerge. Facebook is attempting to drive this train and they won’t be around long-term either.”
A technology developer and administrator wrote, “I really don’t really know. Technology is changing so fast every two years.”
A North American entrepreneur commented, “I don’t think it’s a modality that is useful or wanted by the general population.”
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WHAT WILL THE METAVERSE BE IN 2040?
What will the Metaverse be in 2040?
What will the Metaverse bring? Some parts of it are already here with for instance gaming where you can be present in the Metaverse by your avatar. But what will it look like in 2040? A majority of experts say that by then, the Metaverse will for a half billion people or more globally be a well-functioning part of daily life.
US-based Pew Research Center and Elon University have collected forecasts from 624 technology innovators, developers, business and policy leaders, researchers and activists.
The research center says that early 2020s technological advances and societal transformations brought about by the pandemic have pushed the development of the Metaverse to the forefront, prompting predictions that the metaverse is “the future of the internet” and “the next internet battleground”.
- 54% of the experts said that they expect by 2040 the Metaverse WILL be a much-more-refined and truly fully-immersive, well-functioning aspect of daily life for a half billion or more people globally.
- XR will develop fast because of its massive commercial possibilities.
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