Which potential future will await cryopreserved people after their revival? Will flying cars finally be a thing, or will the singularity have boosted technology to a point where everything is fully automated? As with any question regarding the future, we can’t be sure. Many people are hesitant to sign up for cryonics because they do not know if they want to live in the future, whether that be decades or centuries from now. Yet there is one prominent idea that has started to catch on this past century, which also promises a new and exciting way to live life: The Metaverse.
The term metaverse, in its broad definition, refers to a virtual space within a computer-generated environment. In concept, this space would act as a “secondary, human-made universe”, beyond the physical limitations of the one we live in right now. The word is made up of “Meta”, meaning “beyond” and “verse” from “universe”, so… “beyond the universe”. Currently, inhabitants of the first prototypes of the metaverse enter these worlds via Virtual Reality goggles (VR), or Augmented Reality (AR). As technology advances, the vision is that people will one day be able to fully upload or download their consciousness into and from the metaverse, enabling them to live a second life. However, there are vastly different views on how this would ultimately be achieved and what form it would take. For that reason, let me introduce you to some of the current concepts of the metaverse.
The biggest difference between the Metaverse and other futuristic concepts is the amount of investment and resources allocated to their development. While some tech companies conduct research on flying cars, many big tech companies currently invest in the Metaverse. The highly trusted business publication Bloomberg predicts the market to grow to about 800 billion US dollars by 2024. Let's take a look at some of them.
Meta, formerly known as “Facebook”, has gone so all-in on the concept of the Metaverse, that they even changed their brand name accordingly. Their vision of the internet-based universe involves copying our current lives into virtual space and eliminating the physical distance between us. You move around with your virtual avatar that can, but doesn’t have to, resemble your real-life self. You are then given the option to engage in a multitude of activities ranging from casual conversations with your best friends, to interactive games with strangers. In 2021 alone, Meta reportedly planned to invest at least 10 billion dollars into its Metaverse division. In October that same year, publication Reuters reported that Meta was planning to open up 10.000 job positions in the EU over the next couple of years, for the purpose of their Metaverse initiative.
Still, despite their efforts there is a sizable group of tech-savvy people who believe that Meta’s approach will not prevail, and other companies will lead the way forward instead. But even if the nay-sayers are right, and their vision ultimately doesn’t end up being the one carried into the future, you can certainly not say they didn’t try.
One of the hurdles in Meta’s version of the Metaverse is the unification of the internet into one big virtual space. For this to work, they would need to have the entire internet hop into the same boat—think of it like a world government for the virtual world. What if someone disagrees with their concept, and forbids them to include their service into Meta’s infrastructure? Their direct competitors will most likely try to build their own Metaverse before joining Meta’s.
This is where Google’s mother-company Alphabet is one step ahead. The search engine with a market share of ~91% has close relations to most of what people would consider “the important parts of the internet”. If your website is banned from Google, you have effectively lost 91% of online searches, and become dependent on effective leads.
But Alphabet’s interconnectivity isn’t the only difference to their competitors’ approach. While Meta puts the focus on VR, Alphabet’s main investments lie in the technology of AR. In 2012 Google revealed “Google Glass” to the world, wearable glasses that were able to project augmented reality right into your vision. However, the product was ultimately canceled in 2015 because of its steep price (over 1.000 USD)and rather limited functionality compared to other smart-devices. In addition, they had to make the observation that users’ behaviourisms didn’t match with their vision of how Glass would be used. Despite this commercial failure, Alphabet still believes in AR technology. They envision the Metaverse as an invisible layer of AR on top of our current reality rather than a fully separate one. Alphabet wants to continue investing in this technology going forward.
Big tech companies aren’t the only ones investing time, money and effort into the creation of social virtual spaces. Some small teams, or even singular individuals, are developing their own versions of what they think the Metaverse should be. And if you think these can’t compete with the big players, you may want to think again.
If you’ve been using the internet for a while, there is a good chance you have heard of Second Life & VRChat. VRChat was created by a small team of two people, Graham Gaylor and Jesse Joudrey while Second Life is the work of a single man, Philip Rosedale. The prominent virtual reality hubs offer the option to take any form you want, join any virtual world of your choice, and partake in a plethora of activities. There are virtual bars where you can talk to friends (or strangers), a comedy club where people perform stand-up routines, community-driven events taking place in their own created world and much, much more. In essence, it is Meta’s vision of the Metaverse already half-done. Just be prepared for things to get a bit unruly from time to time, as both of these Metaverses have user-expression and creative freedom as their core-values.
Their ongoing functionality is possible because most of the assets inside these worlds are user-generated. Just like in the real world, it is not the job of one carpenter to provide everyone with tables, but a joint effort of many, to match the market's needs.
Second Life has been online since 2003 and currently averages around 44.000 concurrent users, although numbers fluctuate a lot. VRChat was first launched in 2014, currently averages around 22.000 concurrent users, and is steadily growing every month.
Blockchain Worlds, or Crypto Metaverses, are largely the same as the Metaverses we mentioned earlier, with one key difference. While others use real-life currency to enable transactions within their worlds, these worlds use the blockchain infrastructure to gain access to the crypto economy. This way virtual items can be exchanged for real economic value, and linked directly to your identity. Whereas regular Metaverses are only able to sell in-world goods within the confines of their own worlds, the concept of crypto Metaverses allows users to transfer their assets between worlds as Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Some of the most prominent blockchain worlds today are Decentraland, Bloktopia or The Sandbox.
But there is a catch: Right now, most metaverses are exclusive to themselves, and not linked to any others, making NFTs of one world unusable in the next. In theory, all metaverses will be linked in the future, in the same way the internet is today, but there is no guarantee that it will happen. In a similar way to cryopreservation, this investment acts as a trust in future technology to allow your choices of today to bear fruit one day.
Playing games is integrated in human nature. The video game sector’s market value has grown exponentially in the past few decades ($160 billion in 2020), dwarving the film and music industry in comparison (less than $100 billion combined). So naturally all of our previously discussed metaverse concepts include some sort of gaming activities within these virtual spaces. But what if I told you there exists a second, slightly different approach to the metaverse that puts the gaming aspect in the forefront. In fact, this “different approach” might as well be called the original approach.
Games like “The Sims” simulated an online world akin to the current concept of the metaverse in the year 2000. A few years later, in 2004, the MMORPG (Massive-Multiplayer-Online-Role-Playing-Game) World of Warcraft hosted millions of players in their own virtual world called “Azeroth”, and even hired professional economists to design their in–game economy and combat inflation within their realm.
Remember the prediction of an 800 billion US dollars metaverse market we mentioned earlier? 400 billion, half of the entire share, is being attributed to the video game industry. How is that possible, you may ask? Let’s investigate.
Epic Games was one of the first to realize the growing demand of a second digitized life. In July 2020, they invited rapper Travis Scott to hold a digital concert inside their popular online game Fortnite - a game which they are looking to expand into their own version of the Metaverse. This one-time-event reportedly grossed 20 million US dollars, making it about twelve times as profitable as a regular tour concert. In 2021 the company made 5.8 billion dollars in revenue from Fortnite alone, with a player-base of approximately 83 million players. This makes the game in the battle-royale genre the biggest metaverse to date. In 2022 they raised another 2 billion dollars, and put them straight towards developing their Metaverse efforts, steadily expanding player’s options to interact with each other in the digital world.
On top of this, Epic Games is also the creator of the Unreal Engine, the most popular software for creating virtual worlds and assets on the globe. That means that not only will they be expanding their own Metaverse, but will subsequently help other creators realize their visions more easily.
Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 in action - Hard to believe, but nothing in this video is real
Tencent is a tech company based in China that specializes in the entertainment industry. It is the world's largest video game publisher and the world's 10th most valuable company by market value, having snatched the spot from Meta earlier this year. Tencent believes that the gaming industry will primarily drive the Metaverse forward, but that external connectivity will be key to broadening the appeal. “An important feature of the metaverse lies in its ability to go beyond entertainment and connect more external services and content.” Tencent is looking to open their “extended reality” division later this year.
Many other gaming companies have - or are currently working on - their own versions of the Metaverse. The video game landscape is filled with virtual places, where you can meet your friends. The previously mentioned MMORPG genre is the very definition of a gamified metaverse, with each game boasting a huge virtual world to explore and partake in various activities in. Minecraft, the best-selling game of all time, allows players to build their own virtual worlds and invite other players to share the fun. The Chinese game developer HoYoverse plans on building a fully realized virtual world, where people can “live in” by 2030. Looking at their current success with Genshin Impact, one of the most expensive video games ever made, it is clear that they certainly know how to make virtual worlds look appealing to inhabit.
As you can see, the Metaverse, in its current form, is not simply one big online world, but rather many different ones, all attempting to provide the best possible realization of the concept. In a few decades, one world might stand out as the most popular, and others could try to migrate into it via virtual links. But until then, it will remain to be seen if the Metaverse can truly fulfill its lofty goals of being an alternative universe with endless possibilities. Flying through the air, teleporting to different worlds, being wherever or whoever you wanna be. In a fully digitized world, people’s imagination is the limit.
But first, there are technical limitations we have to overcome before we can upload our consciousness into the digital realm. As a Biostasis company we are inclined to believe that we will overcome these limitations in the future, in the same vein we believe in Biostasis research to enable future revival for our cryopreserved patients.
If you woke up from cryopreservation in the future, would you want to live in a virtual world like that, or rather stay in your physical body and explore what else the physical world has to offer? We, from the Biostasis community, would love to see a digital world that cryopreserved patients can choose to be uploaded into. Cryonics is all about the choice of living life after all. A fully realized Metaverse would be another way of doing just that.