Recently crowned head of global affairs at Meta, Nick Clegg – who was once Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – makes his living in California by writing a manifesto of nearly 8,000 words to promote “Metaverse”: the science fiction-inspired vapourware developed by the company we know All in the name of Facebook for its major rebranding last fall.
At the time, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, the new entity (META) would be “Metaverse First” from now on. So it’s funny that the main question Clegg says he addresses in his article is “what is the metaverse” – and basically, why should anyone care? But trying to explain such basic logic seems to keep metamates busy.
The average Post Clegg published yesterday warns readers that it will take 32 minutes of their lives to assimilate them. Few people would have bothered to read it. As a Brit, I can assure you that no one should feel pressured to undergo Nick Clegg’s 32 Minutes – especially not feeling pissed off at an employer’s request. So, TechCrunch took that bullet for the team and read (okay, quick read) a screed so you don’t have to.
Below is a bulleted summary of the Clegg metaverse statement. But first, we invite you to chew on WordCloud (below), which shortens his article from about 7,900 words all the way down to 50 — with the boldest word “metaverse” spinning around the “internet”, thus solidifying the test in our current digital ecosystem.
We’re glad we were able to drop a few thousand words to get to that first rule. But wait there is more!
Entertaining word pairs that come out of CleggCloud include “company rules” (not democratic rules then Clegg?); “Human tech” (maybe just an oxymoron; but we’re open to the possibility that this is a catch-all euphemism for ominous startups like HBO Silicon Valley(Satirical) “Human is a heater”); “About potentiality” (there is no real potential then?); “Metaphysics” (we laughed); and — squint or you’ll lose it! — “Potential Secret” (or perhaps “Potential Secret”).
The ultra-low ink of this latest pairing adds a decent layer of extra uncertainty that life in the Zuckerberg-Clegg metaverse is going to be a really terrible thing for privacy. (Attentive readers may feel compelled to point out that CleggCloud also contains “Private Experience” as another exceptionally weak pairing. In exceptionally secluded and closed friend spaces – not that the entire metaverse will be a haven of human privacy. LOL!)
Before moving on to the summary, we feel it is also worth noting a few words are not used in Clegg’s article – and thus cannot be “invisibly inked” on our word cloud (much like tracking pixels) – deserves credit for its deletion: i.e. “tracing” and “profiling”; aka, how the advertising giant Meta is making its money right now. Because, we have to assume that tracking and profiling is how Meta plans to make money in the mixed reality future that Clegg is trying to catalyze.
His article spares no word on how Meta plans to monetize its “pivot” monetization or reconfigure its current “sell ad” business model in the theoretical mixed future reality scenario he plots, where the digital commerce arena consists of the Internet of interconnected services that are owned and operated Dozens of different/competing companies.
But perhaps—and we’re highly anticipating here—Meta envisions the ability to supplement the sale of surveillance-targeted advertising by collecting display rents from home industry “creators” Clegg & co. Hope will arise to serve these spaces by making digital things to sell to users, such as virtual leads for their avatar, or virtual dressing rooms to buy real leads…sale – great job! — but if you want the flats to see them in glorious full color, you’ll have to pay the advanced viewing fee, “Write something. Just an idea!)
Now for our summary of the Clegg chart – which we’ve combined into a series of bulleted confirmations/suggestions from the Meta Chief (add our comment alongside in bold italics). Take advantage of the time we have saved you.
- There would be no “a” or “metaverse” in the sense of a single experience/entity; There will be “metaverse spaces” on different devices, which may or may not interact well [so it’s a giant rebranding exercise of existing techs like VR, AR, social gaming etc?]
- But the grand vision is “a global virtual layer that anyone can experience above the physical world today.” [aka total intermediation of human interaction and the complete destruction of privacy and intimacy in service of creating limitless, real-time commercial opportunities and enhanced data capture]
- Metaverse spaces will outpace ephemeral indexing, personification, and immersion and will be more likely to focus on speech-based communication than current social apps, suggesting that users may act more candidly and/or forget that they aren’t really alone with friends. [so Meta and any other mega corporates providing “metaverse spaces” can listen in to less guarded digital chatter and analyze avatar and/or actual body language to derive richer emotional profiles for selling stuff]
- The metaverse can be useful for education and training [despite the essay’s headline claim to answer “why it matters”, Clegg doesn’t actually make much of a case for the point of the metaverse or why anyone would actually want to fritter their time away in a heavily surveilled virtual shopping mall — but he includes some vague suggestions it’ll be useful for things like education or healthcare training. At one one point he enthuses that the metaverse will “make learning more active” — which implies he was hiding under a rock during pandemic school shutdowns. He also suggests metaverse tech will remove limits on learning related to geographical location — to which one might respond have you heard of books? Or the Internet? etc]
- The Metaverse will create new digital divides – those who can afford the best hardware will enjoy a more immersive experience [not a very equally distributed future then is it Clegg?]
- Anyone can guess how much money the metaverse could generate – or how many jobs it could create! [🤷]
- But! Incredibly large amounts of work would be required to maintain these interconnected, interconnected spaces. [i.e. to maintain any kind of suspension of disbelief that it’s worth the time sink and to prevent them from being flooded with toxicity]
- Developers especially there will be a lot of work for you!!! [developers, developers, developers!]
- Unlike Facebook, there will not be a single set of rules for the Metaverse – it will be a mixture of ToS [aka, it’ll be a confusing mess. Plus governments/states may also be doing some of the rule-making via regulation]
- The lack of interoperability/enjoyable gameplay among all the business entities that create “metaverse experiences” can fragment the seamless connection that Meta adores so much. [seems inevitable tbh; thereby threatening the entire Meta rebranding project. Immersive walled gardens anyone?]
- The meta metaverse can allow you to create secluded temporary private spaces where you can chat with friends [but only in the same siloed way that FB Messenger offers E2EE via “Secret Conversations” — i.e. surveillance remains Meta’s overarching rule]
- Bad vicarious experiences are probably more horrible than 2D cyberbullying, etc. [yep, virtual sexual assault is already a thing]
- Big challenges and doubts await the dead [no shit]
- It will take at least 10-15 years to build something like a meta idea of connected metaverses. [Clegg actually specified: “if not longer”; imagine entire decades of Zuckerberg-Clegg!]
- Meta hopes to work with all kinds of stakeholders as it develops metaverse technologies [aka, it needs massive buy-in if there’s to be a snowflake’s chance in hell of pulling off this rebranding pivot and not just sinking billions into a metaverse money-hole]
- Meta names a few “priority areas” that it says are guiding its reverse development – chief among them “economic opportunities” [just think of all those developer/creator jobs again! Just don’t forget who’s making the mega profits right now… All four listed priorities offer more PR soundbite than substance. For example, on “privacy” — another of Meta’s stated priorities — Clegg writes: “how we can build meaningful transparency and control into our products”. Which is a truly rhetorical ask from the former politician, since Facebook does not give users meaningful control over their privacy now — so we must assume Meta is planning a future of more of the same old abusive manipulations and dark patterns so it can extract as much of people’s data as it can get away with… Ditto “safety & integrity” and “equity & inclusion” under the current FB playbook.]
- “metaverse is coming one way or another” [Clegg’s concluding remark comes across as more of a threat than bold futuregazing. Either way, it certainly augurs Meta burning A LOT more money on this circus]