Here’s a question most of us have likely asked in the past year: is technology driving good things for us as humans, or is it a further centralization of power (cue Zuck’s lifeless shark eyes) and cause of division?
Consider the Metaverse. It’s big. It’s sexy. At SXSW 2022, it was everywhere. You couldn’t even use the restroom without hearing someone mention it. And every big tech company is clamoring to stake their claim in this space. But is the Metaverse part of true reality?
It depends on how you define reality.
The Metaverse is made up of many different types of tech, which include virtual reality but aren’t limited to it. These virtual worlds continue to exist even when you're not in them, and can be combined with our physical world. In fact, many of the tech we use today—a virtual world that can be accessed via a phones or console—e.g., Fortnite—can already be considered metaversal. Broadly, it’s more of a shift in the way we as humans use tech.
But, to put things in perspective, half of the people surveyed have never even heard of the Metaverse*, leading us to question: who will this be for? And for what larger purpose? Are we using massive amounts of resources and talent to build a navel-gazing tech-enabled play-land within a world that already has countless unsolved problems? Or will technology like this lead to increased human connection and solutions we can barely imagine?
Even with Meta’s major stock dip earlier this year, down about 40% in market cap YTD, it's STILL double the size of the largest media company in the world—Disney.
- As shared during the Future of Content keynote at SXSW 2022
While it may not be top-of-mind or even well articulated by business leaders, tech like the Metaverse still has the potential to be an incredibly powerful vehicle for growth and connection. And the talks we heard at the festival served as a good reminder that broader societal problems will always be ripe opportunities for altruistic-leaning innovation.
We walked away feeling incredibly optimistic about the role of technology in creating a better world for all of us. And in a world that seems increasingly chaotic and rife with issues, we wanted to share some of the advances we are most excited about:
- Companies like Fuseproject are partnering with clients to accelerate commercialization of sustainable technologies like clean water stations in East Africa
- Applying 3D printing technologies, like ICON is doing, to build houses in a future with greater displacement due to climate change
- A real focus on using tech for biodiversity, agriculture sustainability, and resource utilization, e.g., Hylio’s drones that help you use less pesticide through more targeted applications, saving costs for family farmers and create a smaller environmental footprint
- Game creators and players are expressing and working through big thoughts, feelings and experiences through their games—like what it's like to live with anxiety, psychosis, or even extreme empathy, what it's like to be trans, or what creating peace in a war-torn place could look like.
It was truly inspirational to see applications of brilliant technology that solves real-world problems—not just tech for tech’s sake (or “cool factor”). In some ways, this approach feels like it is the antithesis to the Metaverse. Rather than inserting people into a digital environment, progressive organizations are asking, “How can technology seamlessly integrate into our physical and emotional lives with purpose?”
As the Metaverse and other tech evolves, we need to be asking: is it building value? Is it beneficial? What’s the purpose?
We build strong brands that are driven first and foremost by purpose, so we are biased. But if you want to be truly relevant, it’s worth considering Mark Cuban’s Times Square analogy: “You can build a Times Square in the Metaverse, but it’s useless if no one is there.”
Especially when we’re 3D printing houses for people that need them out here IRL.
*Source: The Future of Content Keynote, March 11 2022, Variety Intelligence Platform