I was watching the movie Ready Player One recently. There is one scene that seemed prescient to me.
In case, you haven’t seen the movie, or read the book, let me give a quick synopsis of the story first.
It is the year 2045, and the real world is a harsh place. People spend most of their time in the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe. In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone – the only limits are your own imagination.
The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday. After Halliday passed away, it was announced that there would be a three-part contest. The winner would recieve Halliday’s entire fortune and control of the OASIS. The contest lured legions of gamers to try to win the contest. The contest also drew the interest of Nolan Sorrento, the CEO of Innovative Online Industries (IOI) who is seeking to transform the OASIS into a corporate entity. IOI uses an army of indentured servants and employees called “Sixers” to win the contest.
The scene is set in the IOI office, Nolan Sorrento presents his vision of the future of the OASIS to the shareholders:
We call this Pure O2. This is the first of our planned upgrades. Once we can roll back some of Halliday’s ad restrictions, we estimate we can sell up to 80% of an individual’s visual field before inducing seizures, so picture this…
It is a darkly comic statement. You can watch the scene on YouTube.
The irony is that the internet is kind of like this already. We are peering at content through ads and cookies banners.
Meta, one of the world’s largest advertising companies, is creating a virtual universe similar to the OASIS that they have named the Metaverse. The name was inspired by another work of science fiction, Snowcrash. Science fiction is becoming scientific fact quickly.
We can safely assume that the motivation to make the Metaverse is profit. Profit is made through advertising, so really is it just a new medium for advertising? If Meta are successful, would the Metaverse look like Nolan Sorrento’s vision?
Let’s make sure we don’t go down this route!