Opinion: Is the Metaverse the Future We Want for Our Children?

The Old Man

Screen time is already addicting. Do we want to double down on that?

Try to get the attention of a youngster or teen when they are immersed in a video game. It's hard to break into the zombie-like state, much like trying to talk to dad on Sunday during the seven-hour NFL Red Zone.

Is this the direction we want society to go? Will we blindly follow where ever technology leads? Because lead it will as there is much money to be made and markets (like you and your family) to capture.

The internet is evolving, and its goal is even more immersive and profoundly addicting. There are two facets to the next step in the internet evolution:

Web 3.0 (The Semantic Web) - Tim Berners-Lee explains Web 3.0 best in stating his dream for the next internet development. "I have a dream for the Web [in which computers] become capable of analyzing all the data on the Web - the content, links, and transactions between people and computers. A "Semantic Web", which makes this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy, and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines. The "intelligent agents" people have touted for ages will finally materialize." Berners-Lee is the English computer scientist best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web.

The Metaverse- "attempts to connect offline and online worlds based on augmented reality and virtual reality. This technology helps users to get involved in the digital world. The term metaverse has the broader sense, so it should not be limited to virtual reality. META CEO Mark Zuckerberg is believing. The Metaverse could give an immersive experience to the users." - Bhijan Neupane

Web 3.0 purports to be a decentralized internet where users create the content, and users control & monetize the content through blockchain & cryptocurrencies. Web 3.0 provides the technology backbone for the Metaverse.

When the creators of the Metaverse describe it as immersive, they imagine a step from the two-dimensional experience we have today to a three-dimensional experience that will require a 3D virtual reality headset. At present we view screens, with virtual reality we will strap on a headset and step inside our screens and become one with them. This has the potential to be explosively addictive. It might be one thing for an adult to immerse himself in virtual reality as an escape, much like watching NetFlix. But what about your four-year-old. I know. I know you won't let them use it. But marketers have clever ways of thwarting parents' wishes. In addition to there will be plenty of talk around the nursery school or elementary school about the exciting new gaming experience. You have not been around any preschoolers lately if you don't believe me.

I've been involved in elementary school education most of my life, and my wife was a kindergarten teacher for 34 years. We know the household distractions that make it harder to educate kids today. While our kids were young, we decided a TV would distract and be in daily competition with homework and reading time. For us, it was easier not to have a TV in the house than to hassle with monitoring its use 24/7. That was before the plethora of video games and all the hand-held devices came along.

Parking your kids in front of the TV or with a video game is an excellent babysitting device - but what is it doing for your kid.

The fast-paced nature of video games the instantaneous feedback loop built-in makes the classroom with one teacher presenting lessons to thirty kids a pretty dull place. That was especially apparent over ZOOM. Sure it was technology, but one static image of a teacher talking did not hold anyone's attention, and it paled in comparison to the rapidly changing images of a computer game.

Primary grade teachers are charged with teaching kids to read. This is a daunting task as it is. It takes a while to get children up to speed so that reading a story on their own is an exciting event. But couple that with early addiction and fascination with video games and teaching reading is all the more challenging.

Is this the direction we want our society to go?

Are we ready for a technology that is more immersive and more addicting than what we already have? Look around, if you are able. At every viable moment, people are checking their screens. Two couples sit down at a restaurant and four phones come out. It's as though everyone would rather be anywhere but the present. There is always something more compelling happening on a screen.

But the Metaverse is more consuming still. Don your virtual reality headset and you literally disappear from this world and climb right inside your device to the virtual world that awaits. Your primary senses of sight and sound are one-hundred percent tuned to the virtual space, a space so captivating that you are reluctant to leave. A space not bound by the physical, moral, or ethical constraints of this world, rather a space you can be free to create a radical new you without any of the work and effort it takes in the real world or "meat space" as they so despicably term it.

As a society we are struggling with screen addictions now do we want to invite the fentanyl and oxycontin of the digital world into our homes? Right now it is difficult to tear a child away from his video games to make time for homework. In addition, there are literally thousands of channels of distraction available on your TV. Imagine what it will be like to tear your child away from the 3D virtual world they actually inhabit - to do their homework? Or even come to dinner?

Even as I write this I can hear some of the comments. Why do we even need school anymore? Why do we need to know how to read? To consider the deeper implication of this brave new world is to be a bit frightened.

Is this the direction we want society to go?

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Looking for solutions to improve our world. I write about politics, education, climate change, and any issues important to average Americans struggling to survive in a world gone mad.

Chico, CA
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