In 1992, Neal Stephenson, a renowned science fiction writer, introduced the concept of the “Metaverse” in his book Snow Crash. Three decades later, rare items associated with the book are being auctioned off by Sotheby’s, while Stephenson himself is focused on building a new layer-1 blockchain company for the metaverse, known as Lamina1. The primary goal of this company is to help creators build an “open metaverse,” a term that Stephenson uses to distinguish it from the current corporate versions of the metaverse.
During a recent episode of a podcast, Stephenson emphasized the importance of an “open” metaverse, stating that the term “works pretty well.” He explained that companies often use buzzwords like “Metaverse” to further their business goals, and consumers must maintain a skeptical outlook when assessing such claims.
Stephenson also noted that there are two common mistakes people make when discussing the metaverse. The first mistake is to refer to multiple metaverses, which Stephenson argues is incorrect. He believes that there is only one metaverse, similar to the internet, and that companies creating closed metaverse environments do not truly understand the concept. However, Stephenson acknowledges that there will still be closed games or realms, particularly those designed as works of art by game designers.
The second mistake, according to Stephenson, is to assume that the metaverse can only be accessed through VR headsets. While headsets are a reasonable assumption, Stephenson points out that everyone currently accesses 3D worlds through flat screens. This approach has advantages, and in some ways, works better than using goggles. While Stephenson is not anti-headset, he notes that creating experiences that only a minority of people can access is not financially viable.
Stephenson cites Fortnite, Minecraft, and Roblox as examples of games that embody the spirit of the metaverse as described in Snow Crash, with a “mashup kind of feel.” These games combine different elements to create a coherent, unique world, but they are not completely open, as some elements would clash with the game’s aesthetic or design.
In summary, the metaverse is a complex concept with many different interpretations. Stephenson’s vision of an “open metaverse” aims to create a space where creators can build unique, immersive experiences that are accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of the technology they use to access it.