A Glimpse at the Coming Metaverse

Ben Thompson of Stratechery talking about why he’s becoming more bullish on virtual reality than augmented reality during an interview with Mark Zuckerberg about the Metaverse:

I do have to say, the last couple of years, particularly the COVID era, has changed my perspective a little bit as there does seem to be more and more of sort of a bifurcation between your online reality and your offline reality. It’s something I wrote about in the context of work, where people call it working from home, but I actually think that’s a misnomer: it’s actually working online, and you can work online from anywhere but when you go online, you’re in a different place cognitively speaking than you are when you’re at home or playing with your kids, or you’re seeing your friends or whatever it might be.

I get to work from home sometimes, but I think there is a key nuance here. One of the hardest things about working online from home is that the people around you don’t want or feel like you are somewhere else, cognitively speaking. Frankly, getting to that other cognitive place in the first place can be quite difficult when surrounded by the context of all the non-work things around you.

Does a future where you can slip further into the internet make it easier or harder to be productive online?

Well, it depends on how you define productivity. In the interview, Zuckerberg claims that fostering human connection is his life’s work. He then goes on to freely admit that ruining meaningful unadulterated human connection is a “killer use case”:

Although I do think that for augmented reality, for example, one of the killer use cases is basically going to be you’re going to have glasses and you’re going to have something like EMG on your wrist and you’re going to be able to have a message thread going on when you’re in the middle of a meeting or doing something else and no one else is even going to notice. Think about what we’ve had over the last couple of years during the pandemic where everyone’s been on Zoom, and one of the things that I’ve found very productive is you can have side channel conversations or chat threads going while you’re having the main meeting. I actually think that would be a pretty useful thing to be able to have in real life too where basically you’re having a physical conversation or you’re coming together, but you can also receive incoming messages without having to take out your phone or look at your watch and even respond quickly in a way that’s discreet and private. So I think that there are going to be those use cases. I think that there are going to be easier ways to get in and out of experiences where you’re experiencing that deep sense of presence.

The problem with social media on cell phones is that your kids, friends, and colleagues know you are being rude and self-absorbed when you ignore them. The problem–of course!–is not the behavior and our inability to be fully present in our interactions. The problem is being so transparent in informing others that they are insufficiently interesting to hold our full attention.

This is the promise of the coming metaverse.

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