The metaverse is one of the hottest buzzwords within the technological space. However, it is difficult to understand both its configuration and its potential impacts on society.
This is therefore a two-part blog series, where I will focus on the opportunities of the metaverse in this post, and look at its challenges in the coming one.
My first introduction to the concept of the metaverse was, as so many others, through the main-stream media. The giant tech companies were suddenly investing in inventing a new online world, and it seemed it would not be long before we all existed as simulations in a SIMS game. The word ‘metaverse’ as a concept has existed for quite a while, often being credited to Neal Stephenson and his novel ‘Snow Crash’ from 1992. Similarly, media from my time have explored the metaverse in entertainment, most commonly through the very famous Matrix trilogy.
Now a few years later the landscape and understanding, has changed. The metaverse is not only a game, an idea in a Sci-Fi novel or a movie, but a new conceptualization of the next iteration of the internet. As aptly described by our own head of New Tech Bent Dalager: “This is not about digitalizing what we already are doing in the analogue world, but it’s about being an individual in a digital world, which is completely different.”
As I am highly focused on the collaborative functionality between technology and sustainability, I was curious to explore the impact of the metaverse on the world. Much media seemed negative or doubtful of its sustainability profile, which raised the central question for me: Would the metaverse be the 21st century challenge or opportunity of the world?
This rabbit hole has led me to understand some very important implications for how the metaverse will impact the way we do business, and centrally how sustainability will be tackled going forward.
What are the practical implications for the way we do business?
The metaverse is a vast concept, often used to cover several technological advancements in our time. It covers everything from mixed reality to blockchain technology and filters in apps, and often functions as an umbrella term for everything in between. Due to the level of energy these technologies require to run, the metaverse is often viewed as a great sinner for sustainability, without great distinguishment between the various impacts of the underlying technologies. However, with advancing technological innovation, the fear of huge emissions might not end up being reality. An example for those in the metaverse world, is Ethereum switching to proof-of-stake which reduced their CO2 emission by more than 99%.
Though this still leaves another primary concern of the metaverse: the high impact it can have on the use of natural scarce resources as well as the technological waste generated when creating the entry point into the metaverse, such as AI, mixed reality headsets and cell phones.
The business meeting disappears
Hopefully, to circumvent this, the metaverse would remove existing limitations placed upon us by practicality and make it completely possible to reinvent existing practices – not only the way you do business, but also the very foundation of business. As the metaverse experience gets better and better at emulating a physical experience, business travel will become more and more obsolete. Virtual meeting facilities simply have all you need within hand with just the drop of a hat. No physical production required. All this might reduce general production to such extent that the strain on natural resources might diminish over time.
Digital twins overtake R&D
Digital twins could be the newest solutions for the future of Research & Development (R&D), particularly within sustainability. No longer would processes, machinery, materials and buildings have to be painfully tried and tested for optimal sustainable solutions in the real world, and in the process pollute even more. Now, instead, everything can be tested and optimised online, before any physical production goes live if not kept solely online instead - saving manhours, materials, wastage, and removing possible risks to the business and in production. In the future this could see organisations moving their R&D efforts into the metaverse to save time and money, while making significant strides in reducing emissions, stress on resources and waste throughout their full supply chain.
The ultimate tool for inclusion
Similarly, the metaverse could mean great strides in inclusion amongst the workforces. No longer would the non-mobile individuals be as limited in their work choice, and both economic, political and cultural globalisation would see an increase, as borders made by geographics, social groups and economic equity are further reduced. It would open the re-schooling of incarcerated individuals, increasing social integration upon re-entry in society, and serve as a powerful emphatical tool in workplace inclusion and equity training. Studies are already now showing that mixed realities have a stronger and more lasting impact on people’s empathetic experiences as they train in a simulated environment. No longer would the idiom ‘walk a mile in their shoes’ be just that - It would be a reality that would allow all individuals in the workforce to gain a richer understanding of other’s struggles.
In my next blog-post, I will focus on what you should consider and be aware of before entering the metaverse landscape. And in the meantime, if you want to deep dive into the metaverse and sustainability, I suggest you read our Thought Leadership “Shaping the Metaverse towards sustainability”.
You are more than welcome to contact me with any thoughts or questions you might have.