Just over a month ago, Facebook rebranded to Meta following a slew of allegations and criticisms of its practices, in an attempt to renew its image and show that it was moving beyond the app where it all started. And, despite many still having a distrust of the corporation, Zuckerberg managed to generate enough hype about his new pet project- the metaverse. So, behind all the hype, what is the metaverse?

In 1992, the author Neal Stephenson coined the term in his book, Snow Crash, to describe a computer-generated universe, and has been brought up many times since, with VR, AR, advanced videogame software and cryptocurrency all being related to the concept in some way. At its core, the metaverse is a replica of our world, but on the Internet, almost like living a videogame. And the recent surge in cryptocurrencies and the decentralised economy has meant that a decentralised technological utopia (or dystopia, depending on your perspective) with cryptocurrencies providing a system of selling and purchasing goods and NFTs, which have unique blockchain identities giving ownership of digital assets, provide a way for digital items and avatars. So the videogames of today could become our entire lives, with jobs, holidays, leisure and recreation all being digital. Imagine wandering through the world of Lord of the Rings, feeling it as if you're actually there, fighting dragons and ogres, or flying a starship through the galaxy of Star Wars. Time travel could be quasi-possible using the metaverse, with virtual reality transportation into the Roman times. The metaverse unlocks possibilities, and overcomes the physical limits of the universe through the power of human imagination. 

The metaverse's roots are starting to grow already, with 'crypto gaming' being all the rage amongst investors and casual gamers, and NFTs being used as status symbols by celebrities. Cryptocurrencies like Decentraland and Sandbox all provide examples of the transition into the digital world, with both of these cryptos being used for virtual property plots, and with coins like Axie Infinity and Loot providing videogame or tabletop game-esque experiences, albeit through the world of cryptocurrency. For those of who use it, Satchel One is a fantastic example which is relevant for students of how the world is increasingly digital, with homework diaries and planners being traded in for apps and websites which are simply more convenient. 


Now that you have a basic idea of what the metaverse is, will it really become human existence, as, to many, life being online eternally is a dreadful thought, and this means that the drive for increased digitisation of the world will have to grapple with human nature at its core. While films are obviously not reality, in the world of the film Ready Player One, a VR-controlled dystopia, society collapses and humanity regresses. And in a world leaving lockdown, spending time outdoors and in nature is more important than ever, meaning that the metaverse will have to develop in harmony with humanity as a whole, and will be to our collective benefit.