Recently crowned chairman of world affairs for Meta, Nick Clegg – who in the past was literally Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom – made a living in California by writing a manifesto of nearly 8,000 words to promote “the Metaverse”: aka, the sci-fi-inspired vapourware company we all know as Facebook is set for a major rebranding last fall.
At the time, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, said the new entity (Meta) would be a “metaverse-first” company “from now on.” So it’s pretty ridiculous that the key question Clegg says he answers in his essay is “what is the metaverse” – and, basically, why should anyone care? But trying to explain such basic logic apparently keeps Meta metamates busy.
The Average Post Clegg published yesterday warns readers that it takes 32 minutes in their lives to assimilate it. So some people might care to read this. As a Brit, I can assure you that no one should be forced to submit Nick Clegg’s 32 minutes – especially without a bloviation of his boss’s order. So TechCrunch took the bullet for the team and read (ok, quick read) the screed so you don’t have to.
The following is our bullet summary of Clegg’s metaverse manifesto. But first, we invite you to take a look at this WordCloud (below), which shortens his essay from about 7,900 words to 50-with the boldest word “metaverse” orbiting the “ internet ”, which anchors such a strong test of our current digital ecosystem.
We were glad we were able to drop a few thousand words to get to first base. But, wait, there’s more!
Interestingly found word pairs that came out on CleggCloud include “Corporate Rules” (not Democratic Rules then Clegg?); “human tech” (maybe just an oxymoron; but we’re open to the possibility that it’s a catch-all euphemism for bad startups like HBO Silicon Valley‘s (satirically)’ Human Heater ‘); “around potential” (no real potential then?); “metaphysics” (we lol’d); and – squint or you’ll miss it! – “possible confidentiality” (or possibly “possible confidentiality”).
The extremely low ink for this latest pairing adds an appropriate layer of added uncertainty that the life of the Zuckerberg-Clegg metaverse could be anything but truly awful for privacy. (Attentive readers may feel compelled to point out that CleggCloud also includes a “Private Experience” as a uniquely fragile pairing of unique, siloed, closed friend spaces – not that the whole metaverse can be a haven for human privacy.Lol!)
Before moving on to the summary, we feel it is also worth noting a few words of that. not used in Clegg’s essay – and therefore cannot be “invisible ink” in our word cloud (like a tracking pixel) – deserves credit for their absence: that is, “tracking” and “profiling”; aka, how the advertising giant Meta is making its money today. Because, we have to think that tracking and profiling is how Meta plans to monetize the mixed reality future that Clegg is testing.
His essay does not talk about how Meta plans to monetize the “pivot” to spend money or reconfigure the current business model that “we sell ads” in the theoretical mixed reality scenario in the future. which he sketched, in which the toy of digital commerce is embodied in a web. of interconnected services owned and operated by dozens of different/competing businesses.
But maybe – and we’re wildly speculating here – Meta envisions increasing sales of spy -targeted ads by collecting display rents from the cottage industry of “creators” Clegg & co. the hope arises to serve these spaces by making digital items to be sold to users, such as virtual threads for their avatars, or virtual dressing rooms to buy real threads … sell – good job! -but if you want metamates to see it in full glorious color, you have to pay our advanced viewing fee, ”type thing. Just think!)
Now for our summary of Clegg’s screed – which we included a series of bulleted assertions/suggestions made by the chairman of Meta (adding our comment along with bold italics). Take advantage of the time we have saved you.
- There is no “a” or “the metaverse”, in the sense of a held experience / entity; there are “metaverse spaces” on different devices, which may or may not interact well [so it’s a giant rebranding exercise of existing techs like VR, AR, social gaming etc?]
- But the big vision is “a universal virtual layer that anyone can experience beyond the physical world today” [aka total intermediation of human interaction and the complete destruction of privacy and intimacy in service of creating limitless, real-time commercial opportunities and enhanced data capture]
- Metaverse spaces over-index ephemerality, embodiment, and immersion and are more likely to center on language-based communication compared to today’s social apps, suggesting that users can act more straightforwardly. and / or forget that ‘they are never alone with their friends [so Meta and any other mega corporates providing “metaverse spaces” can listen in to less guarded digital chatter and analyze avatar and/or actual body language to derive richer emotional profiles for selling stuff]
- The metaverse can be useful for education and training [despite the essay’s headline claim to answer “why it matters”, Clegg doesn’t actually make much of a case for the point of the metaverse or why anyone would actually want to fritter their time away in a heavily surveilled virtual shopping mall — but he includes some vague suggestions it’ll be useful for things like education or healthcare training. At one one point he enthuses that the metaverse will “make learning more active” — which implies he was hiding under a rock during pandemic school shutdowns. He also suggests metaverse tech will remove limits on learning related to geographical location — to which one might respond have you heard of books? Or the Internet? etc]
- Metaverse will create new digital divides-for those with the best hardware will enjoy the most immersive experience. [not a very equally distributed future then is it Clegg?]
- Anyone can guess how much money the metaverse can make – or how many jobs it can make! [🤷]
- But! It is unbelievable that so much work is needed to sustain these interconnected metaverse spaces. [i.e. to maintain any kind of suspension of disbelief that it’s worth the time sink and to prevent them from being flooded with toxicity]
- The developers especially have a lot of work for you !!! [developers, developers, developers!]
- Unlike Facebook, there isn’t a set of rules for the Metaverse – it’s a patchwork of the ToS [aka, it’ll be a confusing mess. Plus governments/states may also be doing some of the rule-making via regulation]
- The lack of interoperability/fun play between all commercial entities that create “metaverse experiences” can kill the seamless connectivity divide that Meta loves so much. [seems inevitable tbh; thereby threatening the entire Meta rebranding project. Immersive walled gardens anyone?]
- The Meta metaverse allows you to create temporary, siled private spaces where you can chat with friends. [but only in the same siloed way that FB Messenger offers E2EE via “Secret Conversations” — i.e. surveillance remains Meta’s overarching rule]
- Bad experiences in the metaverse are likely to be more horrific than 2D -based cyberbullying, and so on. [yep, virtual sexual assault is already a thing]
- Many challenges and uncertainties await Meta [no shit]
- It takes at least 10-15 years for something similar to the idea of Meta in connected metaverses to be built. [Clegg actually specified: “if not longer”; imagine entire decades of Zuckerberg-Clegg!]
- Meta hopes to partner with all types of stakeholders as it develops metaverse technologies. [aka, it needs massive buy-in if there’s to be a snowflake’s chance in hell of pulling off this rebranding pivot and not just sinking billions into a metaverse money-hole]
- Meta has named some “priority areas” that are said to be guiding its metaverse growth – leading to “economic opportunities” [just think of all those developer/creator jobs again! Just don’t forget who’s making the mega profits right now… All four listed priorities offer more PR soundbite than substance. For example, on “privacy” — another of Meta’s stated priorities — Clegg writes: “how we can build meaningful transparency and control into our products”. Which is a truly rhetorical ask from the former politician, since Facebook does not give users meaningful control over their privacy now — so we must assume Meta is planning a future of more of the same old abusive manipulations and dark patterns so it can extract as much of people’s data as it can get away with… Ditto “safety & integrity” and “equity & inclusion” under the current FB playbook.]
- “The metaverse is coming, one way or another” [Clegg’s concluding remark comes across as more of a threat than bold futuregazing. Either way, it certainly augurs Meta burning A LOT more money on this circus]