Welcome to The Waveform Issue 17 - A Meta Mess
The Waveform is a newsletter from Red Cup agency about the next edge in podcasting. In each issue, I’ll stay on top of things for you. When we launch a new show or post an episode that stands out, I’ll drop that into the newsletter.
I’m Lee Schneider, founder and lead producer at Red Cup Agency. Did someone forward this to you, or are you reading it on the web? You can subscribe for free.
My essay this week is about the metaverse, but before I wade into the metamorass, some good news.
The Glo Podcast continues to deliver deep conversations. This week’s is with Amber Miskovich, a former Air Force medic and firefighter who has become a yoga studio owner. She teaches yoga and breath work to first responders.
To do their difficult work, first responders must often put on mental armor to protect themselves. After they leave military service or retire, they often find that there’s a steep psychological price to pay for holding on to that armor.
Not only is that armor heavy, when we’re talking about the persona, the action you had to do, the adrenaline, but when you take it off, you feel … very vulnerable. And so that is so much of the piece that I think yoga and meditation can help with.
Life is always happening on life’s terms. So whether you’re talking about veterans and first responders that have to put armor on, or just any person out in the world having to put armor on. I mean, we have to put armor on from the news, we have to put armor on from everything, right? Because it’s just affecting us. And taking it off is vulnerable and scary.
- Amber Miskovich
Listen at Glo.com, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or in your favorite podcast app,
Looking ahead to the Metaverse
Remember when the internet seemed pretty rad? Here’s Nicholas Negroponte, co-founder of MIT’s Media lab, being quoted by CNN about the state of the web in 1997.
“I have never seen people miss the scale of what’s going on as badly as they are doing it now," he said, predicting that the Internet would do no less than bring world peace by breaking down national borders.
“Twenty years from now”, he said, children who are used to finding out about other countries through the click of a mouse “are not going to know what nationalism is.”
- Nicholas Negroponte, head of MIT’s Media Lab, as told to CNN on November 25, 1997
Professor Negroponte is sounding pretty wrong, with nationalism and nativism on the rise, and he’s also kind of right, because children are learning about other countries and worldviews at the click of a mouse. So… is the internet good or is it bad?
I was afraid you’d ask that.
It’s often been said there is nothing wrong with the internet: it’s just technology, and the problem is with the people who use it. (Substitute the same argument for cars, guns, and prescription drugs.) Let’s pursue that line of reasoning for a moment. Social media, in particular, certainly has a content moderation problem. Facebook and Twitter have become nasty places to hang out because of poor content moderation. The internet’s toxic users have transformed what should be a perfectly pleasant platform for information and community into a crap show.
YouTube has an algorithm powerful enough to send me videos of orange cats because I have an orange cat, and videos about being old because I am searching online for information about Medicare. (Ahem, asking for a friend.) Tighter content moderation should be something we can deliver. Folks are working on it. Microsoft just acquired Two Hat, a moderation platform designed to reduce cyberbullying and online harassment. Twitter is trying to clean itself up and has almost become usable again.
But there’s not always the will to take positive action. This brings me to Facebook. Zuckerberg and his merry band of digital colonialists are trying to walk away from their mess just like the tobacco companies tried to walk away from theirs by renaming, rebranding, and selling off the most toxic parts of the business. Nice play! Someday, when Facebook is sold off to another company or country, Zuckerberg can dust his hands clean and move into … the metaverse. He wants to be seen as a futurist, apparently. Let’s have a look at how that’s going.
There’s a concept in economics called rents. It’s kind of like the rent you pay on your apartment, only more pervasive. All those subscriptions you pay for apps, those are rents. The fees you pay to access Netflix and Apple TV, those are rents. We’re getting used to them since just about everything comes with a fee for access now.
Now, what about reality? Is there a way to get people to rent that? I don’t mean renting an apartment, or a 100-square-foot office space for $1000 a month in a co-working space, or a storage space for the stuff you can’t fit in the other place that you rent. I’m talking about renting the world back to you. Let’s follow that line of reasoning. Say you wanted to have an experience of traveling somewhere, or listening to a lecture, or interviewing somebody as though they were really in the room. Say you wanted to go into the office without really going there.
You probably get where I am going with this. Mark Zuckerberg is already working on selling you those things in his version of the metaverse. You can already buy art that only exists at a URL, and spaces and land that are as real as your computer screen is. It won’t be a bad thing to experience work, lectures, and even parts of life, in the metaverse. People are already doing it. Remember Professor Negroponte saying people were missing the scale of what’s going on? That’s us, right now.
People like Amber Miskovich (see podcast above) are the antidote to letting the metaverse seduce us into leaving our present lives behind. Walking around in nature, growing some food, breathing air that is breathable will seem quaint someday — but only if we let them become so. We are not going to stop the metaverse. It would be like stopping water. But we can stop digital colonialists like Zuckerberg from renting our reality back to us.
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