The night that “Avalanche” came

What does the more real meta-universe described by the original author Stephenson look like?

In 1992, Neil Stephenson made a cyberpunk -style exploration of future technologies in his novel “Avalanche” : mobile computing, virtual reality, digital currency, smartphones, and augmented reality are among the list. 

Twenty years later, this novel has become a masterpiece in the hearts of countless people in Silicon Valley. Many engineers, entrepreneurs, futurists and geeks regard “Avalanche” as an excellent prediction for today’s technology field. 

It is also it that gave birth to people’s enthusiasm for Metaverse (metaverse). 

Now, the head of Facebook declares that they will no longer be a social company, but will become a “meta universe company”; Microsoft CEO announced in the keynote speech and the latest quarterly earnings conference call that he will build a “corporate meta universe” ; Epic CEO and Roblox founders are also convinced that: Metaverse will bring about the same scale of change as the telephone and the Internet. 

For a time, too many people began to race to chase this so-called new world. 

This article will discuss three questions based on the “Avalanche” novel itself: What does the “meta universe” in “Avalanche” look like? Why does it cause widespread concern? How should we understand its arrival?

“Avalanche” and the unbeautiful future new world

According to most media descriptions, Metaverse has a near-fatal appeal to people who advocating thinking about the future. However, we should also go back and think carefully about the original source of the “meta universe”. 

“Meta universe” was born in the novel “Avalanche”. The story takes place in the United States in the future. The hero Hiro, who is also a hacker and a pizza delivery driver, accidentally infected his friend (also an extremely important person in the meta universe) with the avalanche virus , causing the latter to collapse his virtual identity. And irreversible brain damage, and this is how he began his journey of finding the truth. 

Let’s ignore the plot for now, and focus on the author’s portrayal of the future world : After the global economy collapsed, the United States no longer existed, and it began to be ruled by private enterprises and privileged classes. The lower-middle class labor force is forced to find all kinds of “weird” jobs to make a living, while the rich live in completely closed communities protected by guns and the army. 

Fortunately, there is a completely immersive virtual environment here, which provides an opportunity for everyone in desperate countries-a short escape from the unbearable reality . 

“This fictional place is the meta universe.” Neil Stephenson wrote. 

The night that "Avalanche" came

Most of the buildings in Metaverse were developed along The Street, which is a huge passageway of 65536 kilometers (2 to the 16th power) that surrounds the entire virtual world. Users in this world choose an avatar to represent themselves, and higher resolution means higher costs. Therefore, even in the virtual world, people have different classes. 

So, what do people do in the meta-universe? 

Like reality, The Street is constantly evolving. Developers will build new streets on the basis of the main road, as well as various special buildings, parks, and landmarks. People can also go to the free combat zone to “hunt” each other. 

What needs to be pointed out is that there is a class of people in this virtual world called “Gargoyle”, because they are too addicted to it, they choose to let themselves stay here forever. The price of doing so is permanent disfigurement in the real world. More than ten years after the publication of “Avalanche”, “gargoyle” has been regarded as a prophecy of the addiction trap of computer/mobile phone screens. 

In Stephenson’s pen, the future meta-universe is an addictive and violent place. Various dark settings are not mentioned in the meta-universe hymns chanted by advocates of this concept. . 

Let us think about it from another angle. In the future, why do human beings choose to embrace the virtual and escape the reality?

To persuade most people to spend time in Metaverse, it can be achieved in two ways-either the outside world is too bad, or the virtual world can satisfy most people’s fantasy and swallow them completely. 

Of course, today’s meta-universe is just a science fiction term. In other words, it is an illusion. But it is worthy of caution, “Metacosm has never been a fantasy about VR/VR, nor a fantasy about technology, but a fantasy about power.”

The temptation of the meta universe

I believe most people agree that the core of the meta universe lies in the construction of a completely immersive virtual world. In the foreseeable future, most of us will interact with Metaverse through a consumer-oriented, interactive virtual platform. 

We will log in to the meta universe through various devices, and then explore, create, collaborate, socialize, learn, perform, work, relax, consume and obtain various experiences here. 

But after all, the meta universe hasn’t really emerged yet. How to explore a future that has not yet happened? A more feasible idea is to focus on today’s most popular virtual platform-Roblox. 

It has a long history, strong momentum, ambitious and fascinating. This is my overall evaluation of it. 

The night that "Avalanche" came

Almost all content and experiences on this gaming giant platform, which originated from education and can be traced back more than 30 years, are created by developers and creators. Roblox refers to the users who make games as “Developers” in the prospectus, and the users who make avatars and other accessories as “Creators”. 

As a game company, it does not shy away from its ambition to build Metaverse. And it does have this confidence: more than 31 million daily active users, more than half of children in North America are their own users. 

But this is a high-risk strategy. Metaverse means a whole new world: new economy, new currency, new things, and a large number of new users (not just kids). To do this, Roblox must prove its identity as a technology giant, not just a game developer. 

Right now, Roblox already has very unique strengths and weaknesses: 

  • It has established a prosperous community among children, but it has not yet established itself in the adult market; 
  • It has made popular games possible, but it has not been able to cultivate a rich long-tail alternative; 
  • It creates a prosperous virtual economy, but makes developers feel fooled or even manipulated. 

This reminds me that a few years ago, Adam Newman claimed that discussing WeWork’s valuation relied more on the company’s “energy and spirituality” rather than financial figures. Many people found it absurd. But if the subject of discussion becomes Roblox, this description seems perfect. 

Of course, even though Roblox’s success may be an exception, the virtual platform (and its derived meta-universe) must not be. 

As Mathew Ball said, the leading indicators of the mobile Internet are the penetration rate and usage rate of smartphones, as well as the number and income of App developers. The growth rate of virtual platforms is also easy to track-we only need to closely observe their total active users and engagement, as well as total user spending and developer revenue. 

In the past ten years, all these numbers have risen rapidly. 

The night that "Avalanche" came

What’s more noteworthy is that as of today, all leading virtual platforms originated from games.

This is no coincidence . For a long time, games have been the most complex, largest and most diverse virtual world. It is by virtue of novel and interesting experiences that they attract and occupy more and more users’ time and consumption expenditure. 

But it is clear that the virtual platform that will continue to lead in the future will not be limited to games. Roblox no longer classifies itself as a gaming platform, but defines the content on its platform as an “experience”. Giants such as Snapchat and Facebook are also following up. 

Technology acceleration curve

When will the meta universe appear? We may need to answer in terms of the changes visible to the naked eye in the short-term and the law of technological change in the long-term . 

Over the past year or so, one of the most obvious changes around us is that most ordinary people spend more and more time online and in the virtual world. Mathew Ball has a sharper view on this. He believes that this time the “destigmatization” is more important. 

In the past two to three decades, netizens have been using “fake” avatars to spend a lot of time in virtual worlds playing games or other seemingly meaningless things. In this regard, a considerable number of people think that this behavior is very strange and a waste of time. 

But the epidemic changed this view at an extremely rapid rate. Most people who were once skeptical have now personally participated in virtual world activities. 

More users and participation brings higher attention and income to this market, and then more funds are poured in and better products appear. These all drive our desire for further improvement of the online experience and virtual world. 

When the real world shifts more to the virtual form, it means that the meta-universe may appear earlier.

On the other hand, we can try to trace the development path of several major technological changes in the past and get inspiration from them . 

The following figure is from the development trend of 2C technology products launched in the United States in the past 100 years compiled by A16Z. The horizontal axis represents time (in years), and the vertical axis is the penetration rate of the product into American households. Each curve represents a different product-such as cars, radios, air conditioners, microwave ovens, etc. 

We focus on the yellow curve, which represents the phone.

The night that "Avalanche" came

It took 5 years for the phone to reach 20% of American households, and it took 30 years to reach 40% penetration. 

why is that? 

The night that "Avalanche" came

The picture above is the reason. It is the instructions for using the Bell Telephone System-including how to hold the phone, which side is facing the ear, which side is close to the mouth, and if someone calls, you should say hello. 

All of this is written into the manual, and people often forget it when they first use it. In fact, we do not lack the need and motivation to communicate with friends and family remotely, but because the phone is a new thing, we need to cultivate behavior from scratch. 

But the next comparison is very interesting: 

The night that "Avalanche" came

In the figure above, the yellow curve is the phone, and the green curve is the phone. Obviously, it took much less time for mobile phones to conquer the market than phones. And in fact, when it became popular in American households, other countries around the world also quickly adopted it. Even some developing countries have mobile phones first, and then computers and fixed phones. 

The two are basically the same kind. However, the advent of better products that are more in line with usage habits, encountering people who have received “training”, and a variety of related technologies that are more complete and coordinated with each other, make the new curve abruptly accelerated and become a necessity for the whole people to accept. 

Perhaps in the near future, Metaverse VS Internet will do the same. 

Posted by:CoinYuppie,Reprinted with attribution to:
Coinyuppie is an open information publishing platform, all information provided is not related to the views and positions of coinyuppie, and does not constitute any investment and financial advice. Users are expected to carefully screen and prevent risks.

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