Is the metaverse real?
For now, it’s all seemingly still a dream…

When Neal Stephenson created the idea of a metaverse in his 1992 book Snow Crash, he probably didn’t think it would become the most talked about new frontier for our digital selves 30 years later. According to Stephenson’s vision, the metaverse is a virtual space accessed through digital means and while it’s not real in a physical way, it certainly seems virtually real to the people in it, who are represented by their digital avatar selves. If this sounds confusing, it’s probably because the idea of a metaverse in which we all live a complete digital life is still a dream. It’s a vision that most large players in 4IR Tech today are attempting to build some part of, to make it real. The most prominent is Meta Platforms.

In fact, the new metaverse gold rush was instigated by Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg who has made the company’s intention clear:


“Our goal is to help build the fundamental tech to bring the metaverse to life.”

Read more about what Mark Zuckerberg has to say on the Metaverse.

We will all be represented by avatars in the metaverse.

One way of looking at the metaverse is to distinguish between our real and virtual, or digital selves. In today’s online world, we are pretty much who we are in the real and online worlds. Of course, we can pretend otherwise and create separate identities, but in the main, advanced 4IR Tech such as apps only work effectively when we are who we say we are.

In the metaverse as part of its definition, we will be represented by one or more virtual avatars. An avatar is an icon or digitally created figure that represents a particular person in the metaverse. This means being represented in a digitally created world is what the experience of the metaverse will be like.

Games are at the forefront of the metaverse
After Neal Stephenson’s book came the hugely influential metaverse-orientated book Ready Player One, written by Ernest Cline and published in 2011, which is about a metaverse called The OASIS – a fictional digital society and multi-player game. Currently, most virtual reality development takes place in the world of online games, many of which require players to create virtual representations of themselves. Games such as Second Life pioneered the metaverse-type gaming concept, while offerings including Fortnite and Roblox, these days, market their games as a kind of metaverse virtual reality experience, probably to benefit from the Zuckerberg-created hype around the concept.

How does the metaverse affect me today?
If you’re a gamer yourself or follow eSports, you are likely already familiar with the concept and may be represented by various avatars in virtual reality worlds. For the rest of us it’s not real yet.

The stories about large corporations buying virtual real estate for millions of Rands seems preposterous to us. But the internet itself was once unthinkable, which means whether we like it or not, somehow, sometime in the future, we will all probably participate in some or other form of a virtual reality world. And all of this could happen in a virtual blink of an eye. So, strap yourself in and enjoy the virtual ride.

Read more about the current state of the metaverse: A primer on the Metaverse