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The Metaverse, the Planet and Us
Alex Steffen, 30 Apr 06

We've written a lot about the ways in which new technologies and approaches, from mapping and modeling to video games, smart places and mobile communications are both exploding in number and increasingly informing one other. Indeed, the virtual, the mobile, the spatial and the physical are interbreeding, and no one is quite sure what new possibilities are about to be born.

That doesn't mean that a whole bunch of people aren't placing their bets. One of the more interesting efforts is the Metaverse Roadmap Project, which is trying to chart those possibilities this weekend:

"Today's advancing 3-D virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), 3-D and video plug-ins, geospatial browsers, and social networking platforms are just five of a broad range of technology, economic, and social trends converging to transform today's internet into tomorrow's 3-D 'metaverse,' a transparently connected encapsulation of and progression beyond the current possibilities of the offline world."

Leaving aside for now the problematic decision to term the intersection of these tools a "metaverse" (a choice of terminology which it seems to me obscures more than it illuminates, and puts the resulting research into a framework of jargon and subcultural reference, when we really need is plain talk about new tools), this is an exciting effort, involving a bunch of Worldchanging allies and contributors (including Ethan and Jamais).

The new converging tools are bound to be powerful, transforming the ways we see and work in the physical world just as much as the mutate the ways we interact online.

They're also much needed. As global pressures mount, and we begin to have to take more seriously the work of managing the planet, being able to imagine the implications of both the challenges we face and the better futures we're working towards creating will prove vital.

But in order for them to do that work, or any other worthy work in the world, these tools must not be thought of as the special sanctum of those of us geeky enough to understand their implications now. The world needs these tools, and it's our obligation to see that they are made readily available, useful, democratic, transparent and open. And all of that starts with what we name them and how we talk about them, because, to my mind, what we're talking about is less a conceptual framework cribbed from a fifteen year-old science fiction novel and more a matter of giving birth to a smart planet, a planet on which humanity can see itself in new ways, and make new choices.

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The link to Jamais' article is broken (missing the lead 'ht': you'd think these overgrown adding machines would be able to figure that out after 15 years or so!;-)

Posted by: Tony Fisk on 30 Apr 06

Thanks Tony

Should be fixed now.

Posted by: Alex Steffen on 30 Apr 06

"The world needs these tools, and it's our obligation to see that they are made readily available, useful, democratic, transparent and open. And all of that starts with what we name them and how we talk about them..."

Interesting that you should say this given my current situation in this regard. Perhaps the conversation should start with who is allowed to name these new concepts. I'm finding the "democratized" internet has it's own strict hierarchy that most certainly revolves around an elite (who themselves are not always especially qualified as far as far as I'm concerned).

Perhaps if I'd not put forth a concept on one of the most democratic of mediums: a blog. Or maybe if I had something published in the respectable, always reliable MSM (ha). Or if I had post-graduation credentials and made claims in some always-beyond-reproach research paper (Link).

For all the talk of democratization, from where I stand we seem to have a ways to go.

Posted by: csven on 1 May 06

How could we avoid shaping a "metaverse" as a scale-free network, with several gigantic "winners" and millions of less-significant "losers"?

Csven's complaint is about more than him. The world wide web has shaped up to be a scale free network. Is it truly democratic?

By the way, this isn't a rhetorical question - I'd really like to know.

Posted by: David Foley on 1 May 06

I've been asked to clarify my comment. For that I can simply post a couple of links:

The concept:

Current developments: (I did not submit this, btw)

Perhaps I need to get a post-graduate degree in "transreality" studies. Can someone point one out?

Posted by: csven on 1 May 06

as i see it, the major point is, that the service is free of cost

wheter it is a forum, an emaillist or a mmop / virtual world plattform

and then does it depend on the person, the words, the concept, the language used wether it will
attract this or that crowd or just some, but strongly interested persons

who can say, what has greater impact on the mind of the user/observer ... a simple text written in a forum ... or hours and hours spent in a beautifull created virtual reality

and there is no concurrence needed, all tools are appreciated and will be willingly used and serve for the greater evolution of mankind

( this is not to make any kind of advertisement, just to point precisly to a very great possibility for everyone to participate in the development of 3d web 2.0 at NO COST:


There are no upfront costs. We only make money when you make money, and if you never charge a cent, you never have to pay us anything.


it needs to say that the no cost version requires hosting your 3d world developped with tools on your own server

Posted by: andreas buechel on 1 May 06

hello csven

i was trying to find an online study in transreality ... but either failed or had not enough endurance ... when the idea came to me ... inspired also by the phrase: Transreality: Living What you write

that a study in transreality should be person/student centered, not school or teacher centered

as the person and its own perception, wishes, motivations, morals etc.
are in the middle of transreality concept ...

so ... how about founding a group at google groups called transreality studies ... and openly share our very own experiences in life
share lecture tips and our very "own" thinkings and theories ?

i am not at all very disciplined and do not know how much or how long i would stay in such a group, but as allways, the idea itself counts, not how many people give power to it

mmmh... i first thought to send you this in an email, but it could be interesting for others too to read this

Transrealist writing treats "immediate perceptions in a fantastic way," according to science fiction writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker, who originated the term. In the expanded sense argued in this book, it also intensifies imaginative fiction by writing the fantastic from the standpoint of richly personalized experience.

Thoughts are interesting phenomena. They are personal in the sense that we generate them, but they often remind us that they retain an air of independence -- a dream in which we have no control or, perhaps the solution to a difficult problem magically suggesting itself long after we have ceased thinking about it. Thoughts instill us with the confidence that we know and understand reality on one level, and yet remind us that they are, themselves, no more than the thought-assisted translations of stimuli past. Ultimately, our knowledge and perception of reality exist as intimate threads within that same metaphysical fabric.

This realization suggests that transreal technology represents more than a new development in simulation or entertainment; it suggests an extension of our already active role in the construction of reality. Presently, the "objective" stimuli perceived by our senses impose a syntax on our translations of what reality means. Transreal technology, however, permits the construction of environments in which the stimuli are, in principle, completely controllable by the perceiver -- as in the pre-Copernican universe, reality, once again, revolves around the person. The epistemological and ontological questions of old re-emerge: what is reality? what can we know of it? what is our place in it? Questions argued in the abstract for thousands of years become the object of controlled, empirical enquiry. Transreal technology, as result, will represent the first, true empirical medium for studying the fundamental epistemological and ontological questions of reality and our roles within it.

Posted by: andreas buechel on 1 May 06

"reality, once again, revolves around the person"

My thought as well:

And apologies that the sarcasm was lost. I'm not actually looking for a university. I'm pointing out that there likely isn't any, and thus expecting credentials for some things doesn't make sense. It would be like asking the Wright brothers for a pilot's license before their flight at Kittyhawk.

Technology is opening doors to different ways of working and thinking and interacting. We should all be flexible. And most of all, we should all be willing to give new ideas a fair chance, evaluate them on their merits, and not casually dismiss them without sufficient investigation and review. In my case, I know from the lack of traffic to the primary post explaining the concept, that some apparently self-appointed internet elite didn't give the idea due consideration.

When I think of the internet as a democratizing medium, I think of the Salon des Refusés. However, it appears that an internet "good ol' boys club" is forming; our very own Académie. I consider that an unfortunate development.

Posted by: csven on 1 May 06

how to come together, how to exchange ? might it perhaps be enough that people think simultanously about the same topics without knowing each other or knowing how much other people investigate the same thought clouds

an old eastern wisdom:

the chi goes where the attention goes

and there is a strong behaviour model of exercising the mental and emotional which can leed to a deep knowing, that all is one

thinker and thought, observer and observed, actor and audience

if i get the self esteem in what i am thinking, how i am able to understand concepts and even to formulate them in thoughts or even in words, then it does not sooo much matter if ten or tentousand people read my post

the vibrations of the thinking or the writing or the speaking are sent out or once more strengthened and can be used trough all the time, not bound to past,present,future

if some individuals form a "future executive", it may happen only as kind of representation of the millions of thinkers which choose to contribute to the whole future forming in a more back-stage way

today, i found this comic at

of which i think is in a way contributing to strengthen the focus on how is it possible to use the life force with our most available machine, the mind-emotion-flesh-circuit

imagine, if our selfcounciousness coupled with enjoying the freedom of being non-representive, the fun of creating unique ways ... could lead to a connection to the source of all energy, a state of existing, where no machine, no intermediate nanofactory or materia-forming device is needed, because the materia, the mother will be pleased to
fullfill our well intended designs ... a state of harmony between the individual human and the individual planet earth ... a tune without friction, a frequency which releases the materia of hard processes, a soft melody which is well known by the very core kernel of all what is

Posted by: andreas buechel on 1 May 06

cseven, I don't think the elite's conspired to ignore your thinking... experience tells me that new thinking can emerge in many places at once, and not everyone sees every instance. C'est la vie.

Unfortunate that you closed comments...

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 1 May 06

"if i get the self esteem in what i am thinking, how i am able to understand concepts and even to formulate them in thoughts or even in words, then it does not sooo much matter if ten or tentousand people read my post"

That isn't at issue. The problem is this: Imagine some brilliant mathematician comes up with a radical idea. S/he has no traditional credentials. No formal training. They post their idea and without due consideration the idea is rejected. The Académie, which is now put in place by the netizens themselves, passes judgement and a brilliant voice is silenced (and btw, please don't think I'm suggesting that my idea aspires to any level beyond "interesting"). This person might then simply decide to no longer try to be heard; averse to unfair criticism and content with their own level of self esteem.

Now isn't that exactly what the internet is supposed to prevent? What happened to Democratization? Equality? Parity? Leveling the world?

What we have instead is a net-based power law distribution to which people thoughtlessly contribute, the same way they mindlessly fill their gas tanks to drive half a mile instead of riding a bicycle.

I consider this a problem. Not for my sake, but for the sake of what is supposed to be best for everyone.

"I don't think the elite's conspired to ignore your thinking"

I agree. I don't believe they "conspired". They do, however, appear to have passed their belittling judgements rather mindlessly. And that is the real problem afaic, because as I've stated elsewhere, this is no personal crises. But it is part of a larger social injustice that should alarm anyone who takes the issues discussed on this site seriously.

If we're all serious about changing the world, then it needs to start with how we treat each other. No technology is going to lift us up if we're incapable of civility.

Posted by: csven on 1 May 06

exactly because the established forces may not be willing to openly applaude to some innovative thinking ... or the time for its public appearance is not yet here ... it is important for visionairies, great thinkers to continue ... even when the recognition is not openly given

or not given by im bodi ed humans living now

it is not even so much needed to publish, altough it is good to do it ... the vibrations of the idea will pass anyway, if thought, written or spoken

thanks to the growing intelligence of searchmachines and the efforts of directory maintainers, boomark listers, blog writers, podcasters, net magazines and so on ...

a content previously not so much regarded can be transported quickly into the attention sphere of
much more possibly interested individuals


Japanese 'device art' brings technology to life


Posted by: andreas buechel on 1 May 06

Well, the Academie has won. - deleted

Even though the director of a simulation company, Stirling Reid Limited, endorsed the concept both on Wikipedia and his blog.

I'd say we're well on our way to a decidedly unlevel metaverse.

Posted by: csven on 2 May 06

mmmh...perhaps one gets more freedom to think on his own when publishing at a User page at wikipedia

Posted by: andreas buechel on 5 May 06

this place might welcome kirkyan idea:

The Bank Needs Your Brains
Give us your ideas and join the most exciting thing to happen to social invention since two hairy guys rubbed a couple of sticks together!

Posted by: andreas buechel on 6 May 06

"The connections people made here I'm sure will lead to people doing interesting things in collaboration," said Dyson, who writes Release 1.0 for CNET, the publisher of "But we're not coming together to promulgate a standard. We're trying to get a common vocabulary, a common understanding."

And in the end, that's what the event's organizers were really after.

"I feel that people came and engaged, and that part of it was extremeley successful," said Bridget Agabra, the Metaverse Roadmap's project manager. "Now the hard work begins again. But this is fun because it's content and ideas...When you see the magic (participants) were doing, the magic they were making with their minds, that was brain food for me."

Posted by: andreas buechel on 8 May 06

Google is encouraging developers to use SketchUp to build 3-D layers on top of Google Earth. There's even a website Google provides called 3-D Warehouse, where you can demonstrate what you've built in Sketch Up.
Enter the metaverse

The notion that you can create objects and buildings and place them in a virtual world makes Google Earth sounds less like a mapping tool and more like a metaverse. What's a metaverse? Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson introduced the term in his seminal 1992 novel, Snow Crash. The metaverse was Stephenson's name for a virtual world where his characters play and do business. It was a black ball 1.6 times the size of Earth, with a giant street running around its equator.

In Stephenson's novel, millions of users uploaded customized "avatars," or virtual personalities, and strolled the street, entering shops and exclusive nightclubs, conversing and trading with the metaverse's other denizens. It was, in effect, a 3-D version of the web.

Posted by: andreas buechel on 12 May 06



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