The metaverse in 2040? Buckle up for a bumpy ride, says Elon professor and Pew researcher
- A revolutionary impact could certainly be possible, but only if things come together to make the metaverse a better place for human agency and human rights than the internet is right now.
- Many experts say even if network capabilities and user interfaces make the metaverse more attractive to the public, full-immersion spaces are not going to be broadly adopted globally as an everyday function in most people’s lives.
- Some tech experts are saying that the word ‘metaverse’ will pass out of use fairly soon. They expect that all tools of digital life will be accessible in all connected spaces, fully immersive or not, and most members of society will live IRL—in real life—part of the time while also easily making use of augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) as needed throughout the day.
Janna Anderson, professor of communications and director of the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University, is the lead author of the report The Metaverse in 2040, published in partnership with Pew Research. She is a senior contract researcher for Pew and co-leads the center’s 19-year series of reports outlining experts’ predictions for the most likely future of digital life. The full report, released in late summer 2022, is available for free on Elon’s Imagining the Internet site and at Pew Research. Anderson is a renowned tech futurist and metaverse expert, and author of the book Imagining the Internet: Personalities, Predictions, Perspectives. Anderson sat down with Joe Kornik, Editor-in-Chief of VISION by Protiviti, to discuss the findings of the 2040 report, journey into a Web 3 future and offer a sneak peak of a forthcoming report on digital impact by 2035, expected in the fall of 2023.
Experts argued that the next-generation networked-knowledge ecosystem must be built in ways that better serve the public good, unlike the current business-oriented and highly extractive iteration of the internet.
From the report:
“To be so successful by 2040, [the metaverse] must be many things to many people, enrich or make better their everyday lives. It must go beyond games and entertainment to provide what each and every person needs. The first, and the biggest, step will be to instantiate and regulate the metaverse as a public benefit/utility, so the greatest number of people can access and benefit from it."
- Jacquelyn Ford Morie, VR pioneer and chief scientist at All These Worlds
From the report:
“By 2035 people will laugh at images of the 2020s that show people walking down the street staring down at a phone, necks bent, thinking it looks awkward and primitive. The metaverse will evolve in two directions at once – the virtual metaverse (fully simulated worlds) and the augmented metaverse (layers of rich virtual content overlaid upon the real world with precise spatial registration). The virtual metaverse will increase in popularity but will always be restricted to short-duration applications – mostly for gaming, socialising, shopping and entertainment, and it will have powerful business and education uses as well. The augmented metaverse, on the other hand, will replace mobile phones as our primary gateway to digital content."
- Louis Rosenberg, CEO of Unanimous AI
From the report:
"There is a real possibility that those who are ‘plugged in’ will become increasingly untethered from the world around them. Future waves of pandemic disease and the effects of climate change will allow those with means to spend more time in virtual worlds. Will we become more willing to let conditions worsen around us because we can escape to an alternate reality? Meanwhile, those on the other side of the digital divide will struggle to access resources, connections and opportunities."
- Toby Shulruff, senior technology safety specialist at the National Network to End Domestic Violence