Will You Be Able to Leave the Metaverse?

Faster than any of us can imagine, we will become thoroughly dependent on the virtual layers of information projected all around us. It will feel no more optional than internet access feels optional today.

You won’t unplug your AR system because doing so will make important aspects of your surroundings inaccessible to you, putting you at a disadvantage socially, economically, and intellectually. The fact is, the technologies we adopt in the name of convenience rarely remain optional — not when they are integrated into our lives as broadly as AR will be.

Don’t get me wrong. AR has the power to enrich our lives in wonderful ways. I am confident that AR will enable surgeons to perform faster and better. Construction workers, engineers, scientists — everybody, young and old, will benefit. I am also confident that AR will revolutionize entertainment and education, unleashing experiences that are not just engaging and informative but thrilling and inspiring.

But AR also will make us even more dependent on the insidious layers of technology that mediate our lives and the powerbrokers that control those layers. This will leave us increasingly susceptible to manipulations and distortions by those who can afford to pull the strings. If we are not careful now, AR could easily be used to fracture society, pushing us from our own information bubbles into our own custom realities, further entrenching our views and cementing our divisions, even when we are standing face-to-face with others in what feels like the public sphere.

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