Hype Cycle Anxiety, the Metaverse & Web3

Image by Oleg Gamulinskiy from Pixabay

Perhaps the two hottest debates of the digital world in late 2021 and flowing into 2022 has been the metaverse and Web3. The flow of articles seems incessant, including this one. Both for and against. The division of opinions seems as virulent as politics these days. You’re either for or against Web3 and the metaverse. So why are we so fascinated with these two huge concepts? Let’s explore.

We should treat them both as concepts. Neither are fully defined yet. They are right now, largely ideas, with varying degrees of iterations, semi-products and services, multiple little metaverses and Web3 applications, DAO’s and such.

Future Anxiety or Hype Cycle Anxiety?

In the psychology world this is known as anticipatory anxiety, but is considered in the context of the individual worrying about what might happen in the future, from work related issues through to natural disasters. But I think societies have a collective sense of future anxiety. I have no evidence or research to back this idea up. It’s a supposition only. All human cultures have death anxiety, which is why we have so many ways of dealing with the death of our loved ones. So common, societal/cultural anxieties do exist.

In this context, I think it might described as how those in the technology world have become normalized into a state of expecting constant updates. To our apps and new software and devices to the bigger picture of ideas like the metaverse or Web3. That desire for the next big thing. Perhaps we might call it hype cycle anxiety?

As an example, take Apple products. No sooner is a new iPhone model released by Apple than the tech pundits are pondering the next iOS, the next version of the hardware. To a lesser degree, Google, Samsung and Microsoft have tried to emulate this hype cycle anxiety to varying degrees of effect. Despite Windows being the dominant OS for PCs, they’ve never managed to evoke the emotions of the hype cycle like Apple. Even during the pandemic with Apple holding exclusively online launches for two years! In the technology world, it’s not so much about now as it is “what’s next’?

Why is The Metaverse so Hyped?

There are several mini-metaverses out there. There’s currently no single, independent, self-existing, overarching metaverse. That, under current economic models, couldn’t exist. Total decentralization, as I explained before and has Scott Galloway (who’s far smarter than I am), does not and cannot exist.

Humans have been experimenting with ideas of the future for many, many thousands of years. Stretching back even to the Neolithic age over 12,000 years ago. We’ve always been experimenting with various forms of governance and how we want our societies to be.

It’s no different now. The metaverse and its proponents reflect what we call in cultural anthropology a revitalization movement, but in this sense might be called a Prospective Movement (it’s a concept I’m working on.) A group of people who, like in revitalization movements, have a very distinct view of the future and see a desired outcome. Revitalization movements usually look at an ideal from the past to project a future ideal, whereas prospective movements are trying to create an entirely new ideal (though they often, not realizing, use past ideas.)

For proponents of the metaverse, they see a digital world where egalitarianism is the norm. Creators of content get equitably paid for their efforts. Things are slightly chaotic and there are no Giant Tech companies who own the lions share (again, for that to happen, economic models and capitalism must fundamentally change), where new (no, they’re old, Native American ideas actually) forms of reciprocity are seen.

These are people, who, like transhumanists for example, want to create a world, even simulated, that is different from today. It is an argument against today’s systems. These are people dissatisfied or disenfranchised with the current state of affairs.

Why is Web3 so Hyped?

It’s very much the same premise as those who propose the metaverse. It’s a set of ideals that uses advanced information technologies to bring greater equality to the world.

An interesting irony is that many proponents see themselves as Libertarian. Little to no governance, equitable compensation for work performed, such as Social Tokens and NFTs to pay artisans. This is actually rather socialist or, in its truer form, communist (not the Soviet type, that was just stupid). So, please, don’t tell them I said that.

Both of these ideas are because people see something that can be. A future state that is not the current state. They may not and likely don’t, recognise it. Nor do they see that these ideals are not new and are in fact, very, very old, they just have new technologies for which to execute on these very old ideas. What’s that saying? Everything old is new again.

Neither are wrong. In fact, they are reflective of humanity in the Digital Age as it was back in the Stone Age. These are idealists, they’re exploring old ideas in a new wrapping and perhaps with todays more advanced technologies, they may help humanity progress? Because our species can share ideas and has the ability to communicate, we are always progressing as a species. Unfortunately, we also sometimes regress for a wee bit too. There may be some very good nuggets in the hype of the metaverse and Web3.

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