In 1999, I was sitting in the middle back of a cinema theater with 7 friends waiting for the movie to start sending the last message with my Nokia 8110 before going silent.
The lights went off and the movie started with those green Japanese mirror letters falling like raindrops on the screen, then the letters became phone numbers and the camera zoomed on number zero, dragging us into the world of the Matrix.
13 minutes later, the scene of Neo taking out of an envelope a Nokia 8110, made all my friends look at me in awe.
My life changed that day. I left that movie to find what I wanted to do, i.e. build the Matrix. I never thought that the Matrix was dystopian. I always thought that we, the people, can be bad or good no matter the environment.
Over two decades later, everyone around the globe is talking about the Metaverse. It became viral in a day along with about 15 other new tech words. The truth is that now what was a movie, or a book, can be true, touching real life.
Yet whoever has the ability to see cultural evolution, can see that this is the normal path.
Everything starts with the imagination of a novelist, a film director, or any other ‘crazy’ person, I call them artists, those who see the world beyond and in the future. Starting easy with ‘what if’ and from there creating infinite possibilities.
Jules Verne’s books speak of worlds that never existed yet now that we have done almost everything he predicted his novels are considered for kids, as they describe what we already do in a naive and romantic way. In the same way movies like the Matrix, Avatar, Tron, and Ready Player One, guide some of us in the same way as they put a seed in our minds. The desire to make them true. What if the Matrix was there? What if we could upload our minds to the cloud controlling an avatar? What if we had the ability to build an environment, a world, a universe where our avatars co-exist, play, work and are able to do everything we believe is impossible?
And now that I, like Morpheus, have put you in the white scene with two old Chesterfield armchairs and a vintage TV set, I can answer your question ‘What is the Metaverse?”, and you, like Neo, should start to wonder if you are the chosen one and what color will the pill that will make you take the right decision be. Like me, and many others, that night I left that theater holding one of the Nokia 8110 out of millions that were sold before that night (on the next day, in Nokia the party started).
The Metaverse is a place, a dream environment that allows you to feel, engage, and really live extraordinary experiences you had never thought existed. To understand the Metaverse we should understand reality as a no-limit environment and we should understand humans as not limited too.
The real is subjective. My reality is completely different from someone living 20km away and for sure from someone on a different continent. It seems that we have a lot in common but our view of reality is completely different. Our definitions of life are different.
What you live and think as real is not what you wish to live as real. And here comes the Metaverse.
Ask yourself, what is the name of the actor who played the admiral in “ Pirates of the Caribbean”. You can’t even think of his name in the movie. Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow is what we always remember, we can’t miss it. Why is that?
Because we live in safety but we dream of an adventure full of risks, and breathtaking moments. We wish to be in that pirate ship, free from restrictions and everything that makes our lives so narrow and boring.
Unlike the movies where we can play with our minds for 2 hours thinking about that possibility, unlike the games through which we can escape reality for longer, the Metaverse offers us the ability to taste the salt of the sea in our mouth, feel the wind through our hair, a kiss on our lips, all without the risk of dying from the sword of the navy soldiers.
If movies and books scratch the surface of imagination and games are the door that leads to the room of an interactive story, the metaverse is not only the building around that room but the whole universe having us as its main character, the hero of a fully immersive story.
Think of it as a simulation of the many different lives you would love to live but also as an experience of things you want to get or you imagine and you can’t have for any reason.
Also, think of it as a glimpse of how the future could be.
In the metaverse, physical limitations are optional. There is no gravity, no borders or passports, no societal stereotypical identities, and no binary filters.
On the contrary, you can fly, you can feel the sun on your face for hours without getting burnt, and you can wear what you want based on your mood in a variety of unimaginable choices, sailing to more than 7 seas, visiting the moon and other galaxies, partying with friends in a beach in Ibiza, driving an Aston Martin in Matera, and enjoying the view of the canals in Venice.
Now the question is how to build such a place?
In phase 1 we need developers to build those dream places, and then interconnect them with tech bridges in phase 2, so as to jump from one reality to the other without the need for different protocols. But building an environment is not enough. We need artists, storytellers, scriptwriters, film directors, writers, painters, musicians and troublemakers. All those who add meaning to any environment. What would be a party without music, people who dance, those who say “let’s jump in the pool”, drinks, incredible and amazing fashionable garments and, mostly, without love?
Steve Jobs said ‘Storytellers are the most powerful people on the earth.’ and he was right.
In the 1999 movie Contact, Jodie Foster in her role as a scientist passionately fought to convince the status quo to keep funding her program of searching for signals that proved the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence. When she finally gets in contact and the aliens send a blueprint to help design a starship to travel in space and meet them, Eleanor (Jodie Foster) has to fight again to convince them that she should go on that trip. And finally, she succeeds. She jumps into that hexagon-shaped spacecraft, and she wears a mic broadcasting things that she sees during the hyper-speed trip in a wormhole. Soon she realizes that she has no words to describe what she sees. “Some celestial event. No — no words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should have sent a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful… I had no idea.”
Developers find the technology to build a starship that can carry a person to another galaxy in seconds, but artists are those who give meaning to it.
A game you play starts with a story and if it’s combined with great graphics, easy and multiple interactions, then it’s the best. In my research on games and stories, I got to talk with kids who play Fortnite and some of them just build stuff. They create beautiful architecture and ignore the rest of the goals. A game that gives you opportunities, and things to do aside, is no anymore a game but more of a place where you can discover your calling, and your different identities and express them immediately.
What you see now as the so-called Metaverse is not the one that Zuckerberg and others like me back in 1999 dreamt of. What we dream of is a place where fantasy and reality co-exist. The ability to live in a world that has no gravity, no barriers or borders and that is not led by the traditional status quo.
The true Metaverse will come from people who have the mentality of the Wright brothers and not from a corporation like Boeing. The Wright brothers built the airplane without being scientists, with no money or support from the status quo. Boeing came after because of them. To give form, shape and make popular what the Wright brothers did.
I have never felt comfortable in the world we call real, and I always wanted to change it. This is why I write stories and build brands trying to make people happy. But the world always remains the same, fooling us by changing the wrapping. Now I know that there is no need to change it. Now we have the power to build new worlds that interact with the physical world as we want and whenever we want. Now we can build multiple identities and travel at the speed of life.
Now we can be really free. At last.