The Metaverse is one of the hottest concepts of 2021. Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of foreign social media Facebook, changed the company’s name to Meta. In the investment circle, “the sky is the thunder and the fire is on the ground”. Hot money from all walks of life has flowed into this new Internet concept. Related stock prices and financing have repeatedly hit new highs. On the other side, ordinary netizens are cynical about this concept.
In Liu Cixin’s “Three-Body Problem”, there is such a passage: The colony ball has become a foregone conclusion after the three-body man 400 years later, and some people have begun to speculate and deceive the poor people at the bottom to buy “escape funds” for future generations – for many people, The Metaverse is no different from this “leek-cutting” behavior. Anything new comes along with associated scams. There are also some people who understand the virtual world in science fiction films as the metaverse, and believe that the maturity of related technologies is far away, at least not in the “lifetime” and has nothing to do with them.
But is this really the case? I don’t think so. Tech giants and investors have a cunning side, but they are by no means the ones who can only see the wind and fish in troubled waters. The metaverse is still a concept that is bigger than reality today, but it is a real problem that is not as far away as we think. Next, I will analyze this practical problem with the help of narrative arts such as literature, film and television, animation, and games.
The Classical Model of the Metaverse
What is the Metaverse? In the words of relevant experts, “Metaverse is the future integration of all elements of the Internet, such as the Internet, virtual reality, immersive experience, blockchain, industrial Internet, cloud computing, and digital twins. It is also known as the ‘shared virtual reality Internet’. ‘ and ‘Full True Internet'” (Yu Guoming, “Why “Metaverse”: The Future Ecological Landscape of a Mediated Society”). For those with no technical background, this long list of words means nothing. I don’t want to be opportunistic, but for people in the future, the metaverse is bound to be like a cell phone today, just because you use it doesn’t mean you understand it. I think there must be some kind of easy-to-understand, vivid way of saying that ordinary people can easily understand the meaning of the metaverse.
Just when I was searching and racking my brains, I found that the “Yutai Teahouse” created by Mr. Lao She in the play “Teahouse” more than 60 years ago is very similar to the Meta proposed by Zuckerberg!
This is not “shaking smart”, and look at the following quote:
People who play with birds, after walking enough thrushes, yellow birds, etc., come here to rest their legs, drink tea, and make the birds perform and sing. Those who discuss things, and those who talk about media and fiber, also come here. In those years, there were often group fights, but there would always be friends who came forward to mediate between the two sides; thirty or fifty thugs, after being transferred to people to talk about it… they could turn the war into jade and silk. In short, this is a very important place on the day, and you can come and sit for a long time if you have something or nothing.
Here, the most absurd news can be heard, such as how a giant spider somewhere became a ghost and was struck by lightning. Strange opinions can also be heard here, such as building a large wall on the seaside, which is enough to stop the foreign soldiers from going ashore. Here you can also hear what a certain Beijing opera actor has recently created, and the best way to suffer opium. It’s also a place to see someone’s newly acquired treasure… It’s a really important place, almost a cultural exchange.
For reading European and American science fiction novels of the last century, Mr. Lao She’s two paragraphs also seem very “cyberpunk”. Many irrelevant things and news are pinched together, just like a typical scene in cyberpunk novels-Chongqing-style night and continuous rain, shrouded in the anti-gravity aircraft that shuttle between European and American-style buildings. A bit of red lips of a Japanese geisha in the giant advertising display in the air, passing through the steaming heat of the food stalls under the Hong Kong-style neon signs. Collages in sci-fi works are often not forward-looking, but retro.
There are national capitalists, Western missionaries, people from the Qing court as well as run-down aristocrats, urban middle class, street bullies and people traffickers, drug addicts, and Jianghu people from the bottom of the society in Yutai Teahouse. The teahouse is an important space mixed with personal attributes and public attributes, and undertakes various functions such as social interaction, entertainment, trade, negotiation, and struggle. Lao She also specially wrote that “you can come and sit for a long time if you have anything or nothing”, which reminds us of the state of subconsciously opening social platforms such as WeChat Moments, Weibo, Zhihu, and Tieba. If the teahouse is set as a place where everyone can enter through VR (virtual reality) glasses and somatosensory devices at home, then this is the metaverse.
In his speech on Meta, Zuckerberg emphasized several characteristics of the metaverse: presence, avatars, personal space, teleportation, interoperability, privacy and security, virtual objects, natural interactions. Among them, presence, interoperability, virtual objects, and natural interaction are all striving to create a sense of reality in virtual space, while features such as virtual avatars, personal space, teleportation, privacy and security are the core uses of the metaverse. Everyone in Yutai Teahouse, acquaintance or not, is a tea guest, which corresponds to a virtual avatar; each tea house temporarily belongs to a certain tea guest, which is a personal space; the tea guest can move to another table at any time, Talking and laughing or discussing things corresponds to teleportation; social distancing between tea tables, “Don’t talk about state affairs” on the pillars and spies who occasionally wander around correspond to privacy and security – yes, no matter what In this era or in any country, privacy and security are relative terms.
Lao She’s “Tea House” also has a “cyberpunk” side
In other words, the use of virtual reality to replace physical space, the use of network cables or wireless signals to replace carriages, planes, high-speed trains and other means of transportation, so that people can meet anytime and anywhere, are the characteristics of the Metaverse that are different from previous social places, but what it needs to achieve The purpose is still the gathering, conversation, entertainment, rest, education, trade, etc. that existed before social places. In addition to tea houses, such as the film “Spartacus”, “Roman Baths” and the animation “Gallic Warriors”, there are also sports venues, lounges, gardens, and ancient Roman baths with libraries; or the film “Titanic” The ship sank in the early 20th century, with a total length of nearly 300 meters, can accommodate more than 3,000 passengers of different social classes at the same time, and provide social, travel, dance, catering and other functional services; or among countless works of art. The bars, restaurants, cafes, markets, brothels, etc. that have been displayed can all be regarded as existences that are close to the use of the Metaverse.
Just like the “Black Sun Building” described in the sci-fi novel “Avalanche”, the pioneering work of the Metaverse, elites from all over the world gather here, businessmen discuss business and communicate feelings, and artists seek the possibility of being discovered. This place is only for people’s convenience. Do what you already have, instead of making everyone do something new.
Saying this will inevitably disappoint many young people who are very optimistic about the future, but I must emphasize that the “oasis” described in the 2018 Steven Spielberg film “Ready Player One” – everything has become Online games, everyone is playing games, and life has become an easy and exciting game – there is a high probability that it will not be realized. This metaverse model is only a more distant metaverse than the metaverse discussed by Zuckerberg and others. imagination. To give a frustrating example, at the beginning of the birth of WeChat, the main focus was the sharing of strangers, such as shaking, drifting bottles, and circle of friends. At one time, we thought that this was a way to spend life, pass the time, meet strangers, and even have an affair. The happy place to go, but when WeChat really popularized? Communication between Party A and Party B, tasks assigned by superiors and subordinates, collaboration between colleagues, and completion of daily affairs—although this is a virtual world composed of codes and programs, it is full of a sense of heaviness from reality. When countless people who are new to the workplace describe the WeChat call ringtone as the sound of “sudden cardiac arrest”, do they still fantasize about playing life in a virtual world?