— Companion piece for the TED talk
Thanks for watching the TED talk! I am Micaela, a TED Fellow, scholar and activist from Argentina, working at the intersections of video games, artificial intelligence, copyright, creativity and ethics. Welcome!
In this companion article, I will expand some of the ideas presented at TED. I know everyone is already sick of hearing about the metaverse! But please, bear with me as we explore some key takeaways, using the #memeverse as our guide!
1- The Metaverse is not new
Interest in the metaverse has spiked vertiginously in the last year, going from an obscure sci-fi term to the latest tech buzzword. This is not just a figure of speech, according to Google trends, searches for “metaverse” skyrocketed last year.
Unsurprisingly, the massive spike in popularity of the term (from 2004 until today), started in October 2021 coinciding with the Facebook rebranding announcement, and reached its peak in December 2021 with a steep decline to this day. That can be the mark (see what I did there) of public opinion being exhausted of the hype, and might signal the prelude for a metaverse winter.
But, the Metaverse and the idea behind it are by no means new.
In fact, thirty years ago, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson was published. Not to spoil a great book to anyone, but let’s say that it is more of a dystopian cautionary tale about society and inequality, than the blueprint for a brave new digital world. The metaverse of Snow Crash is not for everyone, it is the counterpart of a highly stratified and broken society. Let me quote:
“ We have a huge workforce that is illiterate or alliterate and relies on TV — which is sort of an oral tradition. And we have a small, extremely literate power elite — the people who go into the Metaverse, basically — who understand that information is power, and who control society because they have this semi-mystical ability to speak magic computer languages.”
In this foundational tale of cyberpunk, hackers are still able to tweak some aspects of that world, and having a cool avatar is not always a sign of money but skill. Also, the metaverse of Snow Crash is centralized, which is something ripe to be abused. As grim as this story might seem, the current trajectory of the metaverse could even surpass the more pessimistic fiction.
Beyond the first use of the word “Metaverse” in the Snow Crash, several elements of how we think about it come from longstanding tropes of sci-fi (such as replicators and holo-decks from Star Trek, the simulation theory from The Matrix, or the OASIS from Ready Player One) and already existing experiences in video games (with virtual worlds and communities like World of Warcraft, Second Life or Eve Online).
In the last few years, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Animal Crossing were already experimenting with crossing the boundaries of video games and social networks. Epic Games was already making moves toward the metaverse goal, with its CEO, Tim Sweeney, famously stating “Fortnite is a game. But please ask that question again in 12 months”.
With all this rich tradition of science fiction, virtual worlds and the gaming industry working on the case, why the sudden rush to build the “metaverse”?
The answer is not surprising, but disappointing: money.
2 -The corporate vision for the Metaverse is a perfected form of capitalism
The narratives about the metaverse coming from the private sector tend to be dominated by how big of a market it is going to be, and how much money can be made from that, followed by some sprinkles of hype-train buzzwords about the “something-something, future of presence, work and entertainment”. Different reports are touting the Metaverse as the next big thing, or a paradigm shift, with forecasts predicting its value in a “multi-trillion dollar opportunity” or a 800 billion market. According to McKinsey & Co, the metaverse would be worth $5 trillion by 2030.
Once again, The Simpsons predicted the future.
The millennial FOMO hitted hard amongst corporations, governments and individuals alike. Brands are lured by promises of new forms of “engagement”, “awareness” or “collaborations”. Like the iconic scene of The Simpsons movie (when an animated Tom Hanks declares that “The U.S. government has lost its credibility, so it’s borrowing some of mine”), brands are partnering with digital content creators and influencers to bring themselves into video game and digital spaces to “borrow organic prestige”. Also, racing to get a piece of “virtual real-state” or have “metaverse presence” before their competitors, usually contributing to general confusion announcing NFT drops as “metaverse initiatives”. Law firms, banks, sneakers, luxury retailers and even fast food chains, everybody wants to be there.
Governments are making investments in creating ”metaverse” services, sometimes with clear purpose (like increasing turistic revenue via virtual version of Festivals), but others frankly misguided (like fighting corruption).
Individuals have also been seduced by the metaverse land grabbing craze. Despite that distance holds no inherent meaning in digital spaces (beyond algorithmic graphs, we don’t think of websites being close or far from each other in the geographical sense of the word), the artificial scarcity and artificial topography of the metaverse had lead to people spending outrageous amounts of money to buy “land” “close to” celebrities.
Tangible reality has no bilocation, and our bodies become the natural measure of scarcity, limited to the point in time and space we are inhabiting. Our cognition and attention are still tied to physicalities, and therefore, they are a scarce resource.
In a world that could be anything, not bound by physics or economics…why are most initiatives trying so hard to replicate tangible reality? Why are they transplanting limits embedded in the laws-of-physics into the limitless possibilities of digital spaces? Why are we trying so hard to artificially create scarcity where otherwise there can be abundance?
At this moment, the apparent reason to build the metaverse is finding the next frontier for money making. Boldly going into digital space represents the next evolution of capitalism.
In fact, it is a perfected form of digital capitalism, one that:
a) dispenses from actually producing tangible goods,
b) shaves the cost of physical supply chains, and
c) also provides the added bonus of a more extensive control of secondary markets.
Thanks to intellectual property rules governing digital goods that limit what we can do with them. NFT’s can be part of the solution for reshaping digital ownership, but they can’t overrule copyright or trademark regulations.
As unlikely as it might seem luxury brands partnering with videogames and focusing on the metaverse, it makes sense if we think about these three key points. Lowering the cost of production allows to lower the price points of sale, while still cashing on the branding and desirability, offering more affordable access for the next generation of consumers. With Gen Z expected to account for 40 percent of the international luxury goods market by 2035, but at the same time, struggling with post-pandemic recession, unemployment, the metaverse as digital capitalism can provide ways for brands to evolve and survive.
3 — The Metaverse is already on fire (and we even don’t know what it is)
Nobody wants to be left behind, and that digital gold craze increasing the speed of events doesn’t help to reflect about the ethical questions that need to be asked.
The metaverse future trajectory, as seen on 2022
We don’t want the Metaverse to become the bad sequel to the Internet… So… how do we fix it, even before we build it?
With an ethics by design approach, avoiding repeating past internet’s mistakes that have led us to this point in time where the web is polarized, fragmented and causing harm. This requieres:
- understanding WHY we are building it:
The purpose and intention of how it can benefit humanity. Are we aiming for a post-scarcity utopia and unbounded creativity? Or are we going to artificially replicate the logics of scarcity that belong to tangible goods into digital ones that can essentially be replicated with almost zero cost?
Also, how can it change our environment? (sustainability)? How can it affect us as individuals (in our mental and physical health, our agency, our rights) and our society? (impact)
-WHO could seize control of it, and who will be able to participate
Referring to the intrinsic tensions between centralization and decentralization. In their optimism, Web3 enthusiasts are forgetting that we already had one history changing, decentralized information network, and that years in, we managed to ruin it.
Today’s Internet also started as a decentralized technology, with the noble goal of connecting people around the world and avoiding censorship. Moreover, there were no patents or royalties, and it was designed as device agnostic. John Gilmore, — an internet pioneer and one of the founders of the Electronic Frontier Foundation- famously stated that “Internet interprets censorship as damage and routes around it”. Almost 50 years later, some of Internet strengths have become their weaknesses, with concentration of wealth and power in hands of a few platforms; polarization driven by echo chambers; internet fragmentation created by walled gardens, and escalated and automated surveillance that makes 1984 an optimistic tale.
They solemnly swear they are up to no good.
Before search engines indexing the available information, finding something on the internet required skill and arcane knowledge. If information is power, years in, the intermediaries built for comfort and ease of access ended up grappling too much power, because they had too much information.
That could be the fate of web3, with intermediaries starting to emerge, offering services designed to make the ecosystem more friendly to newcomers. Also, true decentralization means no safety nets and no “metaverse police” to intervene when someone pulls the rug. With huge profile scams, some are pointing to those intermediaries to “do something” or “take responsibility”. And so the cycle begins anew.
Control of the metaverse is intimately tied to the answers to other two relevant questions:
Who will pay for it, or how is it going to be economically self-sufficient? (viability), and
Who gets to establish the rules? (governance)
Each viability model, being it based on subscriptions, data collection, tokenization or cooperation, comes with its own set of challenges, and has a huge influence on inclusion and how governance is going to be adjudicated.
If those negatives are outweighting the positives, and we don’t know why we are building it (purpose) and who can control it, that leads to another ethical question, we need to:
- think HOW is the metaverse different from the technologies that we already have.
Virtual worlds have existed for decades, so what makes a metaverse different from them? Well, it would depend on how you define what a metaverse is, and what are their distinctive characteristics. Even when lots of brands are confidently talking about their products as “metaverses”, they are closed environments no different (except for their clunky bad graphics) from the vibrant virtual worlds gaming has had for years.
Beyond what marketing says today, metaverse research sets ten to twenty years for achieving the necessary technology and hardware able to support high fidelity, massive gatherings of people at the same (digital) spot. Also, if we agree that the metaverse needs to be decentralized, open, and interconnected with protocols and regulation that allows content portability, there is much work to do to get to that point.
4 -The metaverse is a work in progress, so here is my WIP definition
With the field quickly evolving, any attempt to capture the current fluidity of the metaverse is destined to be partial (and unsuccessful).
Instead, considering the Metaverse as a “work in progress”, I propose to have a working definition that starts from seeing the metaverse as a point of convergence of different technologies, layers of infrastructure, realities and social phenomenons. A nexus that strives to blend and bridge physical and artificial digital across the reality gradient, in an interconnected, decentralized, open and interoperable architecture (both legal and technical) that links different persistent, synchronic and immersive spaces that could be collectively shared. One that is based on our current Internet but aspires to transcend it, encompassing different aspects of the human experience.
In simple terms:
Persistent, means a place that continues existing and evolving even when we are not there.
Open and decentralized, as not having a central authority;
Immersive, as going from a 2D or “flat” internet to a 3D version;
The metaverse could/will be a mix-and match, combining different technologies, such as spatial computing (designing the interactions in those immersive spaces); generative artificial intelligence (to create any kind of content, avatars, objects, voices, etc); blockchain (allowing to create means for interoperability, digital ownership and trade in blockchain-based platforms); 5G (powering higher bandwidth and lower latency); brain computer interfaces (TLDR, a dystopian nightmare) and hardware advancements for VR, AR and haptics.
At the same time, the metaverse is a mixture of different social phenomenons like social media and video games. As we stated some time ago the metaverse is not only “the newest iteration of the Internet, but both an evolutionary step and a fusion of social networks and online gaming. As gaming becomes more ubiquitous and social media platforms resort to gamification mechanics to promote interaction between users, the frontiers between these two worlds tend to blur: platforms become games and games take the place of social media spaces. Twitch, which started as a platform to watch other people play games, has evolved into a community-building space where games are also played with the audience, by using overlays and gamified mechanics of interaction”.
5- The key ingredient for metaverse success: connection
In a way, we can think of the Metaverse and its Metaverse(s), in a parallel of how today websites and platforms relate to the Internet as a whole. The Metaverse will be the architecture of protocols, and the metaverse(s), the websites. The Metaverse will function as a hub and portal, an architecture of interoperable gateways to connect the virtual worlds, allowing us to traverse from one to another.
5.1- Connection as a scholar: the metaverse needs interoperability
Seems easy since, because going from one website or platform to another is already an Internet feature. IP addresses and the invention of the html made it possible to “navigate” the internet through the web, with a set of standard protocols. But it is also true that this is possible because (despite the cookies following us around) we don’t carry our digital belongings with us. You can’t take your Fortnite avatar to Roblox, or your Instagram likes to TikTok.
To achieve the feature of moving around digital spaces carrying our digital goods, we need content portability, which is a very difficult engineering task. It requires the object created in one place to be able to be rendered in another software environment, with another aesthetics, another code and other functionalities. For example, let’s take two massive multiplayer games, thinking of them as an “easy” case for having similar game mechanics. Let’s just imagine the difficulties of porting a sword from game A to be used in game B, requiring that the item looks similar to the one you had, but adapts to the aesthetics of the new environment (from cartoon to realistic, etc) and also, that it has an equivalent function and properties (it is still a sword in a game that doesn’t have that type of weapons). Moreover, it needs to consider how it will affect the balance of game design (porting a very powerful item from a game you played a lot to another where you are just starting). Maybe a solution could be to have some sort of exchange to convert it to an in-game equivalent (like a money exchange between countries), but that still can be another can of worms about monetization and game revenue (buying cheap items in a game and porting them to play in another, where the developers from the second game won’t see a dime of those sales).
Because tech and laws…
But if that wasn’t hard enough, it is also a lawyering problem: because you need a complex structure of contracts to legally copy a digital object.
Just between ourselves, I will share with you a little copyright secret: digital goods are treated differently from their tangible counterparts. Instead of “ownership”, we have a license to use them, very sneakily and craftily limited by Terms of Service or EULAs.
TLDR: “owning” an e-book doesn’t grant you the same rights that owning a physical book does.
Even when both carry exactly the same text, technically they are not legally the same. In the physical world, thanks to what’s called “exhaustion” o “first sale doctrine”, once you buy an item containing copyrighted content, the copyright owner can not prevent you from reselling, lending or gifting that item. You can not create unauthorized copies, but you can do whatever you want with your copy.
TLDR: you can sell a physical book, but you can’t do the same with an e-book
But because digital goods are replicable, Courts have considered that is not possible to “sell” a digital copy, because what you do is *technically*creating an unauthorized copy. Also, you don’t “own” the digital good because it is not *technically* a sale, as it is governed by contracts, licences and terms of service.
TLDR: (*loooong legalese explanation*) your relationship status with digital goods: “is complicated”.
That could mean that -even if we have the technical means to port content- you won’t be able to take the item you bought at metaverse A to metaverse B unless there is an agreement on copyright and trademarks.
TLDR: Imagine a book that has a condition: you can only read it when you are at your home. If you go to other places, the book won’t open. What sounds completely ridiculous for tangible goods, is a reality for digital ones. Your content can be confined to a specific platform or device.
So, without rules about “digital exhaustion”or licenses granting equivalent rights worldwide, exiting one Metaverse will be like going through a very strict Customs: one that will confiscate all your possessions if you want to go through. That’s why blockchain and NFT’s could become the economic backbone for the Metaverse, as a proverbial solution to allow digital ownership. But that only be true if we have a truly decentralized metaverse both technically (with homogenous technical standards) and legally (if those tokens come equipped with the proper set of rights).
5.2- Connection as an activist: the metaverse is the people
Without human candor and serendipity, virtual worlds will just be beautiful landscapes, nothing more than a 3D ghost town.
But not everyone will be there because “we are not born equal into the metaverse”
We are promised boundless worlds where we can be our true selves, whatever we want to explore our identity and uniqueness, but sadly as it’s going, in the metaverse you will be as free as you can afford to pay. Do you feel represented by this avatar or do you like that t-shirt? Well, too bad because that costs extra. In a landscape where generative artificial intelligence is becoming better, accessible and capable of producing these digital goods aplenty, there is a case to be made about the metaverse paradox between artificial scarcity and digital abundance.
The metaverse paradox of scarcity and abundance in a nutshell.
Moreover, thanks to Terms of Service, instead of freedom it will be closer to a dystopian crossover between The Good Place and The Truman Show: a neighborhood by design with concrete boundaries and rules. An engineered space with little room for spontaneity and serendipity, a place where our interactions are being watched over and quantified. A huge sandbox, but not less a walled garden.
If the future of work is in the metaverse, we need to acknowledge now the accessibility gap. Not only the Metaverse is heavily visually and auditory based, which sets back years of internet accessibility advances, but also there is a disparity in access in terms of hardware, knowledge and internet connection. Is not the same to connect with a high-end device, that entering the metaverse with the cheap headset your employer buyed in bulk.
With such high barriers of entry, how are we going to keep the Metaverse diverse and inclusive? According to research on VR, gender and motion sickness, “findings set forth that women are comparatively more prone to motion sickness than men”. How are we expected to work and perform at the same level to our colleagues if we are impaired by experiencing nausea or fatigue? Does this mean creating a new kind of disability in an already unequal workplace?
We need to find ways to create an inclusive metaverse, one that preserves the best things about humanity online: creativity, kindness, cats…
This is not wishful thinking: kindness is a powerhouse.
Internet can be a toxic place, but there is another side too. There are initiatives like Leyline creating a blockchain “proof of good deeds’, or charity marathons like Games Done Quick. There are tons of wholesome games teaching us empathy, collaboration and helping your community, like TOEM or Kind Words.
The replies to a letter I sent within the Kind Words community, while preparing my TED talk.
A game about sharing anonymous letters might seem like a recipe for disaster. But against all odds, by the time of presenting this talk in April 2022, the information marked that over 1 million letters full of kindness were written. With the update of developers on July marking 3 years of the game, they shared that there are “over 5 million letters and airplanes shared between strangers lifting each other up”.
People want to do good , and now we have technical means to escalate it to unprecedented levels, using technology to democratize access, expand creativity, create new ways of governance taking advantage of the power of Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAO’s), and overcome the scarcity state of mind, creating an inclusive metaverse where no one is left behind. The scholar in me seems skeptical, but the activist is determined to prove her wrong.
TLDR: the key ingredient that makes the metaverse different is “connection” As a scholar, connection in the metaverse means interoperability: a coherent ecosystem of technical and legal standards for true decentralization. Blockchain and NFTs can provide the technical tools, but it won’t work without the legal counterpart. As an activist: connection means that the metaverse is the people, the communities that will populate and breathe life into these worlds.
6-The metaverse will blend tangible and virtual realities, across the “reality gradient”
Beyond the marketing hype, we can think of the Metaverse as an internet of augmented senses, that aspires to be a gateway bridging digital and physical world experiences.
When it comes to XR possibilities, definitions tend to present different aspects of reality as virtual, augmented or mixed, as different stages that separate artificial realities from physical reality. But in fact, those different manifestations of artificial realities tend to overlap with blurred frontiers.
A graphical representation of my concept of the “reality gradient”, which is essentially a spectrum of immersiveness.
There is no exact point where AR ends and MR or VR begins. Instead of separate compartments, we can think of a “reality gradient”, a spectrum that goes from the tangible reality that might be perceived through our senses (smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing) to progressive stages that involve blending these different layers. Your smell may remain grounded in physical reality, but your auditory senses might include artificial sounds that overlap with those products of the tangible world, all while your visual perception has been replaced with digitally generated ones.
The Rs are a spectrum, one that starts with those analogue stimuli from the tangible world that we perceive through our senses (the physical reality); to a stage where those physical objects and constructs blend with digital ones, being through added featured as an overlay that enhances the informational qualities of said object (augmented reality), creates a digital replica like the digital twins; adds objects that don’t have a corresponding tangible counterpart and allows interaction and manipulation (mixed reality); or occludes the perception of the tangible world in one or more senses (for example replacing the analogue sights or sounds with digital visuals and audio).
There are different experiments trying to replicate sensations, from a kiss to pain, through nerve stimulation, and in the future, those stimuli might not even need to come through your senses, as brain computer interfaces might allow us to reproduce those sensations directly into our nervous systems.
7- The metaverse could become a capitalism of cognitive surveillance
Even when some are seeing the metaverse as a new frontier (for example, when it comes to crime or abuse in the metaverse) we must re-anchor the debate. We shouldn’t let the 3D smoke and immersive mirrors distract us from the core issue:
the metaverse IS the internet, and as such, it will inherit the worst traits of its current business models.
let the 3D smoke and immersive mirrors distract us from the core issue: the metaverse IS the internet, and as such,it will inherit the worst traits of its current business models
As the next iteration of internet arguably, is also the next iteration of its governance problems, inheriting unsolved debates in terms of surveillance, polarization, gaps of access, toxicity, colonialism, accessibility, zero-rating, content moderation, data privacy, agency, etc. Beyond the “shiny new thing” narrative, the governance debates of the metaverse -as a digital space- are not new, but a continuation of unsolved problems of our current internet, folded with gaming and social media in the mix.
With premium access to our bodies, VR headsets and sensors can extract huge amounts of “involuntary data” that we can’t control: like blinks or heartbeats. A problem that will get worse with neurotechnology allowing to “read” and “modify” our brains: creating a capitalism of cognitive surveillance.
Science fiction has always had a fascination with the human brain and its possibilities to perceive and trick reality. From uploading a mind or migrating its contents as a way to embrace eternity, to relive other persons experiences (like the Vulcan mind melding of Star Trek) or creating a believable display of tech-enabled hallucinations fooling the senses (as in The Matrix), there is an extensive exploration of topics, capabilities and unknowns of human cognition, in a mix-and-match of medicine, chemistry or computer technologies. Tropes of brain manipulation fit well in dystopian narratives. Borges pondered about the limits of human cognition and memory overload in “Funes the Memorious”, as also did in a more cynical way, William Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic. In the Cyberpunk lore, Brain Dances (BDs) are a common form of entertainment, allowing you to relive in your own mind the thoughts, emotions and sensations recorded on another person.
In its own merit, virtual reality developments are paving the way to bring science into fiction, replicating visuals and sounds fairly realistically, with the limitations of current state of the art towards tactile sensations and smell. Haptic devices (mechanical interfaces that can mimic sensations) are evolving, from just faint resemblances of movement or force feedback (like the vibration of console joysticks) to complete suits, integrated with motion capture and analytics. Differently to other computer interfaces, haptic devices provide both input and output in a way more natural to body movements, allowing the manipulation of virtual objects, a key component for virtual environments in spatial computing.
Today, VR headsets and controler’s sensors have a very strategic placement in our bodies, being able to monitor a lot of data that we might consent to but not control, like our pulse, heartbeats, the movement and attention of our eyes (saccades), etc. Paired with artificial intelligence, that data can create a treasure trove of information about yourself, and then generate things that will appeal to you. Imagine a virtual world where the system can know what you are looking, how that makes you feel, what you find attractive, and then use that information to create an avatar looking like someone you like, to sell you that virtual t-shirt that just got your attention.
Hard to dodge the bullets when they know much about you.
But also, a headset is the perfect medium to fusion VR and neurotechnology. The device already needs to be placed on the head, providing a premium location to access the brain as a non-invasive, external device. Non-invasive relates to a nomenclature inherited from medical science, referred to procedures breaking the skin or entering the body. In the context of ethics and privacy, I think this classification might present some semantic problems, as can it be misunderstood that an external device might not be invasive, whereas an internal device will be by default. As it can be misleading, I think we need to reframe the terminology in ethical terms: because even if a device is not entering the body, it can be “invasive” concerning sensitive data derived from anatomical impulses we can’t control, and the inferences that can be construed upon them. Therefore, I propose to consider devices in terms of external or internal, conserving the established medical meaning as referred to the body, but devoid of said connotations.
In the future, neuroscience advancements can allow the recording, processing, and decode of neural signals, presenting a whole new world of ethical concerns. Besides therapeutic uses, neurotechnology can enhance human capabilities in a way close to science fiction core tropes, dystopian propositions included. It works by recording electrical activity in the brain, which allows the creation of an information flow, from and to the brain, mediated by an umbrella of different technologies aptly known as Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI). Recording can happen within the brain itself or on its surface.
Sensors in hand controlled devices will be able to “read” the electrical activity produced by muscles can be transformed into thought to text devices, mediated by machine learning algorithms.
Seems futuristic or far-fetched? Neural prostheses already exist, Meta is working on a wrist based device “The signals through the wrist are so clear that EMG can understand finger motion of just a millimeter. That means input can be effortless. Ultimately, it may even be possible to sense just the intention to move a finger”. Neuroscientist Tom Oxley has already presented an “implantable brain-computer interface that collects and wirelessly transmits information directly from the brain, without the need for open surgery. describes the intricacies of this breakthrough technology, which is currently enrolling participants in human trials”.
As marvelous as it seems for people with disabilities, we can not avoid the ethical concerns that this technology poses for the future of our privacy, consciousness, agency and self-determination. There are already proponents of “neurorights”, a new set of Human Rights to tackle the specific challenges of neurotechnologies.
8-Not all who wander are lost
The Metaverse is at the crossroads where it could be the next big tech connecting the world, or the greatest surveillance system yet created. We are at a turning point with a small window to influence and regulate, before it gets appropriated by power players, leading back to centralization.
We are on the verge of an extraordinary opportunity, to create new worlds and imagine different ways of rethinking our society. Is not every day that humanity has the chance to create a new reality. We have the extraordinary opportunity to re imagine different ways of our social contract: dystopia or utopia are both on the table.
And we can be agents of that change. Like the small butterfly that makes the rain pour in New York, our actions can have unforeseen consequences.
With all the lessons learned, let’s not repeat our Internet mistakes. To avoid becoming the bad sequel to the internet we need to change course and fix the metaverse as we build it, while we still have the chance.