Traducción: Celina Castro
Autor: Luis Bonilla-Molina / firstname.lastname@example.org
- What is the Metaverse?
The Metaverse is a virtual space full of digital content that tries to replicate the objective world through the construction of a new human subjectivity. The Metaverse is a new development of computational programming, use of algorithms, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data, real-time metadata processing, avatar interaction, sequential and scalar logic of video games now crossed by fuzzy logic and a 180 degree turn in the way we have been interacting with virtuality.
The virtuality had implied a deterritorialization we carry out in social networks, through the establishment of links, interactions, dialogues, the formation of groups made up of affinities and not by belonging to specific places. But until now, immersion in the virtual was partial, having the real world as an anchor, being an expression of what individuals were, are and plan to be.
The new deterritorialization that the Metaverse expresses as a process acts as a rupture of the cognitive balance between objectivity and subjectivity; the concrete and tangible reality gives way to other realities that demand a new way of situating the individual before everyday life, life, time and space.
Virtuality broke the fragile barrier between the public and the private, and since its arrival, the routines, protocols, the performance of the individual and his family became known by everybody across the web. An event as intimate as the celebration of a birthday, the beginning or dissolution of a relationship, meditation or a funeral, became a public domain. This was a necessary step for the creation of avatars that interact in virtual reality, replicating in the most reliable way possible the identity and behavior traits of each individual. It is like losing the modesty of undressing in public, learning to coexist and interact with the intimacy of the rest of the population. Whoever does not «undress» in public becomes suspicious or stuck in the past, reformulating old colonial conceptions of inclusion and exclusion.
The logic of “likes” was turning human beings into merchandise concerned day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, by the number of views or interactions that their publications have on networks.
That alienation, typical of the biopolitics of capitalism in the fourth industrial revolution, creates a new ethic of special importance for the sociability of the Metaverse. Alienation expressed in artificial separation between tangible reality and virtual reality, things we can do in one world and not in another, create a dual ethic. If we understand biopolitics as the deep alienation in every act of life, we would have to point out that in the fourth industrial revolution new forms of schizoid dissociation are being generated that not only alter values, but also modify the human ethics that had characterized the industrial capitalism. So, sociability enters a field of semi-barbarism, with virtual or face-to-face contextual limits, which point to the need for a consensus that does not have any known rationality as parameters. It’s like the universe of the Arcane: League of Legends (2021) series, where the pragmatic ethics of survival and domination, of the city below and the city above, can justify any act.
Values are reconfigured molded by the market beyond religions, party affiliations, beliefs or cultures that shaped individuals and groups, permanently reconfiguring themselves by the trends that are shown in the virtual.
This is how the conditions of possibility are built to create the Metaverses, today popularized with the Meta. Zuckerberg’s Metaverse is actually a logical and expected development of cognitive capitalism.
The Metaverse of the creator of Facebook is a space where is about trying to recreate the objective world, but also particular worlds. They will seek to radically modify the notions of sociability, political and social participation, citizenship, consumption, creation and cultural reproduction that we have known.
Just as today we create a username and password in social networks, the Metaverse will require the creation of a Avatar , which is nothing more than a dual version of each one of us. Avatar that will absorb our identity day by day until it becomes a replica of each one, capable of acting autonomously or guided in a universe in which millions of human beings will be living this duplication.
This is complemented by the work that Ray Kurzweil, Bill Gates and hundreds of laboratories around the world have been doing to try to create the technique that allows the transfer of human memory and consciousness to entities that integrate biological life with technology, something that today seems to be Science fiction.
In tangible terms, the Metaverse implies immersing our senses and rationality in a «new» augmented reality, where the limits of the human condition can be transgressed, creating a new market for renewed «needs» and immaterial merchandise.
The Metaverse is the construction of a parallel universe where the ideology of the market is the indisputable hegemony of its operation, where the human being himself is a commodity, capable of monetizing every act of his life.
The Metaverse is making its way as a concrete social reality, regardless of the success of the format promoted by Zuckerberg. For this reason, today we speak of Metaverses as possibilities of concretizing new forms of control, domination, exploitation, alienation that cognitive capitalism of the fourth industrial revolution requires.
- Who drives the Metaverse?
The naive response would be to point to Facebook or Mark Zuckerberg. Actually, Facebook’s proposal is the best known of multiple converging initiatives that transnational technological capital has been working on to expand the known frontiers of the capitalist mode of production.
The Metaverse or Metaverses are innovative ways of generating surplus value from the immateriality of virtuality. We must understand this proposal within the framework of the capitalist construction of the world.
From this perspective, unfortunately, what we warned and denounced, since 2015, about the construction of a Global Pedagogical Blackout (GPS) scenario, which was nothing more than the abrupt transition to virtuality, as a global literacy that would open doors to the technological, virtual and digital developments that capitalism promoted in the transition between the third and fourth industrial revolutions. What happened during the pandemic was the construction of hegemony on a planetary scale over the possibilities of the virtual and digital in daily life of the capitalist world and especially in the educational sphere.
The technological sector obtained millionaire profits during the two years of the pandemic, for this reason, Mr. Gates (2022) announces that «digitization is here to stay», knowing that the realization of all possibilities of the Metaverse will still take a few years, perhaps a decade, for this reason they begin with the progressive socialization of their possibilities.
The Metaverse is driven by international technological capital, in line with the construction of the capitalist society of the 21st century promoted by the Davos Economic Forum. Evidently, this initiative generates inter-capitalist contradictions, whose expressions are beyond the limits of this article, but which are necessary to mention, because the success or failure of the strategy of technological capitalism will depend on its resolution.
- Matrix as an introductory course to the Metaverse
In recent weeks, the fourth installment of the saga created by the Wachowski sisters (both transgender) in which Thomas Anderson by day and the hacker Neo by night (Keanu Reeves) has been placed in all cinemas around the world. ), Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne & Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), among others, rebel against the numbing of conscience that is characteristic of the Matrix. When it premiered in 1999, it seemed like just a science fiction series, but today it is clear that it is a social introduction of emerging content that must be taken on quickly.
In Matrix 4 the problem is not the parallel reality in which Neo and Trinity end up navigating, even dialoguing with the dark part of the network, but rather the intelligent machines that were already defeated in the third installment. In that sense, Matrix 4 rides on the collective subconscious fear of an insurrection of the machines, which appear as defeated, and leaves open the possibility of «navigating awake» through the Matrix (Metaverse).
Neo, Trinity, Morpheus and their legion of warriors use digital «avatars» to navigate the virtual world, allowing them to appropriate a digital power impossible to develop from the real world alone. If anything resembles The Matrix, it is the Metaverse of Meta, with the recreation of the material world in which almost all physical laws can be altered, manipulated and used in favor of a supposed «human happiness», which is nothing more than endless loops of repetition. In Matrix as in capitalism as a whole, repetition constitutes one of its fundamental bases.
In The Matrix there are no rich or poor, the boundaries of social classes are erased, with the ephemeral concepts of asleep and awake. In this sense, the Matrix is useful to try to remove the Metaverse from the debates on capitalist accumulation, alienation, hegemony, exploitation, appropriation of the surplus, which are immanent to what is being proposed by the largest ideological machine promoted by Zuckerberg, Gates and others, just as its narrative is complementary to the model of universal internet connection promoted by Musk.
If in 1999 The Matrix seemed just entertainment, in the year 2021, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced the use of the virtual-digital world to multiply and the Metaverse announcements that occurred just weeks ago, the film becomes an introductory course on new possibilities of social interaction, where the idea of technological progress is presented as overcoming social class differences.
- Economic possibilities of the Metaverse
When Mark Zuckerberg announces the creation of the Metaverse, he is actually talking about his version of this virtual world because there are already metaversian initiatives such as Robox, Minecraft, Second life, Decentraland, Axie Infinity, The Sandbox, CryptoVoxels, Somnium Space and Star Atlas. In the pre-existing Metaverse quaternaries to that of Meta, commercial activities are carried out in two ways, the first through currencies that are only exchangeable in that virtual reality (Roblox, Minecraft and Second Life) while in others (Decentraland, Axie Infinity and Star Atlas) is made by buying and selling virtual assets that can be freely exchanged for the US dollar.
Metaverses are ways of commodifying metadata and analyzing it through artificial intelligence. The Metaverses are not platforms or web pages, but a technological architecture whose central tasks are modeling new forms of consumption, appropriation of surplus value and surplus by the capitalist center in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. From the logic of consumption, it considers all owners and consumers in the real world as potential investments and digital buyers in the Metaverse. In addition, the acceleration of innovation is creating, in fact, new forms of symbolic and material appropriation of knowledge, inaccessible to the majority; only an elite knows how to create those things, so what remains is to consume without disturbing the system. In fact, a brutal privatization of technological and operational knowledge is taking place.
The Metaverse is not an end in itself, but rather a step on the way to building a new model of mind control and thought surveillance society. Our avatars, in permanent movement and reproduction of being, can also become holographic projections of what can be expected from each individual. We are at the gates of a new model of capitalist society, of control, surveillance, labor exploitation and debauchery in new forms of consumption.
The Metaverse of Meta aims to expand the possibilities of capital investment, at least in these aspects:
- The purchase of stock shares of the base company, in this case Meta;
- The purchase of cryptocurrencies that will be used in this virtual world, which must comply with all blockchain protocols. These cryptocurrencies will appreciate in value as they participate in commercial activities in the Metaverse;
- The purchase and sale of land, virtual assets and liabilities, as well as characters and/or the maintenance of their own advanced avatars, through the Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT) format
In the past, significant purchases of land (NFT) had been registered in the Decentraland Metaverse, for example, of 16 hectares for an amount of one million dollars. In fact, the Meta announcement has led to a growing investment in the other Metaverses. On December 2, 2021 Brian Quarmby pointed out that in the previous two weeks NFTs had become the new commodity of interest for cryptocurrency holders. The Sandbox reported November sales volume of $86.56 million, Decentraland reported $15.53 million, while CrytoVoxels and Somnium Space generated $2.68 and $1.1 million respectively. Companies like Shiba Inu announced the launch in 2022 of their version of the Metaverse.
However, these figures are dwarfed by the profits Facebook has made since it announced the launch of its Metaverse. In the last quarter of 2021, the shares of Facebook – Meta increased by 1.5% and reported profits of 9,000 million in this period, an important part of them derived from the launch of the Meta Metaverse.
Facebook is beginning to advertise online stores for clothing and other merchandise as part of version 1.0 of its universe. But this is only the beginning of a new race for the commodification of citizen life. The Metaverses will show that the virtual and digital are not games but a central aspect in the economic strategy of 21st century capitalism.
- The school/university in the Metaverse
In this context, the sketch of the impact of the Metaverse model on the educational agenda begins to be seen. The forced literacy that occurred in digital and virtual matters between the years 2020-2021 is essential to understand the sketches that are built of the Metaverse in education. Let us see some educational aspects that are beginning to be worked on by technological capitalism in order to present a metaversian model for education in the medium term:
- School infrastructure: it constitutes one of the great financial and budgetary problems typical of educational massification. In Latin America, the precarious structures of educational facilities has become a serious problem. This situation can change if the neoliberal governments interested in shedding «educational costs» determine the number of students that could gradually migrate from face-to-face to virtual space. The cost of building face-to-face schools, high schools and universities could be reduced by 60% in the virtual world. Finished schools, well-endowed secondary schools, universities with the necessary spaces for their activities would present themselves as educational NFTs. This would be a novel form of appropriation of educational public budgets by technology industries, especially those that develop metaversian proposals.
The Metaverse can open the way to educational institutions that house students and teachers of different nationalities in the same space, elevating deterritorialization and cultural globalization to a new phase.
Unfortunately, alternative studies in this field, from an emancipatory perspective, are practically zero. This is especially dangerous for building effective resistances. We insist that the virtual world and digital developments must become spaces for dispute. Teachers’ associations and unions must work on the generation of training schools in this area and the creation of teams to build alternatives if we want to stop the ongoing destruction of face-to-face education.
Open, flexible and contextual curriculum: As we have worked on in other articles, this is a practical problem of educational institutions and teaching praxis within the framework of the capitalist school of the first three industrial revolutions. The curricularization of pedagogies has turned an important part of the teaching staff into curricular administrators, accustomed to working with a program. Study plan and pre-established curricular design. Teaching planning (daily, weekly, annual) acts as a reification of pedagogical work. Despite the declaratory statements against these practices, it is very difficult to break with it in practical terms.
The Metaverse aims to resolve this bottleneck by setting goals for periods and contexts, where the long-term graduation profile becomes meaningless. The cognitive capitalism of the fourth industrial revolution is interested in short-term results, which can fulfill the metaversian educational model under construction.
Another aspect that neoliberal globalization raised and that the national school systems could not fully develop was that of the universalization and standardization of learning according to the requirements of the mode of production. The national or regional curriculum worked against that possibility. The open and flexible curriculum model that virtuality can develop makes it possible, in addition to the meeting of students and teachers with similar teaching-learning developments, in deterritorialized spaces. A new concept of educational goals, without the barriers of territories, national or local cultures, age, can be developed in the Metaverse.
- Teaching materials: Most of the didactic materials available in educational institutions are two-dimensional and some are three-dimensional. The educational Metaverse will be able to develop materials that in virtuality give the sensation of having the properties, dimensions and characteristics of the real world, with which to learn through the best possible approximation. You will be able to interact with pyramids, waterfalls, forests, avatars of ancestral peoples, historical episodes, biological life forms, chemical and physical elements in conditions impossible to do in reality. In the next few years we will begin to see these “educational” developments that will capture another important part of the public budget for education.
- Inter and transdisciplinarity: the demand of the third industrial revolution for transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary training in a dialectical relationship with disciplinary appropriation, could be developed in a much more palpable way in the metaversian educational model. Learning about biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, sociology, ecology, among others, in an augmented virtual reality replica of the Amazon river, will be able to make transdisciplinarity an everyday fact, something that has not yet emerged in face-to-face educational institutions.
- Experimentation: the capitalist mode of production requires that all theory can be expressed in a practical way in the reproduction of the system and the production of knowledge-technique that generates incessant improvement of the model. This requires experimentation and case studies, something that is difficult to achieve in educational institutions with limited equipment and facilities. The Metaverse can enable this interaction with NFTs that not only don’t destroy themselves, but learn from the interactions by permanently improving themselves.
- Avatars: The avatar technique will allow the highest performing students and teachers to be used continuously in the Metaverse to support the educational processes of hundreds and thousands of students. There will be no break periods, vacations or rest for these avatars that gradually absorb the identity, abilities and skills of each one of us. This will have a significant impact on the teaching payroll and on the resources transfer allocated for it. Another form of appropriation of the educational budget by transnational technological capital.
- Teacher training: will be one of the most impacted sectors in the medium and long term. Teacher training centers have hardly developed web 1.0 pages, generated digital 2.0 content and have not finished entering web 3.0 with their virtual platform developments, let alone with augmented reality or the Metaverse. Time and the epistemic gap conspire against the possibility of solving the problems that will grow in the short term.
Competitiveness and the monetization of good practices aim to pave the way to focus the training of future teachers on experiential learning of the link between face-to-face and virtual learning, as well as on the impact of transferring experiences to avatars.
Home education models, bimodal education, without simple transition dynamics.
- Relationship with the labor field: it will be central in the development of the educational Metaverse. Production sectors will press to impose training in scientific and technological innovation with a direct impact on industries as the Metaverse education model. An attempt will be made to move from the competency model to the training model commissioned by the so-called productive sectors. This is not new, Bill Gates has been stating, since 2010, that university education loses meaning in the face of the emergence of a new educational model based on digitization and its work on demand.
- Appropriation of the model of immaterial merchandise: it is very difficult for us to internalize the concept of immateriality as an object of consumption. For this reason, the Metaverse will begin with digital clothing, the Avatars use as a mechanism for the masses to cognitively appropriate this new reality. You can work in the real world or in the Metaverse, but in both, capitalists will try to appropriate the money that the working class has obtained for wages or salaries.
This will make the immaterial everyday, something in which the metaversian educational model will play a central role.
- The political system of the Metaverse: The Metaverse aims to address social problems, inequalities, as issues arising from limits in programming not class differences. In this sense, the Metaversian universe and education are ideology in progress.
Of course, the Metaverse is unattainable for the majority of the world’s population, who live in increasingly precarious situations, without housing, electricity, water, transportation, employment, connection to internet or connection equipment. Capital is opening the doors to a brutally stratifying and segmenting model, which will leave the usual poor and disinherited out of this reality. So should we destroy this technology or appropriate it to produce alternatives as far as possible or eliminate the mechanisms that only allow the reproduction of the class system?
My commitment is to defend the presence in dialogue with the virtual, digital, technological world. The Metaverses can be used to democratize knowledge and lore much more, but this requires understanding that they are a space for critical appropriation and dispute.
Bonilla-Molina, Luis (2021) La caja de bobos más grande que pueda existir: El METAverso de Facebook. Disponible en https://luisbonillamolina.com/2021/10/30/la-caja-de-bobos-mas-grande-que-pueda-existir-el-metaverso-de-facebook%ef%bf%bc/
Brian Quarmby (2021) La semana pasada se vendieron terrenos de Metaverso por un valor de USD 106 millones, revela DappRadar. Disponible en https://es.cointelegraph.com/news/106m-worth-of-metaverse-land-sold-last-week-dappradar
Gates, Bill (2022) Las predicciones de Bill Gates para 2022. Declaraciones disponibles en https://as.com/diarioas/2022/01/01/actualidad/1641028421_480875.html
Jonathan Harvey Venegas Álvarez (2020) Diferencias entre lo virtual y lo digital. RUNIN Revista Informática, Educación y Pedagogía. Universidad de Nariño. Número 10. 2020. Versión digital.
Kurzweil, R (2012) Como crear una mente. Editorial Lumen. Alemania.
Rodrigo Riquelme (2021) ¿Cómo se invierte en el metaverso? Disponible en https://www.eleconomista.com.mx/tecnologia/Como-se-invierte-en-el-metaverso-20211119-0061.html
Semana (2021), Acciones de Facebook suben tras anuncio de cambio de nombre de esa red social. Disponible en https://www.semana.com/economia/empresas/articulo/acciones-de-facebook-suben-tras-anuncio-de-cambio-de-nombre/202134/
Techcrunch (2010) Bill Gates: en cinco años la mejor educación vendrá de la web. Texto disponible en https://techcrunch.com/2010/08/06/bill-gates-education/
 Serie animada Franco-estadounidense estrenada en noviembre de 2021 en la plataforma Netflix
 Ver Ray Kurzweil (2012) Como crear una mente, Editorial Lumen