There’s no escaping the fact that the metaverse is controversial and confusing to many
It’s a difficult concept to describe to others, and that assumes you can agree on a definition to begin with.
On the one hand, the meta-cynics, some encouraged by the recent crypto winter, will try to explain away the metaverse as a pointless exaggeration and extension of the pump-and-dump apparatus which has left the reputation of NFTs circling the drain. On the other hand, digital doomsayers will go to great lengths to explain how everything that has happened and is happening aligns with dystopian depictions of the internet from numerous works of science fiction. In their defence, the term metaverse comes from Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and is the name for the hellish virtual reality internet world which users visit to escape the even more terrible real world.
Somewhere between these extremes stand the moderate realists who are building the metaverse. They see the next iteration of the consumer internet as inevitable. They might not have a single blueprint or shared vision but that isn’t stopping them from moving us all closer to a world where the line between the physical world and our digital selves’ blurs.
OthersideMeta just demoed their metaverse to some 4,500 early adopters all at the same time, taking them on a tour of their digital world seemingly without bugs or performance difficulties. Imagine Fortnite but without the player limit, which currently stands around one hundred, and you’re on the right page. Both Apple and Meta are rumoured to be working on powerful mixed-reality headsets. Either could be a game changer leading to mass market adoption and the normalisation of AR/XR (sorry Google!). Teams and conferences moved to Gather during the pandemic, the quirky metaverse beta with a retro gaming chic. Others are partnering with metaverse makers to reimagine events and conferences in more realistic, immersive ways to reduce the need for travel and limit the impact to our planet.
Whatever your take on the metaverse, new technology is coming and with new technology comes new opportunities and new problems. Now is the time for business leaders to take stock and ask themselves – are we ready for a new internet? Are we ready for the metaverse?
This is every bit an exercise in thought leadership as it is technical readiness since there is an apparent lack of appreciation around what web 3.0 is. Many organisations have failed to consider digital exchange and identify use-cases for decentralised systems. Many organisations have barely considered 5G and remain dependant on legacy networks and 90’s style connectivity. AI and machine learning remain a vendor feature for too many and even the move to cloud is beyond the reach and imagination of some.
Many organisations remain traditional, yet to make it out of the basement and embrace bimodal IT; simultaneously practicing predictable work (mode 1) whilst exploring and experimenting with new technology and services (mode 2). Organisations with technology teams that focus solely on keeping the lights on are already getting a rough deal, and likely struggling with cloud and the move to a fully remote ‘new normal’ post-pandemic. As the internet evolves these businesses will lack that internal counsel to identify and drive out new opportunities and new ways of releasing value.
Let’s not beat up on IT though. Organisation-wide problem solving has often focused solely on the technical, even infrastructure level problems whilst ignoring or mismanaging the question of direction and purpose. This can lead to innovation becoming a bolt-on, sometimes labelled a skunkworks whilst really being more of a quarantine for progressives. IT and existing governance then quickly becomes the blocker, and rather than providing the tools to succeed, finds itself in opposition to the ‘radicals’ that have been parachuted in to modernise the business.
There’s no easy answer to how organisations should approach the metaverse but it’s clear that to succeed, some significant restructuring and stock taking around the last decade of innovation potential is needed. Bringing in externals will immediately become alluring, if only to demonstrate commitment to doing something but like with previous shifts in technology, organisations are going to find themselves asking the same questions eventually; What does this mean for us? How do we identify new opportunities? Who is going to build and run this new world? How do we arbitrate between the new world and the old world? What does good look like? How do drive change with security, risk and compliance reaching for the brakes?
The time to start asking those questions is today.
About the Author
Steve Davies is Head of Cyber at DLA Piper. Transformational Cyber Security leader striving to be the nexus between risk and innovation. Passionate about solving real-world problems with data and technology. Demonstrable track record in delivering game changing improvements which allow organisations to move fast safely.
Featured image: ©Irissca