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They say that life imitates art, and we can learn our future from Sci-fi, something that I thought continually when watching the Amazon Prime video series, Upload. I missed this when it was released in 2020, pre–Facebook’s Meta-universe, Horizon Worlds (I think). Now I am hooked finding out just how our digital afterlife can be monetised and how the lure of never saying goodbye to your loved ones pulls at your heartstrings. It’s compelling watching for so many reasons.

I’ve watched a few things now that show people living in the preferred digital world through VR masks. The real world around them a sad portrayal of a planet destroyed that has to be escaped from, the utopian digital world containing all the natural beauty planet Earth once had. Each time I get a deep emotional reaction, as if, through this media we are normalising a way of life that is OK. Don’t worry if we don’t save what we can today, it will all exist here tomorrow. The ease with which we watch humans take on their preferred looks in an avatar, is suprising. I’ve done it myself, just enough that you can tell it’s me, but definitely me on my very best day.

Nina's avatar
Nina's avatar

The Amazon Prime video series, Upload, gave me the strongest emotional reaction so far.

Without giving away too many spoilers, the main character, Nathan, ends up in the utopian digital afterlife space called Lakeview, created by a data company called Horizon. I’ve read that the first series was aired before Facebook’s Meta-universe, Horizon Worlds, was launched but you can totally see where this is going.

Nora is a Lakeview customer services rep, or “angel”, and she sees the elitist monetisation model that is behind Lakeview. But with her own mum “traditionally dead” and her dad sick with “vape lung” she also sees what a digital afterlife can give everyone and supports a model that everyone can access.

The attention to detail of glitchy AI assistants versus premium humans who can enter the digital world via VR, the cost of data plans required to live a life of comfort, versus “2 gig” where you go when your family can’t afford your data plan anymore or you run out of legacy money, is captivating and terrifying at the same time.

I can’t believe this isn’t already being worked on, and I, like Nora, can’t help but think, how lovely would that be?

And then I catch a glimpse of myself, my privileged position, allowing me to even think such things, when I know that a third of the world has never accessed the internet at all.

Nearly 3 billion people – or 37% of the world’s population – have never used the internet, according to the United Nations, despite the Covid-19 pandemic driving people online.

That is when I get my strongest emotional reaction.

Imagine a world where a digital afterlife did exist, but you couldn’t afford it for your family?

Imagine that we are dividing the world even further, with those who can and those who can't.

This is a significant part of the story, too many spoilers if I started to deconstruct that here, so I’m going to keep to how we make sure that the metaverse doesn’t replace living on planet earth and how the monetisation of the Metaverse can be managed ethically.

This isn’t the future, it’s happening now, stories like Upload are just giving us a sneak preview.

“There used to be a thing called Club Penguin, which my kids were playing,” he said. “My daughter came to me and said, “I need 99 cents to buy a TV for my igloo.’ And I realized in that moment that if the tech companies hosted a digital world that you lived in, they would try to monetize it relentlessly, and there’d be in-app purchases for everything. And that was a very funny thought. That really helped make it more of a comedy.”

Greg Daniels on How the Metaverse Influenced ‘Upload’ Season 2 interview with

McKinsey did a survey as they were curious to learn what typical American consumers think about the Metaverse and how their views could shape how brands may venture into this new space. To find out, they queried over 1,000 consumers aged 13 to 70, as well as speaking directly to advocates and early adopters to understand current sentiment about the Metaverse. The results were surprising.

These are hours per day
These are hours per day!

How are we making sure the Metaverse is managed ethically?

Facebook (and all social media platforms) have already struggled to deal with the issues that bringing this technology into our lives presents us with. How are they going to deal with it in the Meta-universe?

It feels like we still haven’t grasped that humans (we) are the product and our data has a value. GDPR doesn’t seem to have influenced our thinking and educated us to change our habits, “accept all” is still a regular button hit.

Education has got to be at the heart of the problem.

We seem to be taught how to be consumers but not how to stop being consumed. I am Gen X, with a strong tech preference and a strong connection with nature and the living world. It feels like a good healthy balance, but I don’t remember being taught that, it’s just happened – or has it? Like everything we don’t “think about” it had come to us by being exposed to it. We have to make sure that we expose planet earth and all its wonder to as many people as possible, you won’t save what you don’t love. And we need to reframe our data narrative, people should know their data footprint and understand what it’s worth – someone else does and they have plans for it beyond our wildest dreams.

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Nina changes the tough stuff necessary to keep leaders’ visions and strategies alive and prosperous, planet and people engaged, healthy, smiling and having fun. Coach, Consultant & Trainer. Contact her when you are ready to make your contribution to changing the world at the first session is free.

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