When cinema became a business in Hollywood, in the remote 1920s, everything around a good story came to be seen as selling potential. It’s an old, successful, and ever-evolving equation. Artists became more than the medium of telling a story, they were presented as stars whose real stories also sell an illusion, a fantasy for the most part, and ready for consumption. The advancement of technology has increased the consumption level to what seems to be limitless today, after all, now that it is possible, why not want to be part of that universe?
With the metaverse, that feeling and that reality are more than dreams, it’s real. Something every gamer already knew, let’s agree? After all, the virtual (and collective) space of games was creating and uniting communities around the world, something that movies did in a darkened room and a big screen for two hours. But some minds have always discussed how we would get there, but fear has always been part of the narrative. Just look back.
In times when technology did not allow the creation of illusions, the suggestion of the 1970s series, Fantasy Island, was that of a physical metaverse. The basis of the series was millionaires who went to an isolated location to live – literally – their dreams for a week. The host, Mr. Roarke, had control of reality by hiring people to create the desired environment and, because it is TV and family time, usually the final message convinced the consumer (after having paid and lived what he wanted), that reality was better than the dream. Mr. Roarke was a tricky manipulator. The series’ 2020 reboot, as a teen horror content, went wrong and didn’t make it past one season. It is understandable why.
Around the same time as Fantasy Island, Michael Chrichton came up with a story in the movie, Westworld, about a park along the lines of the TV series, but where instead of actors being paid to create reality, technology allowed ultra robots to be realists interact with humans. That way, if the package was to be a feudal lord killing innocents and raping women or being a gunslinger in the Wild West, it was possible and without consequences, since robots were the ones who died. Until a glitch in the system reversed power and the carnage began, as the machines gained a will of their own.
The film became a cult but did not do well at the box office. I talked about this in another post. Not so curiously, years later the same Michael used the concept again for another story of a fantasy park that goes wrong: Jurassic Park, starting a successful franchise. Westworld resumed as a series on HBO, and won awards and accolades, but has now been canceled in 2022.
Both franchises and series deal with the concept of the metaverse, but where technology places people in the real world, where the virtual border is not identified. Series like Star Trek and the movie Tron (innovative in everything) already brought the universe where the environment changes as the person moves inside it, but there is in all the contents a seed of fear that perpetuates in the older generation.
In 100% of the stories, including Tron, what is subliminally sold is that the human will lose control and be destroyed by more advanced artificial intelligence. Can we talk about Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey? In the defunct Raised by Wolves, it was the androids who had empathy and compassion, even though they were part of their program. If the adverse environment doesn’t change that programming, wouldn’t it be better to embrace technology?
The impression I have is that even “embracing” the new reality, the seed of fear is still one of the main problems to be overcome in narratives about the Metaverse. Nonsense, after all, as the American jurist Oliver Wendell Holme said, “The mind of man, once enlarged by a new idea, never recovers its original dimensions.” With Web3 here, it’s no longer a matter of talking about the future, it’s our present. And we won’t go back.