Not the Metaverse

Not the Metaverse - People sitting by the canal in London

In January I asked ‘will 2022 be the year that lawyers get legless in the metaverse?

I didn’t think they should. I thought then that their time would be much better spent in the real world and not the metaverse. Whilst I was writing from the viewpoint of a lawyer I really think this applies to all of humanity other, perhaps, than those who like to play, from time to time, video games. They can, of course, still do that in their existing video game worlds without really needing a new metaverse to play in.

In Real Life

As we come out of the pandemic, with lockdown restrictions lifted and a return to the ‘old normal’, people are enjoying not the metaverse, but once again the real life experiences they so much missed during almost two years of living with Covid-19 restrictions.

London

After several weeks (or is that months or perhaps even two years!) of, almost constant, staring at a screen for work purposes, I enjoyed a long weekend trip to London with my wife last weekend.

Not the Metaverse - KitKat Club Cabaret (exterior)

Theatre and Galleries

We went to the theatre (the KitKat Club at the Playhouse for Cabaret). We went to art exhibitions (Walter Sickert at Tait Britain, The Courtauld Gallery at Somerset House, and Louise Bourgeois: The Woven Child at the Hayward Gallery).

Louise Bourgeois - The Woven Child - Hayward Gallery
Louise Bourgeois – The Woven Child – Hayward Gallery

Eating, Shopping and Walking

We ate out. Went shopping. Walked miles and soaked in the atmosphere of a very busy and alive city. A city where people were actively going out and about again to work, to socialise, to shop, to see exhibitions, to go to the theatre, to dine, to drink and, in the case of some children we saw, to play in fountains.

Not the Metaverse - Fountain play

It was wonderful to see and to be part of.

The Pub

Then back in Glasgow, this past week, I bumped into an old friend who I hadn’t seen since pre-pandemic (2+ years). They were going to the pub to meet another mutual friend and asked me along. I went at the spur of the moment and we had a great night catching up and reminiscing. I tweeted #notthemetaverse.

Others are Doing it Too

I’ve also noticed over the past few weeks a lot of similar posts on social media. People are venturing out more, travelling further afield and meeting people in real life. Everyone seems very happy to be doing so, if maybe a little bit exhausted after not being used to it!

The Metaverse Resurrection

The Metaverse Resurrection (it has been about since at least 2003 when Second Life became popular) was born out of the Zoom age (2020 to 2022 AD). In a dystopian era where we all had to stay and work in our homes. Where we could only really communicate with anyone that we did not live with through the medium of the Internet. The telephone was, of course, still available but many abandoned that in favour of Zoom. It was nice to see an old-fashioned telephone on the table at the KitKat Club. Then to be called on it for a chat that included a brief lesson in German.

Not the Metaverse - KitKat Club Cabaret (telephone)

It was as though this dystopia would last forever. Big Tech had to find more ways for us to interact online other than just Zoom.

In the early days of lockdown lawyers were toying with metaverse style conferences where their avatars would attend in their place (well you would of course still be operating your avatar at a screen in your home). That, thankfully, never really took off.

Then Mark Zuckerberg created Meta and moved the focus of Facebook to the metaverse. That was six months ago and some people got very excited about this brave new world. That was despite the fact it had been done before with little real success.

Escape from Dystopia

It is clear to me, even though it was before, that as we are now escaping from the dystopia we were thrust into for two years, the last thing anybody wants to do is to have another Zoom call never mind enter the metaverse.

I thoroughly enjoyed my long weekend in the real world. Give me that any day to an imaginary virtual one. Especially when I, like many, spend so much time staring at a screen for work purposes.

In a week when the NFT and cryptocurrency markets crashed it cannot be long before we see the metaverse bubble burst too. Indeed just the other week Meta announced a freeze on hiring new staff. The metaverse won’t build itself. But perhaps the realisation is that there is little point building something that very few people actually want or will actively ever use.

What good is sitting alone in your room?

Not the Metaverse - KitKat Club - Life is a Cabaret old Chum

As Sally Bowles sings in Cabaret:-

What good is sitting alone in your room?
Come hear the music play
Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the Cabaret

#notthemetaverse

Image Credits: (1) Telephone; and (2) Amy Lennox as Sally Bowles at the KitKat Club © AKA Promotions Ltd

Hat Tip: To Graeme Johnston for prompting me to work in the ‘What good is sitting in your room?’ reference in an updated version of this post (it wasn’t there originally and the post is now all the better for it!).

Reactions on Social Media

On LinkedIn the following comments have been made:-

Antti Innanen:

We have legs now!

Not the Metaverse - We have legs now!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me:

So I heard Antti Innanen. But I already had them in real life and want to use them there as much as I can!

Antti Innanen:

Great! Do you own a VR headset? Have you tried Spatial, for example?

Me:

I don’t own such a Gargoyle gadget personally. But I did borrow my nephew’s one and it made me feel sick. So I will not be rushing back to the metaverse anytime soon.

Antti Innanen:

I understand that the metaverse might not be your thing, but you need to go bit deeper before giving expert opinions.

Borrowing VR glasses for a weekend from your nephew hardly makes you an authority on the subject. Give it a good shot, you might hate it even more – but then your opinion would be much more valid.

Me:

I never said it did and I have never professed to be an expert or authority on it. Unlike the ‘evolving experts’ that I referred to in my earlier blog post on the metaverse (some of whom actually sell their ‘expertise’ but had never heard of Second Life!).

I am, however, entitled to express my opinions from what information and experience I have. I understand and accept that you do not agree with those opinions. Many others do.

A variety of views/opinions and healthy debate makes the world go around. And may even one day result in a metaverse worth visiting!

Antti Innanen:

Sure, I just think that the opinion of your nephew might be more relevant in this case.

Me:

Don’t worry my nephew’s opinion will be coming to my blog after I finish my current series of blog posts on Legal Services Regulation Reform in Scotland. I tweeted on 2 July 2022: “My teenage nephew tells me that the “metaverse” is a term only old people use. Clear from my chat with him that the “metaverse” as defined by oldies does not have a future. I’ll do a full interview with him on The Time Blawg in due course. Lots of great insights.”

Antti Innanen:

haha great!

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Paul Ryan (Mobile and Web Apps For Legal):

It’s a decent concept hopelessly over sold. I would definitely attend talks and conferences on “metaverse” if hardware was significantly better and I wasn’t surrounded by pretty silly avatars.

Me:

I wrote about that too: Lawyers don’t need a ‘Second Life’ conference

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Jindy Mann (Humane + Courageous leadership):

The metaverse is a symbol of the society we’ve created. The dream being sold seems to be an escape from the mess we’ve created in this real world, unaware that we’ll only replicate it in a virtual world (particularly one with anonymity and no laws). We cannot escape the nature of who we are.

The real reason for the metaverse of course is to make a very small group of people unimaginably wealthy and powerful.

Me:

Indeed. As revealed in the first Matrix film, the first Matrix was a flawless utopia with no war, sickness, or human suffering. But humankind rejected it, seeing it for the false reality it was. So the second Matrix implemented human hardships. This perhaps reflects on the desire to always make the metaverse a version of reality rather than something better!

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Philippos Aristotelous (Business Strategist | Trainer | Consultant):

I truly wish that the Metaverse will not come – let alone come to stay Brian. For precisely the reasons you state above. We need more -not less – immersion in the real world.

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Thor Holt (Solves; presentation, career, investment challenges):

I’m with you Brian Inkster they can stick that metaverse where sun don’t shine…
Oh, they already did that, didn’t they?! 😉

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David Flint (Commercial Law Consultant at Inksters; Visiting Professor at Creighton University School of Law):

A bit disappointing as I had been planning to sell my NFTs (of draft contracts) for Crypto in the Metaverse. 😢

Now I’ll just have to work in the real world! 🤷‍♂️

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Neil Campbell (Helping law firms recruit solicitors and Partners in an increasingly candidate scarce market. Assisting legal professionals find roles with the firm that is right for them.):

To be fair, Zuckerberg was heading this way as soon as he took over Oculus a good few years back.

I do think he has underestimated people’s need for actual human to human contact though.

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Philip Hannay (Managing Director at Cloch® | Especially™ lawyer to those with profitable ideas):

Brian – have you had too much sun down south? Maybe revisit the blog post in the bleak midwinter.

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Graeme Johnston (Software for mapping work and getting things done):

Given the film, it must have been tempting to work in a reference to “What good is sitting all alone in your room?” 🎵 😀

Me:

That is genius, Graeme. I’ve updated the blog post to include this reference and given you a credit 🙂

Graeme Johnston:

Thanks Brian – glad it appealed!

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Gareth Hughes (Licensing Barrister and mediator):

Very interesting post Brian! Agreed.

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Joe Lander (Legal Services Business Development Manager at Anglia Research – Probate Genealogy Experts):

Great post Brian and slap bang on topic. People getting out and about again both socially and professionally is, to use that god awful phrase, the direction of travel as the handbrake has well and truly come off. I’m yet to see or hear anyone bemoan this. If timing is everything that Meta has missed the spot on this one by 2 years.

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Stuart Nicoll (Counsel at Lauder Road Chambers):

Yes this is not The Field of Dreams and there is no Kevin Costner. And the “If you build it they will come” message does not sell so well coming from Zuckerberg.

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