Why the Metaverse is The Existential Imperative for the Future Survival of Humanity
On the existential paradox between the efficiency and survivability of the human race.
By Rashid Mansoor, Founder and CEO of MetaGravity.
The Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and like all creatures on this planet, we are matter bound by the chemistry of life to accumulate and harness energy — and matter.
More matter equals more material, which requires a greater capacity for replication. Yet ecological competition causes the equilibrium dynamics that moderates and tempers the rest of the animal kingdom in their savage race for survival.
We have been thriving for more than 3 million years. Anatomically speaking, homo sapiens for around 300,000 years, but it is only in the last 0.3% of this time that our organisational innovations and technology have granted us unprecedented efficiency for exploiting the natural world.
This unchecked exploitation poses a profound existential threat to planet Earth and ourselves.
The Double-Edged Sword of Progress
Progress has secured our basic needs and helped us advance rapidly, yet our higher-order aspirations such as our psychological and self-fulfilment needs are proving to be impossible to satisfy.
Compounding this, population growth demands an unsustainable resource toll. The survival challenge is no longer just about fighting off predators: It is our unchecked and inefficient expansion that is consuming all matter and space right before our eyes.
Our basic physiological needs are animal in origin. They are easier to solve, yet our higher order psychological needs of self-esteem and self-actualisation have driven us to accelerate material consumption that we see all around us today.
And if we confront the hard truths, the reality is that hardly anyone needs a Ferrari to survive. Such a material possession exists primarily to satisfy a core psychological need: Our own self-esteem.
So in our drive for self-actualization, we leave spent matter in our wake — with dire consequences to life on planet earth.
Ironically, these consequences may ultimately prove to be the checks that nature has in place to balance out our over-consumption in recent centuries.
Simply put, there are just too many of us humans for the planet to support humanity’s physiological and psychological demands.
We’ve already seen the rapid decline and extinction of the animal kingdom in the last 100 years during our rise to reach safety and security, so why would we consider humans immune to the checks and balances nature has so often shown? Future advancement of humanity is going to need more resources than the Earth can provide.
The Limits of Space Exploration
The public rhetoric is saturated with space travel’s promise for the survival of mankind. Yet colonising distant star systems isn’t a mere engineering problem: It’s a fundamental physics conundrum and is highly theoretical.
Not to mention, terraforming a new planet is a herculean task and still centuries away from becoming real.
Besides, becoming an intergalactic species would still introduce a number of social issues — for instance suspended animation in space travel, or the fact we did not evolve to contend with relativistic concerns.
Human settlement on other planets is highly speculative and theoretical in the medium term. Even if we are successful and finding or forming a habitable exoplanet, we would have only doubled our physical resources or matter. And this is still likely centuries away.
A Digital Solution: The Metaverse
Perhaps the solution to unfettered human expansion does not lie, as imagined by futurists over the last few decades, in cities under the sea or among the distant stars. Perhaps the solution lies right here on earth, albeit in a virtual sphere within digital realms.
By increasingly transitioning human experience to digital realities powered by pure energy, we can significantly decrease our need for matter and space.
We know how to efficiently generate energy at scale. We understand not only the theory, but much of the experimental science and engineering to achieve this. Exploiting this to its fullest extent is indeed largely an engineering implementation problem — and sadly, a policy problem. The efficiency gain of shifting increasingly from a material existence to a purer energy based one is indicated in Einstein’s mass-energy equivalence.
A single unit of matter when converted to energy, yields an output scaled by a factor of C^2 which is approximately 10^17 or 100 quadrillion!
If we succeed in transitioning our psychological needs from the physical realm to the virtual, then we’ve essentially scaled our civilisation’s energy resources by a factor of ~ 100 quadrillion.
It is within our grasp to create a more sustainable existence in realistic timeframes.
The Path Towards a Sustainable Future
If we look closely, we are already taking the precursory steps in the right direction to achieve this. Already, we see glimpses of this reality in VR technology, neural interfaces, decentralisation, digital assets and scalable simulation technology.
This would yield profound implications for the future of enterprise, medicine, travel and entertainment experiences. We would minimise the things we do in the physical world and immerse ourselves maximally in the virtual world.
In the near future it is feasible that we will build the technologies to render our virtual existences indistinguishable from physical reality. The focus then becomes to optimise our physical existence for well-being and longevity and to optimise our virtual existences for psychological fulfilment. And do so efficiently, where our deeper drive for greatness can endeavour with minimal cost to the world around us.
Physically-impossible capabilities will become possible. Experiences will have to be rethought and redesigned anew, yielding entirely new dimensions of capability. This will have profound implications for the future of enterprise, medicine, travel and entertainment. For example, teleportation will become trivial.
Another example: Our intuitions are classical, linear and spatial in 3 euclidean dimensions. Yet our current scientific frontiers require us to have intuitions for things that are not part of our 3D experience. There is an opportunity for future generations to develop their minds in virtual realities with exotic properties.
They may learn then, perhaps, to reason more intuitively about, say, 4 dimensional space or quantum mechanical phenomena — in much the same way our Euclidian intuition develops in physical reality.
The Inevitability of the Metaverse
At MetaGravity, we are working on what we see as the most foundational next step to bringing this closer to reality. We’re asking ourselves: How do we build simulations of arbitrary scale?
This is a much harder problem than many realise.
Today’s game engine technology can only support about 100 players. Any more than this in a self-consistent real-time simulation has proved to be incredibly difficult to crack.
Our mission at MetaGravity is to take a fresh approach to the unsolved problem of scale and compute efficiency derived from first principles.
We have already broken the barriers of scale previously achieved by spatial partitioning platforms, with a staggering 90%+ reduction in cloud compute and energy consumption.
The future is here, and it is digital reality.
We must prioritise investment and help humankind navigate towards a sustainable, matter-efficient existence in the Metaverse, our next frontier.