October 7, 2021
In the tech industry, the big question on everyone’s mind is always “What comes next?” Innovators and enthusiasts are constantly searching for the newest development, the shiniest invention, the “next big thing”. There have been a few different guesses lately (Will computerized glasses finally get their moment? Are we all switching to self-driving cars?) but if the recent buzz from big tech players is any indication, we might already know what the next big game changer will be: the metaverse.
Let’s back up a minute: what is the metaverse? The metaverse is a collection of virtual environments that users all over the world can inhabit with an avatar that interacts with the space. Think something like Second Life or Roblox, but for practical use, not just recreation. You can walk down digital streets for a shopping trip, go to a streaming platform to watch a movie with your friends, or, most promisingly, walk into your office every morning to start the workday. With the current rise in remote working, the metaverse has a lot of potential to be the most popular virtual office environment connecting people in shared spaces.
With the metaverse, remote workers can enter their digital office space and interact with their team just as easily as they would in person. Not only does it make remote work easier, there are also a whole host of other potential upsides to using the metaverse on a wide scale. The metaverse is a striking way forward, not only technologically, but also socially and ethically. With sustainability so present in the current conversation, any future innovations will need to be able to stand as net positives when it comes to ethical use and consumption, which is why the metaverse is so well primed to take over the tech landscape. Here’s how the metaverse can become the new sustainable frontier, using the categories of the UN Global Compact for sustainability.
Sadly, not every country treats all its citizens fairly and affords them the same rights and protections. For the people who live in these countries, they are forced to deal with the practicalities of a physical environment that is governed by those who don’t respect their personhood. The metaverse breaks down geographical boundaries and allows people to choose alternatives in other areas where these rules do not apply. The internet has already broken down many of the geographical barriers that have kept people separate, but the metaverse destroys them even further, as it allows you to inhabit these online spaces in a more complete way.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought remote work to the forefront, and there’s been a lot of buzz around the potential to allow some employees to stay remote permanently. Working from home may be a personal preference, but for many employees, like working parents, or those with certain disabilities, the option to continue working from home could make life significantly easier. This is especially true when you consider rising rent prices and how hard it can be to find an affordable place to live near your job. The option to work from wherever has a whole host of advantages that many would like to continue taking advantage of even after the public health need for it has passed.
Still, even with all the benefits, there are some downsides to remote work, too. Workers can feel isolated, as they miss out on the daily interactions that come with living in an office, and it may be more difficult to work together with coworkers on projects or feel like a part of a team when you’re no longer inhabiting the same space. The toll that mental isolation can take on your mental health is a real problem that might even outweigh the benefits of working from home. With the metaverse, you can access all the upsides that come with remote work without those downsides. You can collaborate and interact with your coworkers just as easily as in an office, preventing many of the communication obstacles that can come from not sharing a physical space. This ease of communication also alleviates the potential isolation and strain on your mental health. You get the social and collaborative benefits of a physical office, with the flexibility and comfort of remote work.
With the clock ticking on climate change, it’s important to make sure we’re all doing as much as we can to limit our carbon footprints and help care for the planet. This is just as true for our personal lives as it is our professional ones. The metaverse provides an effective, sustainable alternative to the traditional office space, so you can cut down your contribution to climate change while also making work more convenient. It takes a lot of energy to heat, cool, and power even small office buildings, which is to say nothing of the resources used for constructing and maintaining these spaces. Even when the buildings aren’t in use, they still eat up a significant amount of power, contributing heavily to our carbon emissions. The metaverse does away with the need to build, power, and maintain these buildings, as employees can work from their homes or other spaces that would already be consuming energy, cutting down on you and your company’s carbon footprints significantly.
On top of the reduced emissions and energy consumption from office spaces, remote work through the metaverse cuts out the need for a commute. This saves workers from needing to add on travel times to their already busy days, one of the many appeals of remote work, and it also reduces carbon emissions from the various forms of transportation needed to get everyone in to the office. Fewer cars on the road even cuts down on traffic for those who, for whatever reason, can’t work remotely, making the entire process easier and less stressful for everyone.
The UN highlights corruption, particularly extortion and bribery, as serious threats to the confidence and trust needed from customers, employees, investors, and the public at large for a company to operate properly. In much of the world, these threats can come in the form of threatening literal physical harm to a person or business. Extortion in particular can often come in the form of threats of violence to a person or workplace. With the metaverse, businesses can operate remotely, reducing the risk to employees in cases where the workplace could potentially be targeted. In addition to physical risks, the rise of extortion through cyberthreat is greater every year. Ransomware in particular has hit many businesses incredibly hard in recent times, making the need for comprehensive cybersecurity more and more significant. While the metaverse can’t lower all risks of cyber-attacks, it can help you centralize your data, making it easier to ensure that your cybersecurity measures are being applied fully, as there’s only one digital space to protect. Additionally, many cybersecurity companies offer services specifically for ensuring secure use of the metaverse, like Intellectmap’s Guardian Angel, which protects your network and ensures that all employees are properly trained to deal with cyberthreats.
Why we need an Open Metaverse
With all the benefits of the metaverse, there is one problem: the metaverse only really works as a tenable option if lots of people use it, and its benefits can’t be experienced fully unless it is built on open technology, where everyone can participate without any one company owning and controlling it. Like with social media platforms, there’s little point in using them if no one’s on there. Similarly, if each company or organization creates its own metaverse, disconnected from the wider world, then the potential good that can come from it is much more limited. The good news here is that unlike most forward-looking tech, the open metaverse is already here. With the free opensim platform, any company can setup their own virtual environment on the metaverse and the hypergrid protocol supports seamless agent transfers among those environments. There’s no program to be invented or vendor license to be purchased, you can access the open metaverse right now without cost from the comfort of your own computer. All that’s missing to make this an easy and sustainable work option for everyone is enough organizations logging on and getting started. Intellectmap is one of the many organizations that’s already started integrating the metaverse into daily operations using this open hypergrid platform, and if the buzz around the changing work landscape is any indication, you should too.
By: Sophia Sorensen