There is no visible without light […] there is no visible without distance…
Letter 7 March 1665 from POUSSIN
This text is neither a truth nor a lie, it is a thought expressed in the light of a bygone world, and yet one that many hope for.
Few people have taken the time, and therefore the distance, to apprehend what this universe of the beyond of reality could be. The speculation about the recognition of metaverse experts is as much a fashion as a novelty. It is upsetting the social landscape in which everyone is trying to get the best grade, the best ranking, whether through publications, interactions, speculation or the game of appearances. Few actors think about these emerging possibilities beyond the egotistical and financial stakes they perceive on the surface of the emerging horizon. The GAFAMs and the ‘equipment manufacturers’ are rubbing their hands together while getting impatient with the emergence of the tools to make their wishes come true. Everything is bubbling, as it did in the early days of creation, when the first bacteria developed to irradiate the planet with its oft-regenerated diversity. To be, or not to be « metaverse » is the question. Drawing the contours of this concept is like trying to catch the moon or the sun in their respective reflections on the surface of a calm sea. And in this game of mirrors, the most gesticulating are often the least effective, radiating the network of often repeated concepts and reiterating their originality on the field of a new aggregation as a politician would do with a set of key words – always the same – only the order changes.
The truth is far beyond, and above all far more deeply rooted in the labyrinths of our human history. Although what we have before us is a major anthropological breakthrough thanks to technology, as sedentary lifestyle, the arrival of the printing press or Internet 1.0, it is interesting to note that in this effervescence of the Metaverse, history seems to be perfectly forgotten, swept away with a 3D backhand.
Reading the articles, notes and opinions that have sprung up around this essential and yet very volatile theme, it would seem that very few people have considered this nascent Eldorado as the epiphany of a long path traced by human thought and in which technology, science, politics, economics, culture and the arts have confronted, met, battled and aggregated, as has been the case since the dawn of our humanity. Are not the first humanoid traces parietal prints that speak of the author’s gesture and reveal his presence; shouting, as it were, « This is what I am! Traces that testify by projection of the being in the world…
In the caves of 3D, we find the first manifestations of Autodesk, a panacea for architects who, by presenting visuals simulating a realistic 3D, made their clients dream about the new constructions to come. There was also MICAD, which for a long time was the largest exhibition bringing together the players in the field of information flow management solutions within the computer-aided design and manufacturing processes. The representations resulting from these technologies were already from the Metaverse, just like the hologram of a car that was manipulated and simulated the sounds of doors, for example.
The desire to project oneself into the future, into a dimension other than the present one, comes to us from very far away, like the Lighthouses of Charles Baudelaire’s eponymous poem. Light is perpetuated, transmitted through the centuries, only the media change.
Technology is a reality from which the virtual cannot escape
All the troubadours, consultants and thinkers of the metaverse will say so. Whatever the universe in which you will be immersed, or will immerse yourself, the said universe will need a material platform to be realised. In the current state of the art and in the near future, at no time will you be able to emancipate yourself from technology and its techniques to go into another dimension. CPUs, networks, connectivity, goggles, helmets or other tools will be necessary to achieve the « extraction » from reality to propel yourself into the alternate world. And whatever sensors are placed on your body, down to the most intimate parts, why not, they will be electrical impulses that will stimulate your senses. Athletes will tell you that between a belt for doing abs while watching TV and a series of crunches every morning, the results are not the same. The technique, the technology, will not replace a lived reality. They will give you the sensation of a lived experience like the shadow theatre artefacts projected at the back of Plato’s cave. The metaverse is therefore a fountain of illusions that we project in the hope of conquering a better world, a world more equal than the other, free of preconceptions, as the avatar will allow us to play with our physicality and that of others.
The dimension reached by these tools is therefore essentially of the order of the sensitive, of sensation through the abstraction of a physical reality. This does not prevent migraines or discomfort, and it cannot replace the pleasure of the flesh or the emotions felt when tasting a good dish or a good whisky for example. Moreover, the metatarsal would be a bit like the magic mirror that has haunted literature for centuries, a place where one can say « tell me who is the most beautiful – and hope to be – while knowing the deep truth of the answer.
The choice of avatars, props, and « make-up » will all be « traps » that will make this mirror the revealer of invisible truths,
There is no question of opposing these two worlds, the emerging metaverse and the real. On the contrary, it is a question of inventing how one can feed the other and be fed in return in a generative logic. The weft stretched by virtual universes is the place of new temptations to give birth to a new collective, a new individual ideal constituting possible, imaginary communities, filled with artefacts oscillating between the ideal and the frustration of the real. The whole possible offered by the woven meshes of its infinite net.
Today, everything leads us to believe that we are still at the bottom of Plato’s cave. A few jokers wave icons in front of the flame whose dancing shadows attract the most credulous and those who prefer to waver in the face of knowledge rather than embrace it. Some play the childminder, a benevolent baby sitter often as deep as the shadows they animate, others are already far away, the metaverse being only the shadow of a much more serious future, we might as well laugh about it.
« I don’t know what time it was, I always confuse childhood and Eden, as I mix Death and Life, a bridge of sweetness links them. »
Léopold Sedar Senghor