Is there a secret handbook you get when you become a billionaire? Are you given entrée into a secret world of knowledge that the average person isn’t privy to? Or is the world, Earth specifically, not enough, once you’ve reached a level of wealth that is unimaginable and unattainable for billions of others.
I ask because there is a cabal of billionaires who’ve reached the logical end of a specific business pursuit, and when left with nowhere else to go, have moved on to other-worldly ventures. Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are obsessed with space. Their manned missions have evolved to a level of technical sophistication we already had fifty years ago. They obviously believe in the promise of space exploration, as we all should be, but it’s not clear how their profit seeking space enterprises benefit humanity in the long-term. It feels like a lark. A zero stakes game of space fetishization backed by unchecked ego and hubris. Maybe the hope is that there will be a market for electric cars and junk consumer goods in other worlds, or more realistically the act of exploration itself is just another form of technical “disruption.” A word that has lost all original meaning. Today it’s nothing more than the invention of a new middle man, promising an illusive form of efficiency, all while siphoning off a sizable chunk of money to the disruptor.
Which brings us to the metaverse. A concept coined in science-fiction literature and actualized by various companies, though not on the epic scale imagined by Facebook. For Mark Zuckerberg it’s one part PR driven branding and one part betting on a post-real digital universe. Having established a virtual social media and surveillance capitalist monopoly the only place to grow is beyond the bounds of the existing universe. A new marketplace exists just on the other side of that digital divide, but to get there it seems we have to abandon our current environment. Shed one skin and inhabit another.
It all feels hyperreal. We’ve gotten so drunk on the mythology of the rich iconoclast that we’ve lost sight of the pillaged world their supposed genius has left in its wake. Now we’re supposed to treat it like a disposable good and go buy the next shiny object that will always be just out of reach. Maybe we should vested and grounded in what is right in front of us for just a bit longer. Who knows, maybe we’ll find it’s worth saving after all.