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Facebook’s Metaverse needs to bring freedom and not enslavement

Heba Yosry

Published: Updated:

“Welcome to the dimension of imagination” utters a smiling tiger as it ushers young millennials into a formerly static realm of a painting now beaming with life in the Metaverse with twerking flamingos, dancing hippos and other ecstatic animals.

Mark Zuckerberg described the Metaverse as an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it.

“And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you wouldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness,” he said.

In the Metaverse you are no longer shackled with the limited capabilities of your own existence. If you can imagine it and have access to the technology, you can blissfully dwell in the illusion of your self-designed paradise.\

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Zuckerberg claims that he created the Metaverse to provide a “natural” transcendental –you can transcend spatial/temporal conditions necessitated by your material existence- communication platform that can overcome the pitfalls of existing platforms.

“People aren’t meant to navigate things in terms of a grid of apps. I think we interact much more naturally when we think about being present with other people. We orient ourselves and think about the world through people and the interactions we have with people and what we do with them,” he added.

Naturally the unique, individual paradise will eventually be a perpetual generic version when people discover an optimal world. Individual imagination that is produced by the particularity of culture and traditions will be utterly eradicated as a side effect of masses desiring the same things and experience will be reduced to what people know.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces their new name, Meta, during a virtual event, Oct. 28, 2021. (AP)
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announces their new name, Meta, during a virtual event, Oct. 28, 2021. (AP)

We are already witnessing the erosion of cultural specificity that materialized with the advent of social media that fed human voyeuristic tendencies and manifested in mass production of taste.

In my opinion the Metaverse emerged from an intermediate space of disappointment created through the incongruence between an eager mind with unlimited desires and a burdened body that is continuously condemned for its inadequacy. The mind wanders to what I wish to own, whether its luxury, beauty or wealth. The mind creates volitions. And if the body is unable to materialize this volition, let’s eradicate material altogether and remain within the ethereal realm of imagination.

Let’s imprison ourselves in the safety and comfort of our own minds where we can live in the lucid slumber of a paradise we created.

We are told that the Metaverse is about freedom, but is it the freedom to embrace enslavement or is it an authentic form of freedom? Perhaps reviewing the allegory of the cave, a story about human liberation can help shed light on the underlying possibility of freedom within the Metaverse. Plato’s cave inspired many works of fiction the most popular was the Matrix.

In the Republic, Plato tells us a story of prisoners who were chained from birth, dwelling in the bottom of a cave watching shadows that are projected by the puppeteers. They compete on who can successfully predict which shadows will come next. For the prisoners the shadows are reality, and so they refuse to listen to the liberator who informs them of life outside their enclosure, eventually his insistence on breaking their chains leads to his violent death. It’s a story about the human tendency to embrace slavery if it’s entertaining enough and the steep price of liberation.

Nevertheless, those prisoners were born into this captivity, Metaverse users willfully and freely chose to sit back relax and live in their chosen illusion. They can either like the cave prisoners engage in the communal illusion or chain themselves even further to the solipsism of their own minds.

The freedom that the Metaverse is espousing is freedom from material existence that was once ridiculed by Plato as an illusion, Zuckerberg took a further step and bound human beings to the shadows of their own minds.

Freewill has always been central to human liberation. Yet, it seems that freedom has undergone a paradigm shift. Though Zuckerberg’s cosmos peddles freedom as the main impetus for its creation, I hope we can all realize that this freedom leads to enslavement. Though Plato foresaw the prisoners’ folly, he couldn’t anticipate the extent of folly of their descendants.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.