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Tomorrow’s world

Zuckerberg’s vision of the future

“For the first time in 17 years, Mark Zuckerberg has a new job,” says Alex Heath in The Verge. On Thursday he became CEO and chairman of Meta, a new parent company for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and every other whizzy wing of his sprawling technology conglomerate. The next step is building what he calls the “metaverse” – an idea being talked up as nothing short of a successor to the internet. Zuck thinks that by 2030 most people will be spending time in a fully immersive 3D version of the web. He’s pushing his teams to build technology (like Oculus’s virtual reality headsets) that will let you “show up in a virtual space as a full-bodied avatar” or appear as a hologram in your friend’s living room, anywhere on the planet.

This is a “billion-dollar opportunity”, says Hirsh Chitkara in Protocol. Zuckerberg wants the metaverse to seem so real that people will spend “every day” there – unlocking an entirely new economy of virtual goods and services. Crypto technology will play “a pretty important role”. And Zuck is planning to sell things such as “digital clothes”. This isn’t as bonkers as it sounds. Fortnite, the wildly popular Gen Z videogame, generates nearly $5bn a year by doing something similar, selling “skins” for its in-game avatars. Teens love it. It’s something I’ve “wanted to build since even before I started Facebook”, Zuckerberg told investors on Monday. He sees it as the “holy grail of online social experiences”.

It’s “absurd but telling” that the inspiration for the metaverse was meant as satire, says Ian Bogost in The Atlantic. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 novel Snow Crash, which coined the term, the “alternate-reality dreamworld” comes across as dangerous. And it is. Zuckerberg “has embraced the premise of The Matrix, that we can plug ourselves into a big computer and persist as flesh husks while reality decays around us”. Meta is from the Greek for “above or beyond something else”. In Hebrew it means death. The sad truth is that tech billionaires are “giving up” on saving this world. Whether it’s in space or cyberspace, they’re hellbent on dominating the next.

🩸 🩹 😁 Scientists have developed a “smart bandage” that can tell doctors whether or not a wound has healed without having to remove it. Taking off a dressing to check on a lesion risks causing renewed damage if the injury isn’t fully healed. The smart bandage, developed at the University of Bologna, solves this by wirelessly transmitting information about the amount of moisture in the wound – a sign of whether it’s healed.