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"There is no objective truth outside our perceptions; therefore all things are true and possible. Nothing is true, and everything is possible."[1] - Assassin's Creed.

Metaverse, from the term "meta" coupled with "universe", is the new fad of innovators in technoscience, but also and above all of GAFAM. In particular, Mark Zuckerberg, by recently announcing the new name of the "Meta" structure (encompassing Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp but also Oculus), wants to look to the future and make the company evolve in this direction.  This term, which comes directly from science fiction coupled with augmented reality technologies, brings together various notions, both current and futuristic, that are full of challenges and opportunities for the future of our society, but also of numerous societal, economic and ecological issues.

 1. What definition? What is the origin?

 The term Metaverse has been used in common parlance for a few years now, as it refers to immersive virtual universes that differ from classic video games because of their infinitely higher level of interactivity and immersion than augmented reality games (such as Pokemon GO). This concept of Metavers comes directly from science fiction (SF) literature, which is a fairly recent literary genre on our scale, and it is Neal Stephenson's The Virtual Samurai (1992)[2] a precursor of the cyberpunk universe, which will influence SF authors in the writing of dystopias, often the beginnings of today's Web, anticipating in particular virtual universes such as Second Life (2003)[3]. The latter, the first technological sketch of the realities of the Metaverse, was considered both as a video game, but also and above all as a social network, simulating our reality on a virtual scale.

In a few words, the Metaverse could be summarized as a collaborative virtual shared space, encompassing all possible digital virtual worlds and the physical real world. By promising unique virtual experiences and creative freedom to Metaverse users, the Metaverse will be an augmented replica of what our current society offers, rich in diverse experiences and environments. However, the Metaverse should not be considered as a video game, a virtual world or a simple sharing platform. All these elements are included in the Metaverse, but they are only a small part of the overall composition.

On our scale of development, we can already present some elements, which we consider to be the foundation pillars of a virtual civilization like the Metaverse:

  • For the user: creation of an avatar (physical identity of his/her character in the Metaverse) and a digital identity (information and data relating to his/her actions and behaviour in the Metaverse);
  • Efficiency of immersion and interactivity criteria ;
  • Creation of an economic system (implementation of private and public actors, use of crypto-currency, democratisation of NFT, etc.);
  • Freedom of socialisation and social interaction ;
  • Low latency (the temporality of the Metaverse will be modelled on the temporality of the real world, with no advance or delay) and accessibility at any time (no matter where or how);
  • A diversification of experiences, environments, creative products, virtual objects, etc.


    2. Societal revolution or all-consuming virtual?

This Metaverse is not just an experiment by GAFAM, it is the next version of the Internet (Web 3.0). Just like our current Internet, the Metaverse is likely to produce billions of economic values, but in much larger quantities and much faster.

The blockchain will obviously be the nerve center of flows, transactions and exchanges in the Metaverse, and will therefore be used as the grail of value production. Like Second Life, whose local currency was based on the Linden dollar, Metaverse users will also have to invest in the crypto-currency in order to participate in the economic life of this "world". With the Metaverse, it is also the NFT[4] s that will make sense: this grand project makes it much more logical to have to pay large sums of money to own virtual objects, such as a property certificate. The aim is ultimately to recreate a viable economic system where each user is free to set their own goals and trade with others, exchanging services or virtual goods, whether they are an individual or a company. Not being a video game, this world is only supposed to be about what you yourself bring to it - a second life in the truest sense.


However, this Metaverse could also arouse as much scepticism as enthusiasm, if it becomes more democratic than Second Life, we will find the same behavioural abuses (such as rape or virtual prostitution) whose repression or legal framework remains complex to apply. What about the theft of user accounts, data theft, cyber attacks, the proliferation of hackers, theft of virtual objects, virtual crimes, infringement of intellectual property rights, or even tax fraud?  In the same way, if it can be seen as a means of recreating a social link, of filling the solitude for isolated or handicapped people, it can, like video games or social networks, reinforce physical isolation in the real world - to the point of an addiction to the virtual - pushing to a real social marginalization. The pure and simple suppression of all borders between reality and the virtual could have consequences on the psychological health of individuals, especially the youngest.


    3. Is a "green" Metaverse possible?

If this Metaverse is indeed seen as a real functional successor to the Internet, energy issues will also follow. There is no doubt that the Internet is a real sinkhole of pollution and energy consumption. At present, the entire digital network coupled with the cooling systems of the datacenters represents 15% of the world's electricity consumption, or the equivalent of 100 nuclear reactors. Providing enough datacenters for the entire Metaverse network, without having an ecological impact, seems to be a utopian goal at this point. Other obstacles include hardware limitations: global networking and computing capacities are not sufficient to support a persistent and stable digital world that can be experienced in real time by millions of simultaneous users.

Obviously, other issues come to mind, such as questions of interoperability, compatibility of devices, offering the population technologies to access the Metaverse, protection of personal data, the increase in sedentary life, and many others. All these issues mean that the law should take a lead in the occurrence of this Metaverse, and better understand the social and legal difficulties to come.

But rest assured, this Metaverse is far from being built and accessible, and we will still have to wait several decades before it is actually implemented. However, one thing is certain: its evolution is progressive and inevitable, but is it really enviable

[1] Crédo des assassins tiré du jeu Assassin’s Creed (2007). S’inspire du concept du saut des paradigmes (magie du chaos). 

[2] Roman de Neal Stephenson paru en 1992, dont le titre original est Snow crash. L’histoire dystopique se déroule dans un univers futuriste cyberpunk, un monde apocalyptique où un magnat souhaite contrôler l’esprit humain au moyen d’un virus, mais ses plans seront contrariés par un hacker qui profitera du savoir illimité conféré par le Métavers.  

[3] Univers virtuel, ou Métavers, en 3D développé par LINDEN LAB en 2003. Cet univers permet aux utilisateurs du logiciel d’incarner des personnages virtuels crées par les résidents eux-mêmes, de concevoir le contenu du jeu des vêtements aux bâtiments, tout en utilisant une monnaie virtuelle propre à cet univers virtuel.

[4] Non fongible token.