The Snow Crash Metaverse and Anarcho-Capitalism
What is the Metaverse?
The concept of the Metaverse was first introduced in Snow Crash in the early 90’s by Sci-Fi writer Neal Stephenson. The Metaverse is a, 3-Dimentional, virtual, world developed along a 100-metre-wide road, that encircles a perfectly spherical, featureless, black planet.
Just to get a sense of the scale, the Metaverse planet is about 50% bigger than Earth. In this space, people can interact with others via avatars, buy property, travel by train, or simply explore the virtual world by walking. It’s important to note that the metaverse is fully-immersive in VR, and doesn’t need a screen as an interface.
Quick Snow Crash Summary
People can can purchase Metaverse real estate, much like how land works in online metaverse-like platforms such as Decentraland and AxieInfinity. If you’re not familiar with them, these types of platforms work in a very similar way to traditional MMO games. You walk around the map, talk to people, buy and sell gear and collectibles, etcetera. Technically, without it being in VR, it’s not really a metaverse — it needs to be immersive, and interactive.
On top of that, the Decentraland land is owned by a DAO or decentralised autonomous organisation. On the other hand, real estate in Snow Crash is the product of a single, centralised mega corporation, similar to how Facebook would implement a Metaverse.
Oh, before I continue, I also made a video where I talk about this, on my YouTube channel where I talk about Web3, decentralisation and the Metaverse.
Much like Second Life, Decentraland, MMOs in general, and other iterations of online virtual worlds, in Snow Crash you can have your own avatar and customise it however you like, and usually the more “premium” or “rare” gear you have, the more technically attuned you are to the metaverse.
Unlike real-life virtual worlds (confusing, I know) premium gear in Snow Crash signifies your ability to understand the technical aspects of the Metaverse, and the fact that you’re a hacker, coder or someone who is familiar with the backend of the program. In Snow Crash, the world’s biggest mega-corporations are all working together to satisfy their corporate greed. 1 company owns all of the land in the Metaverse and another company owns all of the Fibre Optic contracts globally, in the real world. And to make things even more spicy, religious organisations are in on it as well, and up to no good, hoping to expand their control over the general population.
Within the Metaverse, Snow Crash is some sort of cyberdrug in the form of an infected file, and yes, you can interact with files and programs in the Metaverse. When used in conjunction with a real-life narcotic, it would allow for the re-programming of a victim’s brain, by incorporating ancient Sumerian texts using audio stimuli. The Global Fiber Optic conglomerate along with a religious organisation known as Reverend Wayne’s Pearly Gates are engaged in the creation of these neuro-linguistic Metaverse viruses for population control and corporate gain.
Bob Rife would administer the metaverse drug by distributing infected files in the Metaverse, while the religious organisation would target the general population in real life with the help of infected blood.
Enki, a legendary figure in Snow Crash, and God of Knowledge and Water in Sumerian Mythology, was able to create an anti-virus that, when administered would stop the brain from processing the Sumerian language and led to the development of new languages, accidentally giving birth the Tower of Babel myth.
There were two factors that played an import role in allowing the Snow Crash Metaverse to become a centralised and monopolised mess, ruled by evil corporate interests:
- Corporations are allowed to grow unchecked and completely monopolise markets
- The central government has no power over corporations, and corporations have taken their place
The universe behind the Metaverse
This form of governance, where corporations grow unchecked and take over the Government bodies, is a dystopic depiction of anarcho-capitalism, which has become the norm in Snow Crash. Anarcho-capitalism advocates the elimination of centralized states in favour of a system of private property enforced by private agencies and free markets. This philosophy extends the concept of ownership to include private property as part of the self. In Snow Crash, the world moved to anarcho-capitalism after a huge crash in the market.
Los Angeles is no longer part of the United States since the federal government has ceded most of its power and territory to private organizations and entrepreneurs. The idea of control, such as policing and intelligence agencies in an anarcho-capitalist society is usually enforced by private defence agencies, such as the CIC in Snow Crash — a for profit version of the CIA.
Snow Crash Metaverse vs Real Metaverses
Apart from the obvious technical differences, such as not being able to experience the Metaverse in VR, Decentraland and other metaverse-like projects such as Axie, Cryptovoxels and Decentral Games and many others, seem to either have studied the dystopic universe in which the Snow Crash Metaverse exists, or they instinctively tried to put the basis of a “fairer” metaverse together. With many of them operating ad DAOs, to different extents, they are less likely, to be manipulated and controlled by a central authority, but they are not fully decentralised.
The Metaverse and Anarcho Capitalism in 2022
So, the Metaverse is an immersive 3D virtual reality, set within a dystopic, anarcho-capitalist world, where a handful of organisations control most natural, and virtual resources. Oh and religion is also corrupt and hellbent on control. Now, was Neal Stephenson, the author a visionary or an exceptional Sci-Fi writer?
With Amazon owning nearly 50% of all the cloud infrastructure and Google controlling the Search engine market at a whopping 92.47% dominance, it’s not unreasonable to entertain the idea that, without a significant adjustment to monopolisation control and regulation, we will eventually live in a world where Omni Corp will be a one stop shop for all the products or services that you will ever need.
From the water you drink, to the roads you drive on and the porn you watch — Omni Corp will have it all. And that much power given to a single organisation is maybe not the best idea out there.
What the Metaverse is, and what the Metaverse should be are two different things, and I hope that we fall on the right side of history.
Originally published at https://www.cryptomaton.org on January 24, 2022.