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How Meta!


Yesterday, I sat down to start writing a post, and realized that I couldn’t think of anything to write about. Usually, I think of something through the week, but this week I didn’t have anything that really caught my attention. Now, I’ve read a number of comments by fiction writers (Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, and others), and a common theme seems to be to just start writing.


I find that I’ve enjoyed the discipline of having to come up with topics to write about, and it’s encouraged me to spend more time learning than I might have otherwise spent, but I simply could not think of anything to write about.


So, following the stream-of-consciousness, I thought about “writer’s block”, which led me to consider writing a post about it. Writing a post about writer’s block because I am experiencing writer’s block amuses me because of how “meta” it is.

Hm. Meta. Now that’s something that’s been in the news a fair bit lately, hasn’t it?

As most people have probably heard, Facebook has just changed it’s name to “Meta”, leading to a massive six-percent increase in the stock price.... of the Halifax, Nova Scotia-based Meta Materials Inc. (https://globalnews.ca/news/8335282/canada-meta-materials-stock-facebook-name-change/)

Facepalm. Sigh.

I also enjoyed the post in which a German company, which uses a virtually-identical logo, suggested that maybe Facebook should be inspired by their data privacy procedures as well. (https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6859884591239589888/)

At any rate, Facebook changing it’s name to Meta Platforms Inc (https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/in-the-middle-of-a-crisis-facebook-inc-renames-itself-meta-1.5642555) is big news, and raises endless questions – mostly about why they would change their name.

The outer surface appears to be the focus on influencing the development and evolution of the “metaverse” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaverse), which I would describe as a next-generation, virtual-reality version of the current internet. As a disclaimer, I do not currently have any VR (virtual reality) equipment or games, though the technology fascinates me. As I understand the current state of the technology, it’s rapidly improving, but is not yet at the point where I can get rid of all my computer monitors and simply use virtual monitors that use any convenient surface. I think we’re getting close, though.

But that brings me to one of my concerns about Meta – The Oculus Quest (soon to be known as “Meta Quest”) is one of the most popular VR headsets out there, but is somewhat controversial due to the fact that the current model requires a Facebook account. This might change, but the details are unclear (https://www.theverge.com/2021/10/28/22751297/meta-oculus-quest-need-facebook-account-login-password)

But why would the need for a Facebook account be such a controversial point? And is this part of a larger issue?

People can (and have) written entire books about concerns over Facebook, and it’s a bit difficult even listing the major categories of concerns (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_Facebook), though I think it’s fair to say that some of the criticism of Facebook overlaps with broader concerns and criticism of social media in general.

That said, a few recent concerns include the so-called “Facebook Papers”, which describe a pattern of putting profits ahead of addressing the harm caused by misinformation and disinformation on the platform. That’s on top of concerns about how Facebook collects and uses data, concerns about the impact the platform can have on mental health, and calls for government regulation of social media. More at https://www.forbes.com/sites/edwardsegal/2021/10/24/criticism-of-facebook-continues-on-several-fronts-with-more-bad-publicity-expected-monday/?sh=74be6e8642cd

So, is Mark Zuckerberg changing the name to distance himself from criticism of his past activities? Or is this simply a way of consolidating all of the company’s assets under a single banner? Or maybe a way to prevent the work on the metaverse from being tainted by association with perceived “toxic” behaviour by Facebook in the past? Or maybe a way to distract people calling for greater regulation of social media? Or are there business and legal reasons why a separate brand is desirable?

Or maybe all of the above? And possibly more?

In any case, it does appear that VR technology will continue to evolve and some version of the metaverse is coming. I sincerely hope that my feelings that this all sounds like the beginning of a dystopian novel are unwarranted, but I guess that part remains to be seen.

Also, hearing the metaverse described as if it is something brand new made me recall that I was intrigued by Second Life (https://secondlife.com/) years ago, but never actually created an account. I was surprised to learn that it’s still around – I wonder if I should check it out now?

Interesting! I guess I found something to write about after all! Maybe I’ll keep the idea of writing about writer’s block for a future post, if I find myself in a similar situation.

Cheers!

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