An embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it — that is how Mark Zuckerberg described the metaverse in his founder’s letter of October 28 2021. That same day Facebook changed its corporate name to Meta as part of a major rebrand. Since then everyone and their dog are talking about the metaverse. But what is it?

The metaverse does not exist, at least not yet. But we have been visiting so-called metaverses for decades. The term was coined in Neal Stephenson’s 1992 cyberpunk novel, Snow Crash, which paints a bleak, dystopian future dominated by technology. The world is run by mega conglomerates and inequality is extreme. How disappointingly familiar that sounds...

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