The Future is a Dead Mall

Here is another spectacular video essay from Dan Olson — this time, about Decentraland specifically, but also the amorphous idea of the “metaverse”, and the ridiculous concept of owning “real estate” in virtual space.

It feels crushingly boring to me that this whole space — much like cryptocurrency and the broader world of the “Web3” term of art — is built around commerce. But it is notable because it feels like a historical disconnect. The road arriving at the door to the metaverse has been paved by revolutionary technologies like printing presses and the internet. Not only did they make new things possible, they also reduced the cost of making things compared to whatever came before them — sometimes to zero. These virtual reality demos have, so far, been an exercise in exactly the opposite direction. They make existing things like video games and text-based communications harder, while also making everything much more expensive.

If Apple is, as rumoured, getting closer to previewing its entry into the nascent augmented or virtual reality space, it would be worrisome if it represented anything we have seen so far. It would obviously be bad if it unveils something which is, as reported, “a solution in search of a problem”. But I would be just as concerned if it is solving a problem of there not being enough places to spend money on things you cannot actually own.